History Center allowing SLO County archives to rot

July 8, 2017

Kevin Rice


The History Center of San Luis Obispo County is treating our county history like trash.

Each year, the History Center receives a large public subvention to archive and store historic county documents dating back to the 1800s. This year, the county gave $150,000.

There are hundreds of old leather-bound hand-written journals documenting our county’s roots.

Instead of archiving our county history with the care and dignity it deserves, the History Center tosses these old journals around, stacking them up like trash. The History Center rents an old hovel behind Cuesta College where records are piled like refuse. Weeds and dirt infiltrate the shanty structure exposed to coastal fog and moisture, insects and vermin.

Only a few hundred dollars out of the $150,000 subvention are being used to protect these irreplaceable records.

I contacted the History Center regarding this matter and was immediately met with hostility and anger from board member Bill McCarthy. Instead of concern, McCarthy twice demanded, “Who gave you my name and email address?” No other board member bothered to reply.

It seems Mr. McCarthy and the History Center are concerned with operating without bothersome oversight from the public they are tasked to serve. Protecting history is not a concern.

Clearly, the History Center is misusing tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

I have asked our county clerk-recorder and supervisors to look into this matter. I would like proof that our county’s history is being protected and that taxpayer monies are being properly spent.

Please join me in contacting County Clerk Tommy Gong and our board of supervisors. Ask them to ensure this matter is thoroughly investigated and that subvention dollars are reconsidered. Alternatively, another entity should be found that can properly protect our records.

If you donate to the History Center or know a board member, maybe you can get farther than I. Contact board members at: sandy@microgarage.com, sanctusbells@yahoo.com, pedrokelley@gmail.com, kellymarshall805@gmail.com, billmccarthy1099@gmail.com, zdmckiernan@gmail.com, mcquilkinbill@gmail.com, jordansanfilippo@yahoo.com, slojohn90@hotmail.com, rjsoules@charter.net, phil@hazardcanyon.com.


A few decades ago plans were drawn to build an exhibit hall around the old Carnegie Library which was turned over to the County Historical Society back in 1953. Don’t you think it is about time the City/County finally find better space to store historic documents? I’ve heard the History Center has to wait their fundraising turn behind two others projects ahead of them: 1. The Art Museum 2. Little Theatre. By then most of those old papers will have faded away. And they sure don’t have space for any objects from decades after 1953.


One would certainly think the History Center should have precedence over the Art Museum and the Little Theater. Then again it probably has never really had the caliber of leadership necessary to do any serious fundraising, plus it has a less than stellar reputation which probably turns off many major donors.


For what the county is spending subsidizing this outfit, they can afford to build a climate-controlled vault to store their stuff in. No excuse for what Kevin describes.

As for art museum and theater, those are private fund-raising operations, not taxpayer funded ones. Their regular public subsidies are identical to the base subsidy for the history center — $1 a year to use city property.


Kevin Rice sure likes to stir the pot, maybe he should spend some of his multitude of idle time volunteering to help for a change. The History Center continues to do good work with what resources it has.


I don’t know if Kevin Rice is right or not in his claims but, if you have connections with the History Center as you seem to imply, why not arrange for a tour where Rice and others can both see and photograph the material in question. It might also be a good idea to open the financial books to the public to show that the “resources” are being used wisely.

If your position is fair and accurate, I will be happy to join you in asking Mr. Rice for an apology. Open government can reveal false accusations as well as misappropriation and waste. Let’s try it.


I have no connection to History Center other than appreciating what I have seen as growth over the years in presentations and the general gift to our community. It takes a lot of time and money to keep the doors open and lights on I suspect.


Professional Muckraker Rice. He’s never going to get his hands dirty.


If this is true, we are exposing gross incompetence in the government arena.

Say what??!


“the History Center tosses these old journals around, stacking them up like trash”

“records are piled like refuse. Weeds and dirt infiltrate the shanty structure exposed to coastal fog and moisture, insects and vermin.”

Hey Rice, I’m guessing you witnessed this, so could you post some photos? I think publishing photographic evidence of exactly how bad things are would go a long way in getting people to take action on this.


Show us your ‘fake news’ Rice ~~~


Hey, the brilliant board of amateurs hires a fabric artist with no public history experience and no archiving experience to sail the ship — what do you expect to happen? Maybe she thinks everything that happened before her time didn’t happen and wouldn’t be important if it had? The museum is a sad case whatever the cause. Has never lived up to a fraction of its potential, and has actually thwarted those who tried to help it do so. Club Hist.


What in the world is a “fabric artist?”

George Garrigues

It is an artist who uses fabric as a medium. Could be painting, could be tie-dye. Here are some links: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=fabric+artist&atb=v57-2_e&ia=web.


Thank you. I thought “Ricky2” was being flip. My apologies. Is the head of the SLO History Center really a fabric artist and not a qualified professional?


“A Fabricator?”


This is very troubling to read. The SLO County Historical Society (re-branded as the History Center of San Luis Obispo County) has had a questionable history in our community for a number of reasons since its founding in the 1950’s.

Internal politics has consumed this “hysterical society” for decades. A roller coaster ride of political ups and downs, mostly downs. It would be nice if it could finally focus on its actual mission of preserving and displaying history and not on politics, be they internal or external to the organization.


A $150,000 budget, a few hundred used on real work, the rest used for salaries, benefits and pensions, sounds about right for government work. The old 5 – 95% rule alive and well in government.

George Garrigues

You’ve checked the budget? I didn’t know that historical society work comes with retirement benefits.

Reality Check

Even after digital copying of the documents, these precious pieces of history need to be stored in a proper environment that protects them from heat, cold, dampness and humidity. Where is the money from the taxpayers being spent if its not being used to preserve and protect these important documents?


” Where is the money from the taxpayers being spent if its not being used to preserve and protect these important documents?”

A perfect subject for the newly-established SLO County civil Grand Jury to investigate.

That new Grand Jury should be sworn in by now and beginning to review possible subjects to examine for the coming year. This would be an excellent subject to choose, and it would be a terrific public service to the taxpayers to get some answers here.

Once again, thank you Kevin for shedding some light on another subject that’s being held out of the public’s view.


Don’t waste time with the Grand Jury, our jury has no real power and is just a waste of time. Those they investigate and find issues with have no reason to change anything. Our Grand Jury is just a feel good thing for the public and is not able to make any real changes, it’s just a waste of time.


The function of a civil grand jury is to expose a simmering public problem. Enforcement or corrective action must then be taken by the appropriate oversight officials/agencies.

The purpose of a Grand Jury investigation in this instance would be to shed a broad public light on the mess at the so-called “History Center.” Then a push can be made to force the oversight bodies/officials to do something about it.

All that we have right now is what Kevin has posted. That will be history itself if no one follows up on the mess and keeps a spotlight on it.

Each year the civil Grand Jury “wastes” time on all sorts of matters, many of which no one ever actually cares about. This new Grand Jury is going to select several matters to spend the next year examining. Why not have the 2017-18 Grand Jury spend their time on this matter instead of something else?

Rich in MB

For the love of Pete!

You get some High School Interns and they start scanning or taking Digital photos of the old Documents. Then they can be archived, sorted, etc.

This isn’t rocket science…but for Government it appears to be….

George Garrigues

“Government”? I don’t think the historical society is part of “government” just because it gets a subvention. Can you elucidate?