One way to discover Los Angeles is through its multitude of local history museums and historic sites that can educate you on the founding of individual neighborhoods and communities. Rather than the history of civilization, the natural world (which you'll find on the Top LA History Museums page), specific arts or technologies, local history museums focus on how this place came into existence and evolved.
If you want to go farther back into the local past, I have a separate list of Native American Museums and Attractions in LA that include resources on the local LA Indians, but on this page, you'll find the local museums and historical societies where you can learn about the history of the City of LA and also surrounding cities and communities.
This list has some overlap with the list of LA Historic Home Museums and LA Missions, Ranchos and Adobes, when the local history museum is combined with one of these. Some all-volunteer historical society museums are only open one day a month. This list only includes museums that are open at least one day a week. Check each website for open days and hours.
15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd
Mission Hills, CA 91345-1109
The Archival Center at the San Fernando Mission, operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is a research archive and museum of the Catholic past of LA and California prior to 1840.
More on Mission San Fernando Rey de España
10110 Commerce Ave
Tujunga, CA 91042
LA PArks Bolton Hall Website
Little Landers Historical Society
The Bolton Hall Museum in the Tujunga neighborhood of the City of LA, is operated by the Little Landers Historical Society. It presents the areas history from the Gabrieleno Indians through the Rancho Tujunga land grant, its development as the "Little Lands" colony of one acre farms to the establishment of the city of Tujunga and annexation by the city of Los Angeles. The stone building itself was built as a community center in 1913 and and although there are many older buildings, it was named LA City Cultural and Historical Landmark #2, second only to El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site.
Covina Firehouse Jail Museum
125 East College Street
Covina, CA 91723
The Covina Valley Historical Society operates the 1911 Firehouse Jail Museum behind City Hall, which showcases the area's orange industry history. The free museum is open Sundays, except holidays, 1-3 pm.
They also maintain the 1908 craftsman-style Heritage House adjacent to Covina Park at 300 N Valencia Avenue, open by appointment.
12540 Rives Ave
Downey, California 90241
A small museum across from the Downey Library with photos, document archives and artifacts on the city's history. 10 to 2 Wednesdays, Thursday and the 3rd Saturday of the month.
777 Encanto Parkway
Duarte, CA 91009-0263
The Duarte History Museum is located in a former private home. Seven cities, including the cities of Duarte, Monrovia, Azusa, Irwindale, Baldwin Park, Arcadia and Bradbury were once part of the Rancho Azusa land grant to Andres Duarte. The museum elucidates the history of the area from Rancho to multi-farm orange groves to housing developments and city development. They have an interesting collection of orange company labels for fans of retro orange crate art.
El Monte Historical Society Museum
3150 Tyler Ave
El Monte, CA 91731
The El Monte Historical Society Museum showcases the El Monte Historical Society's collection of photographs and artifacts relating to the establishment and development of the city of El Monte and the lives of its residents.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site is a one block area in Downtown LA that includes the oldest standing house in the city, the Avila Adobe, which is free to visit, and the Mexican Market on Olvera Street, a pedestrian outdoor market surrounded by shops in historic buildings. In addition to interpretive panels around the block that tell you about the significant buildings and people, there's a Visitor Center inside the Sepulveda House and exhibits inside the Hellman-Quon Building. The LA Plaza museum also includes a lot of LA history in the story of the Mexican influence in LA. Take the Olvera Street Photo Tour
380 West Huntington Drive
Arcadia CA 91006
The Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage features permanent and temporary exhibits on area history from the original Gabrieleno/Tongva Indians through city development. Arcadia is located northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
314 N Glendora Ave
The Glendora Historical Society Museum is in Glendora's first City Hall, Fire Department and Jail - all one small building - which has gone through many incarnations, and had a major addition to house current exhibits on local history.
710 Pier Avenue
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
The Hermosa Beach Historical Society operates a small museum about the history of Hermosa Beach in the Hermosa Beach Community Center.
4260 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90807
The free Historical Society of Long Beach gallery, located in a storefront in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, displays exhibits from the collection as well as themed exhibits on specific aspects of Long Beach history gathered from original sources.
115 Lomita Street
Burbank, CA 91506
The Gordon R. Howard Museum of the Burbank Historical Society includes multiple buildings, including the Victorian Mentzner House, a showroom of vintage cars, movie industry exhibits and more Burbank history. Open weekend afternoons.
3240 Tyler Avenue
El Monte, California
Shares the local history of the nine barrios of Canta Ranas, Chino Camp, Wiggins' Camp, Las Flores, Granada, La Misión, Medina Court, Hicks' Camp and La Sección.
1601 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, California 90266
The Manhattan Beach Historical Society operates MBHS Museum in the "The Little Red House" at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach. The 1905 beach cottage houses the society's collection on Manhattan Beach history.
Orange County History Center
211 W Santa Ana Blvd # 201
Santa Ana, CA 92701-7004
The Orange County History Center is located in the old Orange County Courthouse building in Santa Ana. The building is home to the Orange County History Center, the Old Courthouse Museum and the Orange County Archives. Admission is free.
470 W. Walnut St.
Pasadena, CA 91103
The Pasadena Museum of History educates the public on the history and development of Pasadena and surrounding areas with exhibits in the History Center Galleries and tours of the Feynes Mansion, which once operated as the Finnish Consulate in LA. They also operate the Finnish Folk Art Museum.
9122 Washington Blvd
Pico Rivera, CA 90660
The Pico Rivera Historical Museum, in the City of Pico Rivera south of Downtown LA, has its home in an original train depot built around 1887. It houses a collection of photos and artifacts on the development of the town from its origin as a major railroad shipping center for the surrounding agricultural area of citrus and walnut growers.
339 S. Mission Drive (adjacent to San Gabriel Mission)
San Gabriel, CA
Ramona Parlor Museum of the Sons of the Golden West is not specifically local. Their collection focuses on general California history from the 1600s in the heart of the Mission District. Saturdays 1-4 pm.
The Redondo Beach Historical Museum is located at Dominguez Park on Flagler Lane Between 190th Street and Beryl Street in Redondo Beach. The 1890's Queen Anne cottage houses an extensive collection of Redondo Beach memorabilia, information and artifacts. Saturday and Sunday 1 to 4 pm.
The society also operates Morrell House, a 1906 combination Craftsman house with Queen Anne detailing, as a meeting and event space.
Andres Pico Adobe
10940 Sepulveda Blvd
Mission Hills, CA 91346
The San Fernando Valley Historical Society operates a museum of San Fernando history with exhibit galleries, photo archives and a research center within the historic Andres Pico Adobe, one of the oldest homes in the City of Los Angeles.
1350 7th Street (next to the Santa Monica Library)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Santa Monica History Museum showcases the significant individuals and families, businesses and events that played a role in the establishment and development of the city of Santa Monica through exhibits from the archives of the Santa Monica Historical Society.
333 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071
The free Wells Fargo Museum at the Wells Fargo Center in Downtown Los Angeles showcases the role of Wells Fargo stage coaches in the development of Southern California.