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History 100 - Researching in the Archives

This guide is designed to help HIST100 researchers locate University Archives collections and materials.

Digitized Sources

Many digitized materials from the University Archives are available through our online archives.

Online Archive: An archive of over 40,000 items, ranging from 1870 – present, including historic photographs, documents, sound recordings, architectural plans and videos.

Online Archive

Digital Commons:


Tips for searching

Tips for searching online:

  • Use quotation marks to search a phrase. Searching "Black Student Union" will search for that phrase, rather than any use of black AND student AND union across all the articles.
  • Use the astrisk (*) as a wildcard. For example, searching Poly* will search Poly, Polytechnic, Polyhedron, Polyamorous, etc. Or searching Mex* will search Mexico, Mexican-American, Mexican.
  • Create an advanced search to limit to a focused span of years
  • When you find a useful source, see what terms the authors/creators are using. Do they use the word "coed" or "woman" or "girl"? Try searching terms used at the time.
  • Can't find what you are looking for? Broaden your search. Use more general names and phrases.
  • If you find a specific news story, browse the issues before and after that article to see if there were any follow-up or related articles

Please note that you may encounter materials that include offensive, derogatory, and out-of-date perspectives, images, and terms. 

Digitized collections

You can start your search by broadly searching across both of these databases

Or you can search individual collections that are in the databases. Here are some of the largest collections:

Course Catalogs

Student Newspapers

Cal Poly Report

Cal Poly Academic Senate Records

El Rodeo Yearbooks

Archived Websites 2015 - present

Web archives: Since 2015, Special Collections and Archives has been archiving the websites of the University, Mustang News, KCPR, and organizations that have donated their collections to the archives. The content of the web archives is searchable, and includes Youtube channels, select official social media accounts, and documents hosted online by the University.

Web Archives

The Wayback Machine is an excellent resource for any captures of the Cal Poly websites before 2015

Let us know if there is a website we should be archiving:

Photographs and Audio Visual sources

You can find digitized photographs and other visual materials in the library's Online Archive. By using the filters on the left-hand side under "Narrow your search" you can limit your results to specific types of materials. 

How to filter and limit results:

A note: you can limit your search to "Still Image" to find all images the archives have digitized. However, there are additional images that may be included in "Text"-classified documents, such as the El Rodeo yearbooks. It's always easier to start with a broad search and then narrow down your results as needed.

FYI about OCR

The computer uses something called "Optical Character Recognition" (OCR) to read the page. Depending on the quality of the original text, the text that the computer reads may not be clean. See this example: 

Sometimes you may not find what you are searching for because the computer did not read the text correctly! Try many different keywords to search if you are not finding what you are looking for.