Our Past Revealed: Southern California Transportation History Comes Alive Through Images And Stories Found In Local Archives, Libraries & Museums

Members of the L.A. Times Bicycle Club ride north on Western Avenue toward Hollywood, 1894. Courtesy of Braun Research Library Collections, Autry National Center: LS 14502

The new year got off to a brisk start for L.A. as Subject, the research alliance comprised of over 230 institutional and individual members (including Metro’s Transportation Library & Archive) who collect, preserve and provide access to the history and culture of Southern California.

Beginning in January, this network of libraries, archives, museums, historical societies and other institutions entered into a collaborative partnership with KCET, an independent public television affiliate in Los Angeles.

KCET, interested in content for its new website, invited L.A. as Subject to contribute weekly blog posts that illustrate how the archives of Southern California’s cultural institutions and private collectors inform perspectives on Southern California’s history, current events, and future.

A working group of L.A. as Subject members met in December to brainstorm ideas for a January launch and for weekly topics beyond.

Smog protection experiment, circa 1947. Courtesy USC Digital Library

Pasadena’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade inspired us to kick off discussion and share the history of “boosterism” in Southern California.

It was well received and the group decided to write about topics related to the calendar or current events whenever possible.

For example, the inauguration of the new governor in January gave us an opportunity to take a closer look at archival collections containing records of Gov. Jerry Brown while our wild Winter weather prompted L.A. as Subject to dig into Southern California’s historic encounters with snow.

However, we’re excited that several of these stories have already focused on transportation.

Vintage postcard of Los Angeles' Union Station, courtesy of Metro Transportation Library & Archive

Metro’s purchase of Union Station led us to take a look back at the history of our great railway terminal.

We explored the many roads to the historical southland and featured some rare maps and images.

Los Angeles’ smoggy past was revisited and we delved into the Southland’s fascinating history of bicycling.

These posts will continue weekly and can be found in the SoCal Focus section of KCET’s website.

We hope to progressively broaden our audience, informing them of all the great resources and hidden treasures held in our local archives, libraries, museums and other repositories.