Pasadena Museum of History’s Black History Collection Now Available

Online Project is Part of USC's Award-winning L.A. as Subject Community Histories Digitization Project
Published on May 5, 2020

Pictured: Merlene Ballard and boyfriend (Black History Collection, BH-D-5-19)


The Black History Collection, one of more than 250 special collections in the Archives at Pasadena Museum of History, is part of a generous digitization grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the University of Southern California’s L.A. as Subject Community Histories Digitization Project. The overall project involves digitization of approximately 17,000 items, including paper materials, historic photographs, video recordings, and other unique items from collections held by six community archives in the L.A. as Subject research alliance. The project will add to the visibility of collections that document underrepresented community histories.

PMH’s Black History Collection is comprised of photographs, letters, family records, property deeds, and other materials revealing the history of the African-American community in Pasadena. This collection was a result of a documentary, Changing Rose, created by PMH in 1984. Robin Kelley, an American historian, interviewed black community members and collected photographs and memorabilia for the documentary, which make up the bulk of the collection. Many of these materials date from the early 20th century, and shed light on a less-visible period in African-American life prior to the second Great Migration. The collection tells the stories and struggles of black citizens who either migrated to or grew up in Pasadena.

The collection includes more than 3,000 pages of materials and 400 historic photographs that have been re-housed and processed according to professional archival standards. USC Imaging & Media Lab has finished digitizing the collection, and the first group of artifacts is now online. The rest of the Black History Collection will be available soon. The interview tapes in this collection were previously digitized as a part of the California Revealed Project. In addition, an EAD (encoded archival description) finding aid is accessible at the Online Archive of California.


Access the Black History Collection at

Access the Black History interview tapes at

Access the EAD finding aid at

For more information about Pasadena Museum of History’s Archives and Collections, visit




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