Orange Public Library & History Center
Orange Public Library & History Center

Orange Public Library & History Center

Orange is well-known for valuing history.  This commitment to historical preservation resulted in the addition of a History Center when the Orange Public Library was renovated in 2007.

“The Orange community is dedicated to preserving history, which is wonderful,” says Aida Cuevas, Orange Public Library & History Center Archivist/Local History.  The Center is regularly visited by people seeking historical photos and data, and she is always on the lookout for new ways to expand the Center’s collections, including through donations.

One of the Center’s most often used collections consists of yearbooks.  Cuevas has seen firsthand how meaningful finding a yearbook can be.  In one instance, she helped a mother locate her son’s football pictures.  He had recently passed, and this was her first time seeing the photos, because she hadn’t been able to afford to buy him the yearbook.

Another notable instance occurred when Cuevas helped a young man find photos of his recently deceased mother.  “He was flipping through the yearbook, and I heard him say, ‘There she is.’  It was a picture of her, young and healthy, and it was very touching to see his reaction.”

Currently, the collection extends back to the 1906 Orange Union High yearbook, and the majority of the books are high school.

“I’m trying to start a junior high and middle school yearbook collection, along with class pictures from elementary and grammar school,” says Cuevas.  “We don’t really have a lot of that.

Another valuable resource the History Center houses is the Florence Flippen Smiley Memorial Archives.  Smiley was a pioneer member of Orange and founder of the Orange Community Historical Society.  The collection covers 1871 to present, featuring photographs and memorabilia owned by Smiley and items donated to the library or purchased, including artifacts, books, pamphlets and manuscripts.

Lisa Baldwin is Program Chairman for the Orange Community Historical Society.  She enjoys seeing the Orange History Center grow and feels the preservation of records and documents is valuable to the community.  “I’m a history geek,” says Baldwin.  “I’ve visited the library for firsthand knowledge since the 1970s.  Of course, nowadays some information can be found online, but there is still no substitute for seeing items firsthand.”

The History Center also aids locals in discovering the backgrounds of their homes, like Trevor Colón, who restored his 1946 house.  With the help of Cuevas, he began documenting the process.

“The library has been a great resource for creating a legacy,” Colón says.  “Aida showed me a binder a woman put together of her Eichler house and how they restored the home, so I thought, I’ll do a book.”

Using History Center’s resources, Colón reached out to the county for more information about his home.  He now has a complete record of former occupants and most of their occupations, which will go in his book, along with information on his family and the Eichler home he grew up in.

Ultimately, the expansion of any of these collections is dependent on local support and conscientiousness.     “If you’re going to discard Orange-related items, please bring them to the History Center for collection consideration,” Cuevas says.  “Something meaningless to you can have great impact on someone else.”

Orange Public Library & History Center
407 East Chapman Ave., Old Towne Orange, CA 92866  /  714-288-2465

Article Published in the
Jan / Feb 24 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Nathan Carter Photo by Mike Escobedo
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