What We Do

See our What’s New page for upcoming events.

Monthly Programs: In these Institute-wide gatherings, members share their work and, if desired, receive feedback. Presentations might include a paper to be delivered at a conference, an outline of a longer work, a draft of a chapter or article, a performance, a rough cut of a video, or even an idea looking for a format. (See more information here. For examples of what members have been working on, see Member Profiles and News.)

Study groups play an important role. We encourage lively, informal discussions. Each group has a coordinator, and meetings are held in members’ homes on a rotating basis. Members are welcome to form new groups according to their needs and interests.

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Seminars and conferences: On occasion, the Institute mounts seminars for its members, taught by one or several members or by invited speakers. We have sponsored and co-sponsored conferences of independent scholars, and we have assisted members in forming panels for history conferences.

Other member events:  We also organize special meetings, such as workshops on topics like publishing, orientations to various libraries and archives, and tours of places of historical interest. We have an annual potluck in the fall and an annual business meeting, with lunch and a program, in February.

Public Programs

Saturday, September 26, 1:00 pm, Public Program  via Zoom - pre-registration required Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts Part of San Francisco History Days, this event is co-sponsored by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. Join Susan D. Anderson, history curator of the California African American Museum, for a talk and tour of artifacts that reveal the hidden history of San Francisco’s 19th-century African American past. Anderson’s talk begins with the Gold Rush and weaves the state’s raucous beginnings into the national narrative. The photographs, manuscripts, and publications in this presentation allow viewers to experience the urgency of early campaigns for civil rights and the fervent hopes of the African American community. Learn about the beloved ship’s captain who has a street named for him in West Oakland. Hear a Civil War poem by a distinguished Black poet and friend of John Brown proclaimed in public in 1864 San Francisco. See court documents of the lawsuit brought to challenge discrimination on streetcars 90 years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This presentation proves that California history is more challenging, complicated, and fascinating than we’ve been taught. Hosted and co-sponsored by the Institute for Historical Study, co-sponosred by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. This event is free but pre-registration is required.  
Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...


Many of our members have received mini-grants from the Institute in aid of their history research. There is an annual deadline in the fall. Only Institute members are eligible. For more information, see Information for Mini-Grant Applicants. Download the application form here.