Donald R. & Beverly J. Gerth Archives & Special Collections

Major recent events in Archives and Special Collections

October 29, 2009
Grant Awarded to Labor Studies Professor and University Archivist for Interactive Archive of Tradeswomen
Vivian Price, assistant professor and coordinator of labor studies and Greg Williams, director, University Archives and Special Collections, receive $25,000 digital start-up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for their project, “New Approaches: Tradeswomen Archive Project (TAP). The project will create a virtual museum administered by the University Archives and Special Collections at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

August 07, 2008
Archives and Special Collections Acquires Rare Stereographs of Historic 1910 Air Meet
Set of 60 sterocopic images help shed light on events at historic 1910 International Air Meet, held near site of CSUDH Campus.

August 31, 2007
Late Congresswoman’s Papers Donated To CSU Dominguez Hills Library
Archives and Special Collections acquires the congressional papers and memorabilia of the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, who represented the 37th Congressional District, which includes all of Carson, Compton, Signal Hill, the Watt-Willowbrook area and most of Long Beach.

June 14, 2007
Digital Collections Chronicle History of University and Surrounding Communities
With completion of the CSUDH Photograph Digitization Project, Archives and Special Collections makes approximately 2,000 photos of university’s history available online. Spanning from 1960s through the 1990s, the CSUDH Photograph Collection—the result of the project—contains images of the university as it grew, as well as of campus life over the years.

June 27, 2006
California State University, Dominguez Hills Digital Collections Goes Live
The Digital Collections, using DiMeMa's CONTENTdm digital management package, went online with over 700 images from the South Bay Photograph Collection and the Del Amo Estate Company Collection. Future images to be added include photographs and slides from the 1910 Los Angeles International Aviation Meet Research Collection, the Rancho San Pedro Collection, and the Del Amo Estate Company Collection. The Digital Collections were funded in part by a $40,000 technology grant received in May from Associated Student, Inc., the governing body of the students at CSUDH.

May 2006
Archives and Special Collections Receives ASI Grant
The Department has received a $40,000 Technology Grant from Associated Students, Inc., the student governing body, to fund the hardware purchases required to digitize and provide online access to photograph collections. These purchases included CONTENTdm, a digital management package, and a high-quality scanning station. Online access to the digitized images will be available in mid-Summer.

July 2005
CSUDH Archives and Special Collections Department receives $98,000 National Historical Publications and Records Commission for a one year project to process the collections of Rancho San Pedro. See article below for more information.

NHPRC Documenting Democracy

July 2006: NHPRC project completed. Finding aids accessible through the Online Archive of California.

From the Daily Breeze(08/19/2005)

'Treasure trove' of South Bay history unearthed at university
By Melissa Milios

For decades, the boxes -- nearly 200 of them stacked from floor to ceiling -- sat virtually untouched in a windowless room in the library basement at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Except for the occasional historian or brave graduate student searching for an obscure thesis, there were few who even knew what was in the boxes -- the Rancho San Pedro collection, bequeathed to the university by the Dominguez family in 1971.

Now, armed with a $98,000 federal grant and matching funds from the university, archivist Greg Williams aims to change that -- and, ultimately, to shed more light on a half century of South Bay history.

This month, Williams and two assistants began the meticulous task of sorting and cataloging thousands of maps, photographs, letters, leases, expense ledgers and other business and personal documents contained in the collection. Then they'll digitize the catalog, listing its contents online for easier access by researchers worldwide.

"Any collection this big has many stories and secrets you hope the researchers can find," said Williams, director of the university library's archives and special collections. "It's the job of historians to find the deeper meaning in the collection. It's the job of archivists to give the hints."

Because the documents come from families and businesses that were so integral to the development of the South Bay, it's likely they contain fodder for volumes of local history yet to be written, Williams said.

The story dates back to 1782, when Spain granted the original Rancho San Pedro -- then more than 75,000 acres, stretching from Compton to Redondo Beach to Long Beach -- to soldier and colonizer Juan Jose Dominguez.

The library holds a number of high-profile documents from that era. On loan from the family is the 1858 land patent, signed by then-President James Buchanan, ceding the Rancho San Pedro -- minus 31,000 acres of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which was snapped up by the Sepulveda family -- to the Dominguez family after American takeover.

The university's Rancho San Pedro collection includes documents mainly from the period after 1882, when the land was divided among six sisters, Dominguez descendants with other names familiar to local folks: Del Amo, Carson, Watson.

To manage the land and its assets, the sisters set up businesses -- the Dominguez Water Co., the Del Amo Estate Co., the Watson Land Co. and others -- that provided the economic engine for early oil exploration, water rights and land development in much of the South Bay and Harbor Area.

The letters and documents from those companies, rescued from office drawers, closets and storage bins may appear mundane. But historian Judson Grenier said they are a "treasure trove" for those interested in cobbling together "a socioeconomic portrait" of the area from the late 1800s through the 1940s.

Robert Gillingham, an adjunct professor who helped bring the collection to the university, waded through the previously uncategorized material to write the seminal book The Rancho San Pedro. But Grenier said there are many more tales to be told. "There are letters to and from Japanese tenant farmers before, during and after internment.

There are records of payments to Native Americans who served as horsemen," said Grenier, a Dominguez Hills professor since the university opened. "You can see how this can become multiethnic. Nobody's written a history on these before."

He mined the collection in the 1980s to write a book on the Watson family, just edited a second printing of Gillingham's book and is currently writing a biography on a descendent named George Carson.

"I had to go through (the Watson Land Co. and Carson family documents) without aids or organization of any kind," Grenier said. "It was hard. It took a lot of time."

Now, he said, once the archival project is completed you can "pick your topic and you're halfway there -- you can plunge into this great mass of stuff."