About the Urban Archives Center

The Oviatt Library's Urban Archives Center on the campus of California State University , Northridge, is located at the north end of the San Fernando Valley approximately thirty miles from downtown Los Angeles. The Center (Project) was established in 1979 through the efforts of university faculty, concerned community organizations and civic leaders. Under the leadership of its founding director, Dr. Leonard Pitt, Professor, Department of History, the Center received significant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Historic Publications and Records Commission during its first three years of operation.

In 1980, the Urban Archives Project moved from the Department of History to become a chartered center under the School of Social and Behavioral Science. In 1984, Dr. Nathan Weinberg, Sociology Professor, became the new director. The next year, the Archives moved from S&BS to become an administrative unit under the Vice President for Academic Programs. During the Fall semester 1987, Dr. Tom Reilly, Chair of the Journalism Department took over the helm of the Center. In July 1992, the Center was placed under the administration of the Oviatt Library.

Today, Special Collections, the University Archives and the Urban Archives Center are one Department in the Oviatt Library, Special Collections & Archives. The department brings together the many rich research archives, rare book and manuscript collections documenting the history of California and the local community.


The primary purpose of the Urban Archives Center has been to collect the historically significant records of voluntary associations, local political figures, prominent citizens and civic leaders which have contributed to the growth of Los Angeles County and influenced government and public thinking since the beginning of the late nineteenth century.

Major themes found in our holdings include – Urban Development – Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, Education Issues , Journalism in Southern California, Labor and Guild History, Minority & Ethnic Studies, Politicians and Political Movements, Social Service and Women of Los Angeles.

Community Involvement

In addition to university funds and grants from the NEH and NHPRC, the Center has received local and national support from the Ahmanson Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, Friends of the Oviatt Library, John Randolph & Dora Haynes Foundation, Library Services Technology Act, Times-Mirror Foundation, U.S. Department of Education's Hispanic Serving Institutions Program, and our many collection donors, their families, and collection depositors. The Urban Archives Center has also benefited from generous gifts and donations from faculty, local voluntary associations and private citizens concerned with the preservation of Los Angeles's diverse history.

The Center encourages community members to suggest collections which might enhance the collecting scope of the Archives, as well as sources for financial support to continue the work of preserving Los Angeles' rich and vibrant heritage. The Archives' and Library Development staff are available to consult with community organizations, local governmental agencies interested in preserving their own history or donating funds to support our work.

For more information on how to support the Urban Archives Center , please contact us at Special Collections & Archives by calling (818) 677-2832.  You can also e-mail Ellen Jarosz, Special Collections & Archives Librarian (ellen.jarosz@csun.edu).

Donating Personal Papers & Institutional Records

Archives staff will work with donors to ensure their privacy. The main purpose of the Archives, however, is to make our holdings accessible to researchers and the public. The Archives will agree to reasonable and equitable restrictions for limited periods of time.

Restricted Access to Collections

Sensitive files within individual collections have restrictions placed on them either due to the request of the donor or the delicate nature of the material. This is especially true for individual case files, membership lists, and diaries found within several of our collections. Notation of any restrictions placed on a collection is clearly stated in the general guide to the collections and the separate descriptive finding guides for each collection. Please inquire with Archives and Reading Room staff for use of restricted materials.