search collections

You can search our archival holdings in several different ways. You can search via keyword in the catalog, browse material in the collection listings, and view curated subject research guides.

Catalog Search

The keyword search engine below will allow you to browse our entire catalog, including archival collections, periodicals, and oral histories. Use this information when you book your appointment to visit the archives.

While the vast majority of the material in the archives is not available digitally, a few of our collections have been digitized and are available online. Click here to consult the digital collections.

Search Engine Information

We recommend that you begin your search with a couple of keywords. You could try “activism” and “AIDS,” for example. The name of a person, organization, or journal is especially useful.

Try a couple of different searches to see which is the most effective. Keyword results will be sorted into three sections—archival holdings, periodicals, and oral histories—and will include a brief description of each collection.

Results in the archival holdings will very frequently point you to a finding aid or container list, which break a collection down into specific segments and often have reference information for individual boxes and/or file folders. Some of these finding aids are in PDF format; others are housed directly on the Online Archive of California and will be linked.

These finding aids can be of immense value in helping you to hone in on the areas of the collection that most interest you, so we strongly suggest that you peruse them carefully if they are available. If your search turns up oral histories, many have transcriptions that are available online, which will be linked.

Search our archives

Where do you want to look?

  • Archival collections
  • Periodical collections
  • Oral histories

What are you looking for?

Collection Listings

Collections list

This list contains all of our current collections available for research. Please note that some collections may not be listed because they have not yet been fully processed by staff. 

Periodicals list

This listing details the periodicals we have in alphabetical order.

Ephemera collections

The following finding aids are available on the Online Archive of California.

Biography Ephemera Collection

Business Ephemera Collection

General Subjects Ephemera Collection

Groups Ephemera Collection

Digitized audiovisual materials list

This list details audiovisual materials that have been digitized. Some may be available online; others are only available on site in the reading room. For information regarding access, contact us at

Research Guides

LGBTQ Historic Places in San Francisco

For information regarding LGBTQ historic places in San Francisco, read the Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History in San Francisco. This project was led by public historian Donna Graves and architectural historian Shayne Watson in partnership with the GLBT Historical Society and supported by the Historic Preservation Fund and the City and County of San Francisco Planning Department. 

The GLBT Historical Society maintains the San Francisco LGBTQ Sites Database, listing nearly 2,000 sites. The resource was created by Willie Walker and Eric Garber for the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project; it was transferred to the Historical Society in 1985. It includes later additions by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Damon Scott. The data is searchable by site type, site name, location, dates, description and citations. The Sites Database is available for use in the GLBT Historical Society reading room; to make an appointment, click here

Photo: Crawford Wayne Barton, Kissing on the steps, 1977, Crawford Wayne Barton collection (1993-11), GLBT Historical Society