Digital Collections Website Serves as One-Stop Resource for State’s History & More

Whether you’re a researcher, a teacher or simply a curious citizen, this one-stop digital platform offers unique cultural archival resources to California history lovers.

Developed and maintained by UC’s California Digital Library, Calisphere provides free access to over 1,025,000 digitized items including photographs, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings and documents. The oldest digitized item in Calisphere is an Armenian Manuscript Bible dating back to 1121 A.D.

Calisphere is now one of the largest collections of digital archival material in the state following a significant makeover in 2015—and continues to add new resources every week. These collections have been digitized and curated by all ten UC campuses and other notable libraries, archives and museums throughout California. Visitors can access selections from the collections from any device, at any time and no registration is required. The UC San Diego Library is a major contributor with over 90,000 digital objects in Calisphere. The website also serves as a hub, gathering content and contributing nationally to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

“Finding these rich materials was tedious and required searching over multiple archives across different institutions or scouring over hundreds of online search results,” said Cristela Garcia-Spitz, Digital Initiatives Librarian at UC San Diego. “The beauty of Calisphere is that the website truly makes these resources more visible and accessible for multiple audiences in an easy-to-use and flexible format.”

Freshman Barbeque for UC San Diego Class of 1968, Robert Glasheen Collection, Special Collections & Archives

So what can you find on Calisphere from the UC San Diego Library’s Digital Collections? Well, to start with, there’s a bounty of information on the history of California, San Diego and UC San Diego. Visit the website to explore endless images ranging from nostalgic black and white photos of the UC San Diego campus to stunning postcards depicting Southern California, Baja California and the American Southwest. Photos and documents related to Herman Baca and his contributions to the Chicano Civil Rights Movement represent San Diego’s vibrant history of political action. The oral histories of Holocaust survivors such as La Jolla resident Edith Eger remind us to confront stereotypes and speak up in the face of bigotry and hatred. The collections from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) illustrate the cutting-edge research history and activities of SIO faculty, staff and students, both on land and on sea.

But Calisphere’s reach extends beyond California, with other treasures from the Library’s Digital Collections such as first-hand accounts from government patrols in the post-World War II era of Papua New Guinea, children’s drawings made during the Spanish Civil War both in Spain and in refugee centers in France and political campaign ephemera used by political parties in Latin America.

One of the easiest ways to dive deep into a topic or era is by browsing Calisphere’s Exhibitions. Librarians, historians and other experts have curated the content and created a “storybook” experience that allows users to immerse themselves in the remarkable images, documents and audio-visual materials on the site. If you ever need help finding a particular item or have general questions, our experienced librarians are on-hand to assist you and save you time. Simply visit our Ask-a-Librarian page to ask a question via chat, email, text, phone, or by appointment. You can also drop by the Research Advisory Desk in Geisel Library (2nd Floor, West) for research support.

A world of discovery is at your fingertips. All it takes is one search to witness the real scope of the Calisphere slogan, “The deeper you look, the more you’ll discover.”

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