The Los Angeles City Archives vault and reference room are in the Piper Technical Center adjacent to the storage area for City Records. As City Archivist Jay Jones explained, the purpose of the Archives is to identify, collect, preserve, arrange and describe records of historical significance originated by City government and to make them available for public as well as government officials and employee use. A collection of government records referred to as “city archives” has existed since the 1830s, but the City Archives as an institution dates from 1980 when it was established as part of the citywide Records Management Division of the City Clerk’s Office.
The archives contain many key record series from 1827 to the present. They include records of the Ayuntamiento; Los Angeles City Council Minutes; City Council Petitions and Files; past and current versions of the City Charter, Administrative and Municipal Codes; Contracts; Deeds to and from the City; Election Files; Departmental Annual Reports; maps; photographs; financial reports and ledgers of the City Auditor, City Controller and Treasurer; and local municipality records from Eagle Rock, San Pedro, Hollywood, Tujunga, Venice, Watts and Wilmington prior to their becoming part of the City of Los Angeles. Records of most twentieth century mayors and council persons are in the archives with the notable exception of Tom Bradley, whose papers are at UCLA. The collection of historical maps is especially interesting.
The archives consist mostly of paper records but they do include some video, audio, microfiche and microfilm items. Access to records is generally by topic not by individual names. Unless you are looking for someone very prominent, it is necessary to have dates and/or incident in which the person was involved. As Mr. Jones succinctly put it the information may be “very specific and very scattered.”
As important as knowing what is kept in the Archives is knowing what is NOT kept there. The Department of Water and Power and the Harbor and Airport Departments keep their own records. Personnel records and police records, other than historical, are not in the archives. Death, birth, and marriage records are kept by the county as are real estate, registrar of voters, divorce and bankruptcy court records.
Reference service is provided by Todd Gaydowski, City Records Management Officer, (213) 485-8783 and Jay Jones, City Archivist, (213) 485-3512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Although advance appointments are not required, calling ahead is encouraged. Neither the indexes to older archive contents nor the computer database of items added since 1980 are self service so time is needed to look up and pull the relevant materials. Photocopying services are available for a fee. Parking is free. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Location: 555 Ramirez Street, Space 320, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (cross street is Vignes).
Telephone Numbers for Records NOT in the L.A.City Archives
- Death, Birth, and Marriage – (562) 462-2137
- Orange Co. Birth Records – (714) 834-2872
- Deed/Liens/Homesteads – (562) 462-2125
- Real Estate Records – (562) 462-2133
- Registrar of Voters – (562) 462-2748
- Divorce Records – (213) 974-5171
- Bankruptcy Court – (213)