The Long Beach Historical Society
By Gina Ramsey
“How will we know it’s us without our past?” John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 classic The Grapes of Wrath. And how will we know our past without the tireless efforts of those who help preserve our history? One of the city’s little gems, the Historical Society of Long Beach (HSLB), does just that. Preserving our city’s history is how it “helps us conceptualize the world we live in, make decisions for our future, and understand why and how certain things were built,” said Julie Bartolotto, executive director of the society.
The HSLB has been ‘collecting, preserving, and presenting the city’s history’ for over 50 years. Aside from amassing old city photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia, the society makes available its collections to researchers and the public; displays rotating exhibits; hosts book signings; and collaborates with other history-preserving organizations throughout Long Beach.
Learning about the history of Long Beach, which was incorporated in 1897, brings into focus the diversity of people and cultures that helped shape the city’s past and makes us realize how our actions in the present will influence the future. Long Beach’s unique history is captured throughout the city in its architecture; the Society’s Cambodian Community History & Archive Project; oral history collections with past city mayors and other important city figures on their YouTube channel; partnerships with City College’s Community Studies Program and Conference; and the popular cemetery tours.
Since 1995, HSLB has organized the annual historical cemetery tours, ‘bringing the dead to life.’ Partnering with the Long Beach Playhouse for actors, volunteers, and costumes, the Society presents graveside stories of those buried at the city’s two oldest cemeteries, Long Beach Municipal Cemetery and Sunnyside Cemetery where more than 20,000 past area residents permanently rest. The tours, which are held on the last Saturday of October, feature actors telling the stories of individuals who helped shape the city’s political past, as well as ordinary citizens with their own interesting backstories. The family-friendly tour took a hiatus last year due to COVID restrictions but is planning a return for the 2021 fall season.
The HSLB and its partners are upholding the stories and artifacts that created the city that will always be the “Jeweled Capstone of the American West.”
Historical Society of Long Beach
4260 Atlantic Ave.
LB, CA 90807
For more information, membership, and sponsorship opportunities visit: Hslb.org