Local History

The Santa Monica Public Library: An Illustrated History

In November 1890, Santa Monica town trustees accepted a donation of 800 books, forming the foundation for the nascent town library. On December 10, Elfie Mosse was appointed City Librarian. Located at Oregon Ave. (now Santa Monica Blvd.) and Third Street, two rooms in the Bank of Santa Monica building were set aside for the library. For the first 14 years, Elfie Mosse was the only staff, and she would lead the library until 1939.

Since those humble beginnings, the library has grown to become a system of five locations and over 400,000 volumes in the collections. Santa Monica Public Library offers a wide variety of programs for people of all ages and engages in a lively online presence. Much has changed in 125 years, but the tradition of service remains our cornerstone.

Imagine Santa Monica

The Library’s digital collections include the Image Archives of the Santa Monica Bay area, a collection of photographs and postcards dating from 1875 to the present; historical maps of the Santa Monica area; the years 1875 to 1936 of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook; the Santa Monica Newspaper Index, a selective index to newspaper and magazine articles of local interest dating throughout the Twentieth Century and up to the present.

Image Archives on Calisphere - Search the Santa Monica Image Archives and Palisades Historical Image Collection on Calisphere, a service of the University of California Libraries.

Stanton Macdonald-Wright Mural

The new Main Library is graced by a cycle of murals created by artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright in 1935 for the former Main Library located at 503 Santa Monica Blvd.

Marcus O. Tucker Collection

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Marcus O. Tucker, Jr. (1934-2015) was born in Santa Monica, California, on November 12, 1934. Tucker graduated from University High School in Los Angeles in 1952. The Marcus O. Tucker Collection highlights the achievements of "Black Men of Courage" with a collection of biographical resources.

Santa Monica Collection Room

The Santa Monica Collection Room holds a specialized selection of primary and secondary sources that chronicle the history of the Santa Monica Bay region, Southern California and the rest of the state.

Located on the second floor of the Main Library, this is a non-circulating research collection containing approximately 4,000 items. It includes books, annual reports, directories, maps, pamphlets, City planning documents, yearbooks, ephemera, and more.

Access and Use - The Santa Monica Collection Room is open to the public by advance appointment only. 

Materials may not leave the Santa Monica Collection Room. In order to protect and preserve the unique collections in the Santa Monica Collection Room, the Room is reserved for researchers using the local history materials housed herein.

Visitors should consult the librarian before photocopying any material due to the fragile condition of many of these irreplaceable resources.

Obituary and Other Requests 

Library staff processes requests for obituaries from the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. Each request must include a surname, first name, and precise date of death that includes month, day, and year. Searches are limited to 3 obituaries per request.  Recipients will receive emailed digital images of the obituary or photocopies via the U.S. Postal Service. This is a free service. Requests may be placed in person or by contacting Telephone Assistance at 310-458-8600; or by emailing Reference Department.

Santa Monica History Museum

Located on the Main Library campus at 1350 7th Street, the Museum showcases the unique history and qualities of the City. Since 1975, the Museum has collected and preserved the history, art and culture of the Santa Monica Bay Area.  Many of the Museum's historical photographs can be viewed online.

The Museum’s mission is to provide public access to its historical collections, promote a sense of community through historical exhibitions and programs, and to provide residents, especially children, a sense of historical appreciation of Santa Monica.

Note: The Museum will be opening April 1, 2022. The new hours will be:

Santa Monica History Museum
1350 7th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-2290