Protectors of the Past: Orange County Archives

Orange County Archives

The word “archives” conjures images of dusty shelving holding yellowing papers. But what about an archive of Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboards? Or Disney memorabilia? Or an original rivet from the Golden Gate Bridge given to Huell Howser? Orange County is home to archives containing these and other treasures that aren’t just historically significant but entertaining, too. We explored six of these repositories and talked to the folks who oversee them. Here’s what we found.

Orange County Archives
211 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Room 101, Santa Ana, 714-834-2536,

About the Site

The Old Orange County Courthouse, the imposing granite and sandstone building erected in 1901, is in the heart of Santa Ana’s downtown civic center. The archives are on the ground floor, in a space partly rimmed by light-giving clerestory windows. It looks and feels appropriately historical.

The Collection

Historical property documents and photos (nearly a million images), the Knott’s Berry Farm Collection, newspapers and periodicals, films, the papers and photos of community leaders, and more are housed here. And 3,000-plus broadcast tapes from the now-defunct Orange County NewsChannel are still being digitized.

What You Should Know

Bring coins for the metered parking. If the exterior of the courthouse looks creepily familiar, it’s because it served as Briarcliff Manor, the fictional mental institution on TV’s “American Horror Story: Asylum.”

The Caretaker

O.C. native and county archivist Susan Berumen, above, can rattle off what she regards as the collection’s greatest hits, as well as its latest additions, which include a catalogued array of orange crate labels from local growers and the collection of Alice Chandler, who in 1949 became O.C.’s first female deputy.

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