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University Archives: Researching Cal Poly

Researching Cal Poly in the University Archives and beyond

University Archives Collections

The University Archives includes over 100 collections with over 1,500 boxes of materials, and millions documents and objects. Many of the collections in the University Archives do not have an online presence yet, and are accessible in the archives reading room. The staff of Special Collections and Archives are here to help you identify and locate materials that would be helpful for your research.

If you find a collection in University Archives that you would like to research, you can set up an appointment with the archives.

Scope of the University Archives

  • Records of the administrative offices, academic departments, and governing bodies of the university, including minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports
  • University publications, general and special, including catalogs and bulletins, newsletters, press releases, and promotional material
  • Audio and visual material, including photographs and photo albums, negatives, transparencies, motion pictures, audiotape
  • Personal papers, including correspondence, memoirs, photographs, memorabilia and scrapbooks
  • Records of student organizations and activities, including minutes, correspondence, publications, ephemera, memorabilia and realia, including scrapbooks, posters, and brochures
  • Material from alumni and their organizations, including organizational records, publications and ephemera, when such materials are judged to reflect significant events and aspects of the university’s history
  • Architectural and landscaping plans, blueprints, and artists’ renderings, maps, master plans and other campus planning documents
  • Master copies of the microfiche of senior projects and master’s theses written by students at Cal Poly
  • Monographs written by Cal Poly faculty and administrators

University Archives Register

The University Archives Register is the master inventory to the collections in University Archives. The UA Register is organized using the former Campus Administrative Manual (CAM), organizing collections within campus units. Each item listed in the register represents a collection of materials. Browse the University Archives Register

Collection-level finding aids

Some of the collections listed in the UA Register have their own inventories. These inventories describe what is in the collection, to a box or folder-level description. 

Collections as they are processed are available on the Online Archive of California

Here are examples of processed collections in University Archives:

Presidential Records

The University Archives holds the records of the Cal Poly directors and presidents. 

There are especially large collections of the three presidents who served from 1933 - 2011. These collections have inventories that describe the materials to a folder level:

ASI Clubs and Organizations

There is a large collection of records documenting the activities of campus clubs and organizations. The bulk of the collection is focused on the 1950s-1970s. Browse the collection. 

Clery Reports

Clery Report - Annual Security Report

University Archives holds print copies of the Annual Safety Reports from 1999-2015. Request UA550.04 at the Special Collections service desk.

Archived online access via the campus Police Department:

Direct link to archived online access 2015 onward:*/

Research Files in University Archives

University Archives keeps research files on a variety of topics. They are a good resource when you are starting your research on a topic. You can search the files in the UA0110 Subject and Vertical Files finding aid

You can request these files at the Special Collections and Archives front desk, Room 409.

University Archives Photograph Collection

The University Archives Photo Collection contains images of Cal Poly from its beginning as a vocational school in 1903 through the 1990s.  

The photographs chronicle the growth and development of colleges and departments, campus events and student life, including Poly Royal, Homecoming, the annual Rose Float, and athletics.  The collection also includes campus views and aerial photography, buildings and grounds, students and faculty in classroom settings, or involved in “learn-by-doing” field work.  Portraits of some administrators, faculty members, students, athletes, and well-known alumni and visitors are also included in the collection.

To learn more about the photo collections and search the collection, check out the University Archives Photograph Collection finding aid. Many photos from the collection are digitized and searchable at the Online Archive.

Cal Poly Authors

University Archives includes commercially published monographs written or compiled by members of the university’s faculty and staff. Browse the collection in the library catalog Onesearch. In addition, Digital Commons acquires and manages scholarly, intellectual, and creative work produced by members of the Cal Poly community. 

Course Catalogs

Cal Poly Course Catalogs have been published since 1903. All print editions of the Cal Poly Course Catalog are available online at the Online Archive and digital edition since 2015 are available at the library’s web archive.

Student Newspapers

University Archives contains a full run of the campus newspapers, beginning with the first issue of the Polygram in 1916 to the latest issues of the Mustang News.


The Polytechnic Journal, Cal Poly’s first student publication, made its debut in 1906 as a monthly news and literary publication. By 1912, the Polytechnic Journal was no longer a monthly, having evolved into the campus yearbook. The first student newspaper at Cal Poly, The Polygram, began as a biweekly. It filled the need for news from 1916 to 1932, a period in which Cal Poly expanded from a strictly vocational school to include an academic high school and junior college. Due to a shortage of advertisers and, therefore, cash, the first Polygram staff relied on the school director’s mimeograph machine to generate copies of each issue. By 1924, a printshop had been established on campus and the school publications, including The Polygram were printed by a student organization known as “The Galley Slaves.”

In 1932-33, a drastic reorganization of the Cal Poly School closed the high school, the junior college and related programs. The Polygram vanished in the wake of this reorganization. After a six-year hiatus, campus news found a new vehicle in a weekly paper, El Mustang. As was its predecessor, El Mustang was printed by the student body. A change in title to the Polytechnic Californian was attempted but lasted only a year, after which El Mustang returned to the masthead. During WWII, to economize on manpower and supplies, Cal Poly temporarily replaced El Mustang and the yearbook, El Rodeo, with a monthly news magazine, Mustang RoundupEl Mustang returned shortly after the war, and in 1967 became the Mustang Daily.

The Mustang Daily was published and printed by students in the Journalism and Graphic Communications Departments of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Issued daily during the academic year, the Mustang Daily limited publication during the summer quarter to a weekly edition. The Mustang Daily averaged about 140 issues per year, not including special editions for annual events such as the Week of Welcome, Homecoming, and Open House.

In Fall Quarter of 2013, the Mustang Daily became the Mustang News.

Scope and Content

The campus newspapers cover a broad range of topics from campus events, policies, issues and debates; arts and entertainment; athletics; local news and issues; and occasionally, national and international news. More recently, original articles are interspersed with articles from the Associated Press and the University Wire. Letters to the editor and opinion pieces reveal a wide and involved readership, not limited to the campus but extending throughout the county of San Luis Obispo and beyond. Photos and cartoons were introduced in the later years of The Polygram, and have been a regular feature of El Mustang and the Mustang Daily.

Learn more about online access to the digitized student newspaper.

KCPR Student Radio

University Archives holds the historic records of the student radio station KCPR 91.3. The KCPR collections at Special Collections and Archives include approximately 30 boxes of materials, including audio formats from the 1970s-2000s, photographs, call logs, zines, t-shirts, and other materials.


A KCPR DJ in the recording studio, 1993. University Archives, ua-sel_00000248.

 About KCPR

Since its inception in 1968, KCPR 91.3 FM, Cal Poly’s student-run radio station, has served its community with interesting and engaging programming formats. The signal of the station’s first 2-watt transmitter (donated by the University of California, Santa Barbara) reached just a few residence halls on campus. KCPR began broadcasting by providing campus updates, interviews, and educational programs concurrent with campus events. The first announcement ever aired was:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another full evening of pleasurable listening. This is campus radio, 91.3 megahertz on your FM dial, educational FM for San Luis Obispo, broadcasting with 1.8 watts of power. Our transmitter is located on Radio Hill on the Cal Poly campus with studios located on Perimeter Road in the Graphic Arts Building, room 201. We hope you enjoy tonight’s program.

Following the announcement, the first program aired was titled “A Look into the Life of Dr. Robert E. Kennedy.”

In 1969, KCPR introduced musical programming between educational programs. In 1970, the station obtained a new 10-watt transmitter and adopted the “block music” programming that is still in place today. The increase in range brought KCPR to the ears of the entire Cal Poly campus. Increased visibility and campus interest led KCPR to attempt 24-hour programming in October of 1971, and during this time many new shows were introduced. Quiz shows and talk shows were popular during the early 1970s and many years after. In 1973, the station’s transmitter was increased to 1,000 watts and in 1974 it was increased to its current 2,000 watts.

As the audience expanded, the programming of KPCR grew to serve its new community: the greater San Luis Obispo area. While quiz shows and talk shows (mostly about campus life and current events) were still popular, KCPR introduced new programming for off-campus listeners. This new programming included an all-female music information show, live interviews of San Luis Obispo City Council and mayoral candidates, New York Opera programming, and nationally syndicated programming.

In 1976, thanks to fundraising efforts by the KCPR DJs and donations from ASI and the City of San Luis Obispo, the station was finally able to broadcast in stereo. This was the last large update that altered the way listeners engaged with the station. Since the switch to stereo, KCPR has remained a stereo, 2,000-watt station. However, programming continued to evolve as years went on, reflecting the needs of the community and the wants of the station.

Later in 1976, KCPR broadcasted their first ever 24-hour news day, an annual tradition that continued for many years. In 1977 the station switched to a Top 40 format, which emerged as a popular formatting option in the early 1970s. KCPR remained a Top 40 station until 1983, when the station opted  for “quality music” instead of “popular music.” This large shift in programming coincided with the discovery, in the mid-1980s, that college radio had the potential to make or break a band. Ever since this change in KCPR, and this larger shift in college radio culture, KCPR’s programming has brought diverse news, talk, and music to their little blip on the dial: 91.3 FM.

Written by Ella Worley, KCPR Program Director 2018-2019 (WVIT ’20)


The Polytechnic Journal, Cal Poly’s first student publication, made its debut in 1906 as a monthly news and literary publication. By 1912, the Polytechnic Journal was no longer a monthly, having evolved into the campus yearbook. In 1927 the Polytechnic Journal was renamed the El Rodeo. The El Rodeo yearbook series is complete from 1927 to 1980, excepting 1943-1945, when publication was suspended during World War II, and between 1972-1976, when it was not published. El Rodeo was published one last time in 1990.

Find the physical copies of the Polytechnic Journal and the El Rodeo yearbooks in Special Collections and Archives.

Find the digital versions of the Polytechnic Journal and the El Rodeo yearbooks at Digital Commons.