The History Division studies and interprets the history of San Bernardino County and the southwestern United States from first non-native contact onwards. The division maintains collections of thousands of archival and three-dimensional artifacts at the main museum and historic branch museums. It is responsible for the preservation and conservation of artifacts in these collections, as well as related research and interpretation. Contact: Michele Nielsen, Curator of History, (909) 798-8609.
Major collections include 19th century household furnishings, artifacts related to occupations such as lumbering, woodworking, citrus, transportation, and mining, and special collections of textiles and costumes, plus extensive archival photographic and documentary holdings. Three-dimensional artifacts (such as household furnishings and transportation) are found in the main museum on exhibit and in storage and at the branch museum at the Yucaipa Adobe, the Yorba and Slaughter Families Adobe, and the Rains House. The small museums at the Asistencia and at Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery contain artifacts and interpretive materials.
As is true with most museums the majority of the three-dimensional artifacts in the History Division collections are in storage. We rotate artifacts through exhibits in the main museum and inside our branch sites and their associated museums. Our artifacts are also available, by appointment, for researchers to examine. For questions about three-dimensional artifacts, contact Michele Nielsen.
The Museum Archives contain permanent collections consisting of photographs and documentary materials including personal, business and legal papers, ephemera like trade cards, postcards and other printed paper materials as well as rare books related to greater San Bernardino County and the southwestern United States. In addition, the Archives houses a reference library and informational files containing data useful in historic research. The Western Textile Center Library, a group of books and journals related to the history of the textile arts is also a part of the collections of the Archives.
Members of the public who are seeking historic information about people, families and organizations for personal and commercial purposes can receive assistance with these collections and reference materials for research through e-mail and telephone contact or by calling ahead for appointments. The Archives staff will consult with you and then will provide assistance with the materials on an individual basis. Copy prints of photographic images can be purchased for personal and commercial use following a fee schedule established by the County Board of Supervisors.
Artifacts from our collections have been featured in San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly Publications. Vol. 49 #1 (2002), Lights, Lanterns and Lenses: Images from the Permanent Collections, 1830s to 1930s and Vol. 41 #4 (1994), The Everitt Photographic Studio are currently available for purchase.
The San Bernardino County Museum Archives is also a part of the History Division and houses archival materials as well as the History Research Library and the Western Textile Center Library. For assistance on archival matters, contact Michele Nielsen.
All fibrous materials in the San Bernardino County Museum, such as costumes, textiles, and tools for their manufacture, are part of the Western Textile Center collections. These include artifacts in the Anthropology Division collections (such as baskets and Navajo rugs) and in the History Division collections (such as coverlets, quilts, and spinning wheels). Also included in the History Division area are special textile collections such as the Mary Meigs Atwater collection, Dunning collection, and Kipp collection. The Western Textile Center Association (WTCA) is the museum affiliate group that assists with the Western Textile Center collection. Their long association with the museum has benefited the public and collections through such means as workshops and lectures, exhibits, special events, fundraising, volunteer hours on collection care and cataloging, and assisting in acquiring collections. the Western Textile Center Library contains a wonderful collection of books, journals, and fabric swatches related to the fiber arts from the 19th into the 21st centuries and is housed in the museum archives. For History Division textiles, including such special collections as the Mary Meigs Atwater collection, contact Michele Nielsen. For Anthropology Division collections, contact Dr. Adella Schroth, Curator of Anthropology. For the Western Textiles Center Library contact Michele Nielsen.
Nearly all of our artifacts have come to us through generous donations from the public. We greatly appreciate your thinking of the San Bernardino County Museum as a home for your special items. In order to better serve you, we ask that you call ahead to make an appointment so that we can personally talk to you and see the artifact(s) you are interested in donating. Walk-ins may find us out at an historic site or otherwise unable to help you and we do not want to waste your valuable time. Due to our Ethics Policy, we do not do appraisals of artifacts.
When ready to donate an item, please gather together all of the information you can find about previous ownership of the artifact(s), photographs showing it in use, and any other information you have to share. We will want to discuss information such as who used the item, where, how, when, for what, and why so that the artifact can be better shared with others through research, exhibition, and other types of interpretation.
For more information about donating items to the History division, please contact Michele Nielsen.