University of California Natural Reserve System

history & archive project


What are historical materials?

"Historical materials" can be any objects, such as documents or artifacts, which represent the time when they were created. These materials may also be called "primary sources," meaning that they provide a direct record of some past process or event.

For this project, we are focusing on materials that we believe have "potential historical value"--those that might be of interest to scholars, students, managers, or others, now or in the future--because they contain some important or unique information about the UC Natural Reserve System. Common types of historical materials related to the NRS include management documents, land use records, research reports, datasets, maps, photographs, correspondence, architectural plans, teaching and outreach materials, documents pertaining to government agencies or local conservation efforts, memorabilia, and biological specimens.


What is a collection?

A "collection" is a group of historical materials. Collections come in many forms. A collection may be a box of documents, a cabinet of animal skins, or even a digital database.

A "collection record" is a brief synopsis--like an abstract--that describes the contents of a collection. A single site, such as a museum or a reserve, may contain many collections, and any collection may be divided up into distinct “series” containing different kinds of materials.

The core of this website is a database of collection records describing historical materials that relate to the UC Natural Reserve System. These records provide basic information about the contents of each collection, where to find them, who created them, the dates they cover, the physical formats of the materials they contain, and how they are arranged.

The great thing about having a collection record is that you know, in general, where to look, who to contact, and what to expect before you set off on a research trip. 


What is the difference between on-site and off-site materials?

Some historical materials related to the UC Natural Reserve System are held “on-site” at reserves or campus administrative offices; others are held “off-site” at museums, university archives, historical societies, or in digital databases.

In the first phase of this project, from 2011-16, we focused on on-site materials. In the second phase, we are shifting our focus to off-site materials. This will cause our database to grow considerably over the coming years. All of these materials will be searchable through the Search the Collections box on the right side of any page, and browseable by clicking on the Collections tab at the top of any page.


How can I access these materials?

Although some of our collection records have direct links to documents or other digital materials, most provide only “metadata.” This means that they do not contain actual historical materials, but rather describe the kinds of materials available at the sites listed. To examine these materials, in most cases, you will need to contact the reserve manager or appropriate UC staff member, and you may need to visit the site where the materials are located.

Contact information for reserve staff is easy to find by going to the page on this site for the appropriate reserve, then following the link to that reserve's official UC homepage. Every reserve has its own homepage, which provides contact emails, directions, reservation procedures, and other useful information. 


How can I use this site?

To learn more about the UC NRS History and Archive Project, click on the About, Research, or Teaching tabs on the header at the top of each page.

To learn about historical resources held at a particular reserve, type the name of the reserve in the Search the Collections box on the right side of any page, or click on the Reserves tab, then click on the link for the reserve of your choice. The reserve pages contain basic information about the site, as well as links to on-site and off-site collections. Some reserve pages also provide links to other useful resources, such as published site histories, oral histories, or bibliographies.

To conduct a more specific search, use the Advanced Search tab. Under this tab, the "location" drop-down menu searches for materials held at a particular site. The "site" drop-down menu searches for materials that may be held anywhere, but that refer to a particular site. An example of this is a box of files at the NRS Systemwide Headquarters (the location) that pertains to the Hastings Reservation (the site). There are also search panes for the creator of the collection, the physical type of material held in a collection (such as a map or photograph), and keywords, which we call "tabs."

​To search for historical resources related to a specific topic, use the Search the Collections box on the right side of any page.

To browse the collections, click on the Collections tab and scroll down.