SDEA Member Feature: San Diego History Center

The San Diego History Center was founded in 1928 by businessman and philanthropist George W. Marston, who was committed to preserving and sharing the history of the City of San Diego with its citizens and the city’s visitors.  Originally called the San Diego Historical Society, the San Diego History Center is one of the largest historical organizations in the country.  It is comprised of two museums: the Junípero Serra Museum in Presidio Park and the San Diego History Center in historic Balboa Park.  The San Diego History Center is unique in that it is the only museum that exists to preserve San Diego’s collective history and to enhance the city’s identity within the community.

The San Diego History Center currently employs 22 staff members and is supported by 22 people on the Board of Directors and over 300 volunteers.  The San Diego History Center has an annual budget of $3 million, but its economic impact to the community is twice that figure—generating over $6 million in revenue for the city each year. The San Diego History Center is a member of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, a group of nineteen arts and culture organizations with a common mission of sharing and preserving the wealth of culture and history which San Diego offers.

Bill Lawrence, San Diego History Center’s Executive Director, credits the staff as the organization’s greatest asset. He shares that he is fortunate to work with such a talented, committed group of individuals who all have a passion for the City of San Diego. Lawrence explains that the organization and its employees embrace a “culture of philanthropy,” and possess a common commitment to work to preserve the San Diego community and to foster civic pride.

There is much to take in at the San Diego History Center!  It is home to 2.5 million photographs, 45 million documents, as well as art, clothing, objects, and more that illustrate the stories, events, and growth of San Diego over the past century.  One of the most recent exhibitions to open is LGBTQ + San Diego – Stories of Struggles and Triumphs. This exhibition  showcases the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles to overcome persecution and the battles that still continue. The exhibit runs now through January 20, 2020.

The San Diego History Center is a donation-based museum, and all are welcome. It is a family-friendly museum and is open seven days a week. To learn more, visit

Contact us: 858.505.0024