Archival Vaults

The Robert B. Johnston Archival Vault was constructed in 1973 with financial assistance from the County of Monterey, Gannett Foundation, and Francis H. Cislini, former publisher of the Salinas Californian. It is the only such facility outside of universities on the Central Coast. Humidity and temperature controlled, it houses a wealth of material on Monterey County History. Our second temperature and humidify controlled vault was constructed in 2016 with generous assistance from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation as well as the Harden Foundation. Following is a brief listing of a portion of the Society’s Collection:

Spanish and Mexican Archives

The Spanish material consists primarily of military records and correspondence, most date in the 1780s.

Mexican records which comprise the bulk of the collection cover a wide range of topics, including official and private correspondence, real estate transactions, land grant petitions, civil and criminal court records, military matters, immigration papers, and various records of the alcaldes of Monterey, New Helvetia, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

Of particular interest in the collection are a few of the papers of Thomas Larkin as U.S. Consul; information on the elections of 1839; a registry of cattle brands for the period 1835-1850; a building lot survey (Solares) of Monterey completed in 1838; and various listings of residents, foreigners, and officials from the 1830s.

The bulk of this collection is contained in 16 large volumes.

American Period

The American occupation documents deal primarily with the routine business of magistrates, alcaldes, and other government offices.

Monterey County Records dating from the early 1850s:

Auditors Receipt & Expenditures
Auditors Office Warrant Records
Assessment Rolls
Board of Supervisors Accounting Books
Board of Supervisors Budget
Board of Supervisors Minutes
Clerks Office Fee Records
County Court Judgments
Court of Session Criminal Records
Criminal Dockets and Small Claims
Criminal Dockets (Sheriff)
District Court Judgments
Grantor Records (Deeds and Grants)
Great Registers and Poll List
Jail Registers
Loose Marriage Records
Probate Superior Court (Bonds, Wills)
Real Estate Lot Books
Soldiers Burial Records
Superior and Civil Court Records


History of agriculture including labor movements; photographs; a rare collection of agricultural labels; irrigation history; rainfall; ranch maps; Union Ice Company’s complete collection throughout California which, includes scrapbooks from early the 1800s, plant architectural drawings, legal papers, correspondence, rare photographs and correspondence; complete collection of Spreckels Sugar Company facilities in California which include photographs, ranch maps, architectural drawings, irrigation maps, scrapbooks, magazines, newspapers, and architectural drawings by William Weeks of homes built in the town of Spreckels.


A wide range of rare photographs of Monterey County which include group scenes; individuals, agriculture; businesses; city and street scenes; rural scenes; transportation; military; sports; aerial photos; schools; buildings; slides and postcards. The collection consists of over 5,000 photographs and 2,500 negatives from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.


The Society has a large collection of local newspapers. A detailed list will be included here in the near future.

Archaeological Collections

The Society is under contract with Archaeological Consulting, a local consulting firm, to archive archaeological collections and materials found in Monterey County. These are available to qualified researchers.

Archives Access Policies
Download this research request form to request access to or information from the vault.


City of Salinas and Monterey County business papers; receipts; advertising; Christmas, Valentine and birthday cards; business cards; election cards; letters; military records; genealogy records; diaries; land and deed papers; homestead papers; business journals; rare books; maps; club records and scrapbooks.

The holdings the Society has in the Robert B. Johnston Archival vault are so extensive that we could fill several pages. However, with what is listed one is able to obtain a general idea of the research material that is available.

Appointments for research may be made by calling the Monterey County Historical Society at 831.757.8085.