Skip to Main Content


This guide is specially curated by by your Architecture & Environmental Design Librarian to provide basic architecture research guidance PLUS key resources closely related to built environment research.

Kennedy Library's Special Collections and Archives

Students and archives staff person examining an architectural drawing on a table in the archives

Special Collections and Archives at Kennedy Library cares for the primary source and archival collections in the library. We document California architecture and the built environment, including the professional and personal work of architects, landscape architects, architectural photographers, and related fields.

Anyone can use Special Collections and Archives for their research. Archives staff can help you locate architectural and built environment archives at other institutions. 

We can also help you research the history of sites and buildings, historical demographic data, and other historic materials that can help with your evaluation of buildings and sites.

What architectural archives can you find in Special Collections and Archives?

Person opening a large folder.

Special Collections and Archives houses the personal and professional papers of architects, landscape architects, architectural photographers, and more collections related to the built environment of California.

Types of materials include:

  • architectural drawings of built and conceptual projects
  • correspondence with clients and colleagues
  • photographs
  • examples of student work of architects
  • architects' personal and family papers
  • Artists' Books
  • Rare book collection, including architecture books

Areas of emphasis at Cal Poly's Special Collections and Archives:

Image: Laura, an archivist at SCA, is looking in a Flat File folder

from the William F. Cody 2 Papers holding architectural drawings on tissue.

Digitized archival architectural materials in Special Collections and Archives

Screenshot of webpage titled "Julia Morgan portfolio, Beaux-Arts years, circa 1896-1901"Special Collections and Archives has digitized hundreds of items from our architectural archives. You can explore these at our Online Archive database.

Here are some places to start for inspiration or browsing:




View of Morgan's student sketchbook in the Online Archive

Finding architectural archives beyond Cal Poly's archives

If you are researching an architect who is not at Cal Poly, you will want to determine where that architect's papers are located. Locations vary, sometimes the architect and their family may have their records, and sometimes an archive holds their papers. To check if an archives has their records:

  • Try searching the Architect's name + "archives"
  • Look on the wikipedia page for the architect and see if the archives is listed at the bottom of the page
  • If using secondary sources, look at the footnotes or citations area to see which archives the author cites.

Finding digitized materials

  • If you find the architect's records at an institution, check to see if the institution has digital collections. 
  • Try searching the architect's name + "digital collections"
  • If images are used in a book/article/webpage, check the credits and citations to see where they got the images from
  • If the items you are looking for are not digitized and if they are at an institution, you can reach out to determine their policies for providing digital copies of materials. 

Some architectural records may be found in other collections than the architect, such as:

  • The client's archives (including institutions such as Cal Poly)
  • Photographer's archives
  • Researchers' archives
  • Regional archives
  • Permitting agencies

Use a Google Advanced Search

Using Google Advanced Search with specific search terms can help yield more focused results. Within Advanced Search, use the "all of these words" and the "This exact word or phrase" to enter keywords for your subject, for example:

  • all these words: Kauffman House
  • any of these words: archives manuscripts collection correspondence scrapbooks sources letters

Also try:

  • all of these words: Kauffman House
  • this exact word or phrase: "Archival collections" "manuscript collections"

Also try (separately):

  • all these words: Kauffman house WITH this exact word or phrase: finding aid
  • all these words: Kauffman house EAD


Artists Books in Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives houses over 600 unique and limited artists' books. They are resources for design inspiration, creative book construction, binding and printing techniques, and may provide inspiration for your projects, portfolios, senior projects. Many are architectural in inspiration and structure as well. Learn more about the artists books collection at this guide.

Pyramids Artist Book from Robert E. Kennedy Library on Vimeo.