Your tax deductible donation will help us raise $25,000 to support collections preservation in 2018. THANK YOU.

You can open the door to collections care and storage!

The History Center’s collections represent the cultural heritage of our county.
It’s up to all of us to ensure their preservation.

For more than sixty years, the History Center has been collecting objects, photographs, and archives that document local history. We hold these items in trust for the public today, and we’ve also pledged to ensure that they survive to inform and inspire future generations.

That’s where we need your help. The cost of preserving and storing the collections we already have is considerable, not to mention the funding we need to keep collecting our county’s history as it happens.

By contributing generously to the History Center’s Annual Appeal, you’ll make it possible for us to sustain and improve collections care in the coming year.


The dedicated team that cares for the History Center’s collections includes a collections manager and an archivist, a committee of community representatives, and many volunteers and interns. They follow professional standards and best practices for documenting and cataloging; building archival storage enclosures to protect items from deterioration; and making the collections accessible to the public in exhibitions, at our Research Room, and in digital form through our website and online repositories.


Did you know that the bulk of the History Center’s collections are stored in two off-site warehouses? We received grants this year from the PG&E Corporation Foundation and SLO Daybreak Rotary to begin monitoring the climate inside our warehouses—an important first step towards climate control. While we pay well below market rates, thanks to the generosity of our landlords, rent and utilities alone cost more than $25,000 every year to simply maintain these two warehouse locations.

1906 Panorama

 A centerpiece of our County and Regional Photographs Collection is a set of three 8 by 10 inch glass plate negatives of a circa 1906 panorama of San Luis Obispo attributed to Frank Aston. Taken from Terrace Hill south of the railroad tracks, this remarkable image shows how the city evolved in the early 20th century. Click here to see the full panorama (or purchase a copy).

Glass plate negatives are valued by collectors and researchers for the detail and quality of the images they provide, but they are also particularly fragile and difficult to care for. The gelatin emulsion that contains the silver image on the glass is especially sensitive to light, humidity, and the chemical ph of surrounding materials. They must always be handled with gloves and can only be stored in materials that have passed the P.A.T. (photographic activity test) developed by the Image Permanence Institute.

 The thousands of glass plate negatives in the History Center’s collections also present unique challenges when it comes to digitization. Thanks to a 2016 grant from the Patricia R. Loomis Foundation, archivist Aimee Armour-Avant is developing a toolkit of specialized equipment and procedures designed to produce and preserve high quality digital versions of these fascinating photographs and eventually make them available to the public.


 Historic fashions offer a fascinating and relatable window into the lives of the people who lived here before us. Our 2016 exhibition The Way We Wore featured more than a dozen rarely-seen ensembles from the hundreds in our collection. Executive director Eva Fina, trained in textile preservation for a previous position, prepared and mounted these fragile objects with invaluable help from volunteers like Diane Marchetti (shown below).

 Eva and Diane mount textiles

Garments present unique preservation challenges. Because they were designed to be worn on a human body, they often need customized support during both display and storage. They are sensitive to light, ph levels, pests, and environmental conditions as well as physical stress. Some, including silks produced during the second half of the 19th century, suffer from “inherent vice;” the way they were manufactured causes deterioration no matter how carefully they are preserved. Conservation treatments and cleaning by trained professionals may also be necessary to prevent more damage.

Box Brand

This metal brand was used to burn the Dallidet mark onto wooden crates that transported their wine and brandy. Pierre Dallidet and his family were pioneering vintners on the Central Coast, reviving the Mission vineyards and introducing French varietals to the county in the 1860s and 1870s.

Their adobe home and its contents were donated to the newly-formed San Luis Obispo County Hisorical Society (now the History Center) by Paul Dallidet in 1953. Thanks to generous donations by Arlene Zanchuck and Libbie Agran in 2016, the Dallidet family’s furnishings, decorative and fine art, books, and personal belongings have been fully inventoried and cataloged this year by collections assistant Kaylee Scoggins-Herring

The process of documenting and recording information about each object is key to preservation. Without a reliable catalog, collections manager Cindy Lambert is unable to track the location or condition of the collections.

Meanwhile, researcher Ruth Latson has meticulously documented eight boxes of Dallidet papers. These records will help us develop new programs and tours at the Dallidet Adobe. They will also inform our recently commissioned Historic Structures Report from Architectural Resources Group.

Vigilance Papers

 The handwritten docments from San Luis Obispo’s infamous Committee of Vigilance are just one of the many archival collections available for study in our Research Room. Our archivist and collections manager, along with a small but dedicated volunteer team, maintain these unique records and help researchers sift through them to find what they are looking for.

The term archive generally refers to unpublished documents whose value is primarily in the information they contain rather than their aesthetic characteristics. Personal and business papers, manuscripts, audio visual materials, even digital files, are all part of the History Center’s County and Regional Archives Collection. Our collections of photographs, newspapers, and published books are related but distinct.

Archivist Aimee Armour-Avant and executive director Eva Fina are working with the Online Archive of California to develop a San Luis Obispo County specific search page that will connect keyword search results from the History Center’s collection with other collections throughout the county. That search portal will be part of the SLO History Network site, now in development thanks to a 2014 grant from the Patricia R. Loomis Foundation.