The Golden Gate NRA holds one of the largest collections in the National Park Service with a total of nearly 6.2 million items in four disciplines: Archives, Archaeology, History, and Natural History. Materials document the San Francisco Bay Area's extensive history on both sides of the Golden Gate Strait from the early prehistory of native tribes, through the military presence of three different nations, to the events and decisions that shaped the culture of San Francisco and its surrounding areas.
Although the Golden Gate NRA does not have a formal museum to visit, some of the park's locations have historical items on display. Site-specific exhibits can be found at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, Alcatraz Island, the SF-88 Nike Missile Site at Fort Barry, Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Lands End Visitor Center. On-line exhibits are also available, created to showcase different themes, events, and places within the park.
All items in the permanent museum collection are guided by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's Scope of Collections Statement (PDF) (RTF). This document provides insight regarding the items that are accepted into the collection, how they are reviewed by the park, the laws governing accepting donations, and the basic management of the objects.
Nearly 6000 selections from the Golden Gate NRA's museum collection, as well as from other parks, can be searched and reviewed through the National Park Service's Museum Collections site. PDF attachments and images may be available for some items, this number will increase over time as more collections are updated.
The museum collections exist to document and support the history of the sites found within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The object collection contains thousands of items representing over 200 years of post-European contact. Objects feature many military themes and include materials from the Spanish-American War, Coast Artillery defenses, and soldier life. Other items in the collection are related to the many sites and activities that are in the park such as Alcatraz, Land's End, the Cliff House and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
ArcheologyAt the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, we have more than 370 archeological sites. From these sites, we have found almost 500,000 artifacts, including arrowheads, children's toys, old medicine bottles, buttons and buckles, figurines, tools, horseshoes, building materials and jewelry. In addition to artifacts, we also can learn exciting information from buildings, structures, layers of soil, or groupings of different artifacts. Visit the Archeology page for information about open sites and excavation projects.
Natural HistoryNatural resources collections have been collected through permits from the north and south Pacific border regions of the California coast covering 12 distinct communities. The herbarium collection contains marine algae specimens and plantlife from Muir Woods. Other natural history materials include geological samples from areas within the park, various butterfly species, and fish collected for long-term monitoring. Find more information on the Nature & Science pages.
Park Archives and Records Center (PARC)
The Park Archives and Records Center contains over 5 million documents, photographic images, oral histories and maps that document all areas and facets of the history associated with Golden Gate National Recreation Area from Spanish exploration and the establishment of the Presidio in 1776 to the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 as well as the current activities of the park.
PARC houses a large collection of transferred Presidio Army Records pertaining to the Presidio of San Francisco and surrounding military sites. NPS management of these Army records means that there is access to a continual line of information about the natural and cultural resources of lands that were formerly managed by the Department of Defense. The primary contents of this collection include over 1000 linear feet of Army resource records and more than 50,000 engineering drawings and maps of military sites, individual buildings, and coastal defenses.
Here are some resources to discover what the park holds at the Park Archives before you come:
Finding aids - Finding aids contain information on the contents and significance of an archival collection. The finding aid may include descriptive information; repository information; collection history; biographical or historical information on creators of the collection; and in some cases a container or folder list of everything in the collection.
GGNRA Special Collections Guide (PDF 4.4MB) (RTF 4.29MB) - This downloadable and searchable document groups archival collections together by topic and can be a useful tool in finding collections that are relevant to your project or interest. The Guide includes a short description of the collection and it may be necessary to come in and look through the whole finding aid for relevant materials, or you may email us to request a finding aid electronically.
GGNRA Photo Gallery - The photo gallery features select historic images of all sites around the GGNRA. These images represent less than 1% of our whole image collection, but provides an example of the materials available at the Park Archives.
Public Reference Hours
Individual appointments are also available by calling (415) 561-2808 or e-mail us.
The Center is closed for research on all federal holidays. Please check below or call for any additional closures.
Information about public transportation to the Presidio and around it is available on the Presidio Trust's Transportation site.
Please be advised of the changing conditions and detours of the roads in the Presidio during the Doyle Drive construction project. For more information visit the Presidio Parkway website.
Last updated: March 25, 2019