Transition Update

July 2023

Dear Friends,

As we shared in March, the California Historical Society (CHS) has made some recent operational changes including a reduction in staff and other cost-saving measures. These changes have been undertaken out of necessity due to a confluence of unfortunate events: the prolonged pandemic-related closures, the ongoing lagging economic recovery in downtown San Francisco, a decline in gifts from major donors, and the sudden passing away of CHS’s Executive Director & CEO Alicia L. Goehring last August.

We are currently reimagining the future of CHS to find new ways to serve our members, researchers, educators, and the people of California in sharing the important voices and stories from California’s history. Our core values remain the same and are very much alive in the work we are doing now to adjust to these new times and develop a plan that addresses our current challenges. 

In June, we launched a brand new kind of exhibition, available to the public, for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The storefront exhibition, Rare, Historical, Curious: Selections from the Collection, appears in our street-level windows at 678 Mission Street in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district. Rare, Historical, Curious is our contribution to the City’s efforts to attract foot traffic back to downtown San Francisco. 

This month, we completed the processing and digitization of the California Flower Market Records (1890s–2014) and online exhibition. The archive consists of business records, audiovisual material, and numerous photographs and photo albums documenting the history of the flower market and Japanese American flower-growing families. Together they tell the story of the California Flower Market, Inc. from its inception in 1912, when fifty-four Japanese American flower growers joined together as shareholders to create the organization. The accompanying California Flower Market online exhibition provides a guide to the finding aids and online resources showcasing the records and photographs from the California Flower Market, Inc. CHS is grateful for the support from the California Flower Market, Inc. to process and digitize this collection. 

On September 30, the North Baker Research Library will close while staff focuses on long-overdue collections management maintenance.  If you wish to visit the library beforehand, email reference@calhist.org to request an appointment. You can search the collection holdings on our website’s catalog page.

At the same time, we will continue to add to the CHS Digital Library, enabling people throughout the state and around the world to explore some of the treasures in the collection. It offers free, online access to more than 15,000 items, including maps, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and audio and video materials. 

We are currently working toward the launch of a new banner exhibition slated for travel beginning in early 2024. The exhibition focuses on the lasting impacts of and mythologizing around California’s Mexican period (1822–1846).

Also in 2024, we hope to announce a new strategic plan. The Board of Trustees is committed to developing a sustainable future for CHS and is hard at work exploring new ways forward. Potential partnerships or mergers are being considered, and the Board has convened a Task Force to help evaluate strategic next steps for CHS. We look forward to sharing more news when it’s available.

In the meantime, we continue to host our live webinars and produce our newsletters, blogs, and social media content. Recent popular programs have included John A. Todd: Photographing Mining Pollution in Gold Rush California; “My biography is the history of California:” Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and his Recuerdos; We Are Not Animals: Indigenous Survival and Rebellion in 19th Century Santa Cruz; Emily and Matilda Bancroft: Women Writers in Their Own Right—all available for free on our YouTube channel.

Upcoming programs include California, a Slave State with Jean Pfaelzer on July 11; George Meléndez Wright: The Fight for Wildlife and Wilderness in the National Parks with Jerry Emory in August; and Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties with Jon Wiener in September.  Look for registration links for these programs on our website’s event page.

We thank you for your support in the past and hope we can continue to rely on it during this transition period. Your support inspires and enables us to continue to do the work that we do. 


Tony Gonzalez
Chair, Board of Trustees
Jen Whitley
Interim CEO