I was doing a little research on L.A.’s cultural history and came across a blog post about Dorothy Chandler’s cultural leadership. The highlight? The fantastic photos–all from Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) photo collection.

LAPL’s Central Library in downtown began collecting photographs prior to World War II, and since then has amassed millions–yes millions–of photographs that emphasize the history of L.A., Southern California, and California. Over 80,000 of these photos are searchable online. The two biggest photography archives in the collection are the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner photographs (2.2 million) spanning the 1920s through 1989; and the Security Pacific National Bank collection (250,000+), which holds historic photographs of Los Angeles and Southern California, including a collection of early L.A. Chamber of Commerce photographs.

Here are a few fun examples:

Photo of a Pacific Electric Red Car prior to its placement in Griffith Park’s Travel Town (1953)

A workout photo of Seabiscuit (on the left) at Santa Anita Racetrack (1940)

The newly constructed Hollywood freeway through the Cahuenga Pass (n.d.)

A protest by brunettes and redheads of Marilyn Monroe’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (1953)

This online photo archive is one of the best places to begin researching ANY topic in L.A. history, whether you’re a student, teacher, history buff, or just an interested citizen. Plus, if you are anything like me, you will find that having visual evidence helps jump start a project because it brings the past to life in such a vivid way.

Below are a few links to the LAPL online photography archive. Go ahead and search the site. I dare you.

Photo Collection Overview

Search the catalog

A few amazing videos highlighting the collection

Photo Collection FAQs



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