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County archives trace history of Sonoma

The room in the kitchen of a former “school for delinquent girls” off Los Guilicos Road near Oakmont is packed full of old leather-bound books, hand-drawn maps and other legacy records of Sonoma County’s history. Some of these documents are in Spanish, dating to the 1830s and ‘40s when what is now Sonoma County was La Frontera del Norte, Mexican California’s upper edge.

These are the Sonoma County Archives, called “one of the most important and endangered repositories of local history” by the newly-formed Advocates for the Sonoma County Archives (ASCA).Their website is socoarchives.org.

Co-chairs of ASCA are Katherine J. Rinehart, the former head of Sonoma County Library’s history and genealogy collection, and Lynn Downey, a Sonoma Valley resident and former historian for Levi Strauss & Co.

Rinehart will discuss the county archives in a March 13 Zoom lecture ‒ how they came to be located at their current location and what their current state is.

The 75-year-old building where the archive is being held is the former site of the Los Guilicos School for Girls, where youth then-described as “juvenile delinquents” used to serve out their court-prescribed terms.

Yet the archives, which are under the purview of Sonoma County Library, are still used to resolve 21st century legal disputes and questions. The archives also house several local collections of paper donated by private individuals and organizations.

The archive is composed of 3,600 bound volumes, 2,200 storage boxes, 300 linear feet of oversized drawings and maps, 8 linear feet of glass negatives, 60,000 prints and negatives and hundreds of bound and unbound newspapers, according to the ASCA. The archives “tell the story of who we are and where Sonoma County fits within the context of state and national history,” describes the historical society’s announcement of the lecture.

The lecture is at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 13. To attend, email info@sonomavalleyhistory.org to receive log-in instructions

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