As far as the eye can reach it extends, a heaving, swelling sea of green . . . . the whole landscape showed design, like man's nobelist sculptures. How wonderful the power of its beauty! Gazing awestricken, I might have left everything for it.

~ John Muir, 1867

Decrease Font Size
Increase Font Size

Researching the Archives

Cover of a Fruit Vale Estate sales brochure, circa 1890, M. Theo Kearney Collection.

The Fresno Historical Society welcomes the use of its archival collections by researchers. The mission of an archive includes two equally important components, preservation and access. In addition to providing access to primary source material for study and research, an archive is a repository that is charged with the preservation of primary source materials for future generations. The Fresno Historical Society Archives staff works to make accessible and preserve our collections, and we have established policies and procedures to protect our holdings for the future.



  • Researchers have access to the holdings of the Historical Society Archives by appointment only. The Archives are located off-site and collections must be retrieved before being brought to the reading room. There is no public access to the Archives.
  • The archivist will schedule your appointment after a research interview via email. An in-depth research interview before an appointment is necessary to enable the Archives staff to gather all materials relevant to the researcher’s needs.
  • Email your research request to Please incorporate as much detail as possible, including names, dates and locations, to ensure that the request is clear.
  • The Archivist will review the Society collections and provide a summary of the materials in the Archives that relate to the research request. Please allow up to two weeks for processing.
  • If we have collections relevant to your research, you will be invited to schedule an appointment to look at the materials. We are open Tuesday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Generally, we schedule research appointments from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Research appointments must be made at least two weeks in advance. On a case-by-case basis, the archivist will work to accommodate an out-of-town researcher’s schedule.
  • If we do not have any materials relevant to your research request, please view the Fresno County and San Joaquin Valley History Research Links.



Policies of the Archives:

  • Our collections do not circulate and materials may not leave the reading room.
  • Please read and observe the Policies of the Archives below. At your research appointment you will be asked to sign a Researcher Registration form. By signing the Researcher Registration form, you agree to observe these rules, which have been established to safeguard our collections.
  • All reproductions will be made by Society staff. Scanners and video cameras are not allowed. Use of cameras in the reading room is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the material being researched, see below.
  • If you locate items you wish to have photocopied, ask the staff about copying procedures and costs. Photocopying is subject to restrictions based on size and physical condition of the item.
  • Fragile materials and unprocessed collections may not be available for research use.
  • Currently, the Historical Society has one reading room for all public research. Please note that we can only accommodate two adults at a time. Children are not allowed in the reading room.
  • All researchers will be asked to place large purses, briefcases, backpacks, coats, and any other outside gear in a designated area. Staff will provide you with a pencil and pad of paper. Researchers may use a laptop computer with proper precautions.
  • We have limited electrical outlets. Please bring battery power and any other electronic equipment you may need for your computer.
  • The Fresno Historical Society offices are located 20 min. from the nearest retail center. If your appointment will extend into the afternoon session, please ask staff about lunch options before arriving for your appointment.
  • The reading room is located on the second floor. Please inform Society staff if you cannot climb stairs and accomodations will be made. 

General Guidelines for Handling Archival Materials

The primary resources of the Fresno Historical Society Archives collections are rare and unique, and often fragile and at risk for damage. These guidelines for the use of archival materials have been drafted with the physical safety of the collection in mind. We depend upon our researchers to help us maintain the collection by following the archives guidelines for handling materials.


  • Make sure your hands are clean when working on a collection.
  • Food and drink (including lozenges, all types of chewing gum and bottled water) are not allowed in the reading area.
  • Work only with pencil, a pad of paper and eraser will be provided for you. No ink pens or felt-tip pens.
  • Avoid leaning on materials or stacking materials on each other, especially in an open position.
  • Material should be used on a table; do not put any material on the floor or on your lap.

Manuscript Collections:

  • All materials should be handled with care. Avoid tipping containers, jostling, dropping or positioning on end.
  • Do not lay note paper on any materials (such as a letter, book, map, etc.). Do not turn books, diaries, or journals face down on your work table.
  • Loose sheets should be handled by their edges only.
  • It is extremely important to preserve the original order of the documents within the folders and the boxes. Remove only one folder from a box at a time. Use an Out Card as necessary to mark your place. Do not place documents upside down or backwards in a folder.
  • Support folders with hands at both sides when removing from container to prevent contents from falling out. Do not place full folders on end.
  • Align sheets within folders so that ends are not protruding beyond the protection of the folder.
  • If a mistake in arrangement is discovered or if you have a question, please notify the archives staff. Do not re-arrange the material.
  • Do not lean on, write on, fold, trace, fasten or unfasten the documents. If a fastener needs to be removed to read a document, please ask the staff to remove the fastener.
  • Take extra care with large items. Ensure that all sides are supported at all times. Avoid sagging edges by using a larger work surface. Ask archives staff for assistance if necessary.

Bound Volumes:

  • Use only paper for bookmarks – archivist will provide you with archival bookmarks.
  • Be aware of the condition of the books you are handling. Never force open a book with a tight binding.
  • Do not stack opened books or place them face down.
  • Please turn pages carefully at their outer edges only. Avoid touching the surface of pages. Flipping through pages quickly or licking your fingers to aid in turning pages can damage the paper.


  • Cotton gloves, supplied by the archivist, must be worn when examining all photographic materials.
  • Remove only one folder from a box at a time. If a mistake in arrangement is discovered or if you have a question, please notify the staff. Do not re-arrange the material.
  • Touch only edges of image; never the image itself.
  • Do not hold a print, drawing or photograph, even when mounted, by one hand only; always support it at its edges with both hands. Do not bend images.
  • Limit movement and shifting of images within folders or containers. Avoid stacking folders.
  • Staff must assist in the handling of fragile pictorial material.
  • Whenever possible, copies of the photographs will be provided instead of the original to reduce wear and tear.


Camera Use Policies:

Use of cameras in the reading room is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the material being researched. With prior approval, cameras may be used in the reading room for a $20 fee per research session.

  • Photographs of historical documents are to be used for private scholarly research only and are not to be shared digitally or in person unless you have prior authorization from Archives staff.
  • Cameras are not allowed when researching photograph collections. Review our guidelines for Historic Photograph Reproductions. Email with inquiries. 
  • For preservation reasons, do not use flash. Exposure to light quickens the natural decay process of historic materials.
  • Ask before removing documents from plastic sleeves.
  • To ensure that the documents are properly cited, we provide a general citation format. Be sure to note the document name and collection name. Consult Archives staff if you are unclear on these details.
  • A complete collection will not be allowed to be photographed in its entirety.
  • Documents may be copyrighted. The researcher assumes all responsibility for clearing reproduction rights and for any infringement of the U.S. Copyright Code.
Last Updated Monday, January 20, 2020 - 09:30 PM.