Research San Mateo County History

One of the original jobs undertaken by the San Mateo County Historical Association (SMCHA) was gathering colorful information on the county’s past. Today, the information collected for over 75 years is available to researchers.

SMCHA Collections

The San Mateo County Historical Association’s collection tells the story of San Mateo County’s development over time.

Through the rich holdings of its Three-Dimensional and Archival Collections, SMCHA is preserving San Mateo County’s cultural heritage and increasing knowledge and inspiration among present and future generations of visitors through exhibitions, research and interpretive programs.

Light Park Drag Brewster Carriage

Three-Dimensional Collection

The SMCHA’s Three-Dimensional Collection includes objects which are associated with the early exploration and settlements of the Peninsula, the development of towns, early industries, transportation systems and people who contributed to shaping San Mateo County. The three-dimensional collection ranges from prehistoric times until today and includes Indian artifacts, textiles, architectural items, household goods, bottles, tools, industrial goods, fine art, weapons, furnishings and transportation objects. The collection also includes artifacts and materials excavated from archaeological sites in the County including prehistoric material and artifacts related to the settlement of the area.

The Archives

The Archival Collection ranges from 1830 to the present and includes books, clippings, documents, films, fine art, ledgers, letters, manuscripts, memorabilia, microfilm, newspapers, pamphlets, periodicals, transcripts, posters, records, scrapbooks, slides and students monographs. The materials are available for research in the Archives.

Archives desk at the San Mateo County History Museum with old newspaper articles displayed

Online Collection


The SMCHA is working to make its collection available for online research. Check back soon as the collection online is updated frequently.

Cover of La Peninsula's Winter 2011 issue with a young Joe Dimaggio seated in a suit at Bay Meadows horse track with two law enforcement officers beside him wearing suits and hats

La Peninsula

In 1941, Dr. Frank Stanger started La Peninsula as a way to preserve the colorful stories of the county’s past. A scholarly journal, La Peninsula is produced twice a year and sent to all the members of the San Mateo County Historical Association.

Over the years, the SMCHA has published several books ranging from the county history South from San Francisco to a history of the Carolands mansion. The SMCHA has also produced films on the county’s history including Made in America: San Mateo County’s Journey from Dairies to DNA.