Peoples Temple Films in CHS Collection to Appear Online


In 2010, the California Historical Society received a substantial donation of files, photographs, film, and audiovisual recordings, most of which were created or maintained by the Peoples Temple Publications Department. Archivist Marie Silva is pleased to announce that seven Super 8 movies forming part of this gift have been approved for digitization by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP), with funding from the California State Library. These previously unviewed films – including historic footage of children playing and people working in Jonestown – will be freely available on the Internet Archive at the end of the year ( Digitization projects such as the CAVPP support CHS’ effort to provide free and open access to materials that document the history of Peoples Temple.

This represents just one collection from more than 20 in the Peoples Temple Collection at CHS. The diverse archival materials include organizational records; government documents; official and personal correspondence; newspapers and other publications; research materials; photographs; film and videotapes; audio recordings; and three-dimensional artifacts. Thanks to the generous donations of journalists, scholars, former Peoples Temple members, families, and friends, the collection has grown considerably since 1983 – when the California and Guyana courts first deposited the Peoples Temple Records at CHS – and continues to grow, providing the most comprehensive archival record of the organization, from its origins in Indiana to the aftermath of the deaths of November 18, 1978.

Over the past decade, CHS archivists and volunteers have worked tirelessly to process the bulk of the materials that make up the Peoples Temple Collection at CHS, enhancing public access to the collections, while ensuring their long-term preservation and care. Detailed finding aids to many of these collections are available on the Online Archive of California (, where they can be searched virtually, from anywhere in the world. In 2012, CHS implemented its first online public access catalog, available through the Society’s newly redesigned website ( Now, researchers and others can retrieve catalog records for Peoples Temple-related materials in all formats by conducting a targeted search or by clicking on the Peoples Temple & Jonestown featured topic. This list will continue to expand as CHS acquires and catalogs new additions to the Peoples Temple Collection.

Mary Morganti, Director of Library & Archives, continues to welcome donations of Peoples Temple-related materials that enhance the breadth and scope of the existing collection. If you wish to discuss a possible donation to the Peoples Temple Collection at CHS, please contact her at

All are welcome to visit CHS and view the Peoples Temple Collection. Located at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, California, 94105, the North Baker Research Library is open to the public from 12 noon to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. Appointments are not required, but new researchers are encouraged to contact the reference desk at or 415-357-1848, ext. 220, for assistance prior to their arrival. The collection can be searched on the CHS website ( and the Online Archive of California (

Marie Silva, Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
Mary Morganti, Director of Library & Archives