Sonoma County Archives

  • Historic Sonoma County Court Ledgers photo

    Historic Sonoma County Court Ledgers

The Sonoma County Archives,
A Shared Responsibility

Note: access to archival materials is now available.
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The materials known as the “Sonoma County Archives” are a record of local history, in some cases dating back to the formation of Sonoma County in the mid-1800s. Some of these archival materials are priceless resources, that must be preserved, catalogued and accessible.

Easier said than done. “The archives” have multiple owners. The library owns some of the material, but the bulk of 19th, 20th and 21st Century public records belong to the County of Sonoma, comprising thousands of government business records that have been designated archival by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of the Historic Records Commission.

The library has acted as the custodian of these records, and recently worked with the county to relocate them away from a storage facility that is near recent wildfires.

The relocation is not permanent, but gives the county and the library time to develop a long-term solution to store the records.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the archives?

What some refer to as “the archives” is not a monolithic set of materials – it is a mix of local government records and historical materials.

Who uses these records?

Almost all requests for materials are from the county itself, from a variety of departments. We also get requests from researchers and historians.

Who owns the materials?

Most of them are owned by the county; the library has been a custodian for many decades.

Why can’t we put the materials in the Central Library basement?

It’s simply impractical. The basement access is narrow and difficult, the area is not ADA accessible, it’s susceptible to flooding, we have other needs for that space.

Can’t you just digitize everything?

Some items have been digitized and more will be, as digitized materials are more accessible to users. However, digitization, done properly, is expensive and slow. Historians and archivists support digitization, but point out that the physical artifact often tells a researcher a lot that cannot be preserved by digitization.

What’s next?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. These are valuable materials and the library is relieved to know that they are now in a safe storage facility, but we have work to do before we identify a permanent solution. We are eager to continue talks with the county toward this end.