San Diego History Center

1649 El Prado, Suite 3, San Diego, CA 92101 - United States





Smithsonian Affiliate Museum

The San Diego History Center tells the diverse story of our region – past, present, and future – educating and enriching our community, preserving our history and fostering civic pride. Discover the secrets of San Diego’s rich history through family-friendly interactive displays!


Place Of Promise
Permanent Exhibit
This exhibition details the history of San Diego from 10,000 BCE to 1888, highlighting the contributions by individuals and the significant events that have shaped the region we know today.

Inside | Out
Permanent Exhibit
This exhibit has a rotating display of rarely-seen items including objects, photographs, documents, and other ephemera from the San Diego History Center archives.

Balboa Park: The Jewel of San Diego
This documentary film provides an introduction to Balboa Park. Featuring stunning aerial vistas juxtaposed with historic images and using state-of-the-art motion graphics, three-dimensional mapping, an original sound track and photo-montages, the 30–minute capsule history explores the Park from the heights of the California Tower to underground museum collections—an unforgettable visual experience. Screenings on the hour from 11am-4pm.

LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs
Visitors will hear from those in the LGBTQ+ region about the struggles to overcome persecution, the battle with AIDS, bullying and intolerance and the power of the community coming together and within growing activism and community engagement.

Marston’s History Emporium: A Hands-On Learning Lab
Who is a San Diegan? Why is it important to know to understand our history? What do objects, photos, and documents say about our past? How have other children in San Diego made a difference in our community? These are just a few of the questions that will confront visitors as they explore, play, and uncover clues like historians do.

Her-Story: Pioneers of San Diego
The women of the Ladies Pioneer Society arrived in San Diego in the late 1800s from places around the country. Discover the stories of their journeys and their impressions of San Diego through first person accounts. These early female pioneers provide a glimpse into the small, dusty town San Diego once was and invite you to imagine their reality.

Nathan Harrison: Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend
Few people in the history of the United States embody ideals of the American Dream more than legendary African American San Diego homesteader Nathan Harrison (d. 1920). In a lifetime of hard-won progress, Harrison survived the horrors of slavery in the Antebellum South, endured the mania of the California Gold Rush, and prospered in the rugged chaos of the Wild West.

Developed in partnership with San Diego State University, this new exhibition at the San Diego History Center offers recent discoveries from archaeological excavations at the Nathan Harrison cabin site combined with in-depth research of historical accounts to offer new insights and perspectives into his biography, while also providing a fresh glimpse of everyday life in San Diego during the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era.

The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland
In 1897, Katherine Tingley established her utopian cultural and communal experiment, the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, on a chaparral-covered ridge on San Diego’s Point Loma peninsula. Under Tingley’s leadership, the community’s residents transformed this dusty, seaside plot of land—popularly known as Lomaland—into a lush, vibrant “White City” that became a center of learning, culture and social reform. The Path of the Mystic: Art and Theosophy at Lomaland features a selection of artworks, objects, photographs and archival documents from the San Diego History Center’s collections that bring to light the remarkable legacy of art and cultural production at Lomaland, and how Tingley’s utopian experiment profoundly shaped San Diego’s cultural landscape.

Participation in Museum Day is open to any tax-exempt or governmental museum or cultural venue on a voluntary basis. Smithsonian magazine encourages museum visitation, but is not responsible for and does not endorse the content of the participating museums and cultural venues, and does not subsidize museums that participate.