Using Archival Collections

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

Using the Gerth Archives & Special Collections

OneSearch: the University Library Catalog

The best way to search for books in the Rare Books Collections is through the library Catalog. If there is a book or archival collection that matches your search term, the results page will list the item and indicate its location as Archives/SpeColl-5th Floor South. Note any information available about the item and bring it to Gerth Archives & Special Collections Department.

Online Archive of California (OAC)

The OAC is California's central repository for collection guides. All CSUDH collections with finding aids are accessible through the OAC. 

The finding aids listed in the OAC display in PDF format, and they can be searched by keyword or name. This often allows researchers to focus on specific boxes, or even folders within boxes, when they start searching the collection. The OAC is an also excellent tool for expanding research beyond CSU Dominguez Hills. It is well worth the time for any researcher to look through the OAC website to find additional avenues for research.

Choose from the links below to browse. Researchers can use computers located in the Gerth Archives & Special Collections to search through OAC finding aids. Often paper copies of finding aids are available at the front desk, and these can be used for focusing research in a collection as well.

CSU System Collections on the OAC

Collection Home Pages

The home page for each collection listed in the side navigation contains more detailed information about the type of materials contained there. At the top of each Collection Home Page, there is a Collections tab. When you click on that, it takes you to a page listing every individual collection contained in that area. In some cases, the individual collections are grouped onto another sub-page. Whether on the first Collections page, or on a sub page, each collection contains a link to an electronic finding aid, which is located in the Online Archive of California (OAC)

Using Finding Aids

Finding aids are the key tool for researching an archival collection. It contains a lot of information about the type of collection it is, where it came from, and the type of materials contained in it. In addition, the finding aid contains a container list, which describes what is inside every box in the collection.

While finding aids are invaluable tools, researchers should be aware that the finding aid often contains only general descriptions of what is contained in the collection. It might, for example, note that one box contains folders of Correspondence, but it does not describe every letter included inside the box. While there are sometimes specific materials listed, researchers should note that finding aids are best looked at as general guides to the collections, and are a starting point for research in the collection.

CSU Dominguez Hills Digital Collections

The CSU Dominguez Hills Digital Collections contains images that have been scanned from photographs, yearbooks, and other publications from CSU Dominguez Hills collections. The Digital Collections Home Page lists some general information and contains links to individual collections, currently including:

  • South Bay Photograph Collection
  • Del Amo Estate Company Collection
  • 1910 Los Angeles International Aviation Meet Research Collection
  • Rancho San Pedro Collection
  • CSUDH Historical Photograph, Publication, and Yearbook Collection
  • Tradeswomen Archives Project
  • Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Collection
  • CSU Japanese American Digitization Project
  • James H. Osborne Photograph Collection

You can search through the individual collections, or search them all at once

Searching the CSUDH Digital Collections

General Searches 

If you have only a general idea of the type of information you want, you can enter a search term (including a name, street, city, or other term) in the search box in the upper right hand corner on the Digital Collections home page. When you press Enter, the system will automatically search across all collections. Thumbnails of all images that might match the term you entered will display on a Results page. You can search through these individually. When you click on one of the images that displays on the Results page, it will take you to a separate page for the image. This page will show a larger version of the image and will display information about the image, often including a description, date, location, image size, and keywords which may help you to focus your research through the rest of the collection.

From the Digital Collections home page you may also select the Browse All Collections option. This will give you thumbnails of a great number of images, though, and may not be helpful for research purposes.

Individual Collections

The Digital Collections home page displays links for the individual collections. If you believe that one of these collections may be most helpful to you, click on the link. This will take you to a home page for that collection. This page will give you information about the collection, and also gives you some links to general areas of research in the collection (for example, oil, agriculture, buildings, etc.). If you click on one of these links, all images related to that general area will display.

In addition to these major areas of research, there is a Browse option that lets you look through every item in the collection.

Using the Advanced Search Option

If the above methods produce results that are too general for you, or bring up too many images for you to do an effective search, you can use the Advanced Search Option. This contains fields that let you focus your search more precisely by indicating exactly which words you want included in, or excluded from, the search. In addition, the Advanced Search option lets you indicate which collections you want included in the search.