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Institute for the Regional Studies of the Californias Collection

Identifier: MS-0386

Scope and Contents

The IRSC Collection documents the geographic border region of Mexico and the United States, with special emphasis on the area between Baja California and California, and also extends to border regions around the world.  It dates from approximately 1959 to 2004, with the bulk of documents generated during the1980s and 1990s. Most of the collection was formed as a result of funded research on specific projects. Director Paul Ganster contributed some materials he brought with him from the University of California at Los Angeles, and some significant additional materials from his personal collection. The IRSC Collection is particularly strong in its coverage of environmental issues ranging from environmentally sound industry to fisheries and marine life, and economic issues ranging from agriculture and industry to tourism.  The myriad factors influencing these sectors, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, peso devaluation, Mexican labor policies, and United States immigration policies are also documented in the collection.  Less numerous is documentation of language, culture, and recreation. Organizations represented in the collection include but are not limited to those of the Border Trade Alliance, the International History Fair, the San Diego Association of Governments, the Border Governors Conference, the Border XXI process, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Commission of the Californias, the Southwest Border Regional Commission, and the United States Commission for Border Development and Friendship (US-CODAF).

Materials in this collection are largely textual, and include government and non-governmental organization reports, periodicals, newsletters, newspaper clippings, research studies, academic papers, correspondence, meeting minutes, legal records, conference materials, and teaching guides. Non-textual documents include photographic prints and slides, documentary films (in VHS format), ink stamps, audio cassettes, compact discs, award ribbons, and floppy discs. The IRSC Collection has been organized into five series.  The Border Trade Alliance Files series is sealed until June 1, 2017.  The remaining four series are currently open for research: Research Subject Files, Clipping Files, International History Fair Files, and Audio-Visual Materials.

The Research Subject Files document numerous border-related issues including agriculture, air quality, immigration, governmental policy recommendations and analysis, manufacturing, binational trade, sustainable economic development, statistical data, transportation, and water resources. The IRSC collected these documents primarily for the investigative purposes of students and faculty who needed access to a consolidated body of records, information, and studies on United States-Mexico border area matters.  The series is largely comprised of textual documents collected from outside agencies in the course of interacting with the IRSC, and so they also document the IRSC's role in the study of border relations.  Materials in the collection include reports, research studies, bulletins, magazines, promotional materials, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and resource books, inventories, audio cassettes, and CDs.  The series is organized in a local classification system by broad subject [see Appendix A, p. 41].

The Clipping Files provide social context, offer an historical framework, and situate research materials alongside contemporary news events in the border region.  IRSC staff collected the clippings, which date from 1979-2004.  The series is arranged into two subseries: 1) Newspaper Clippings and 2) Bulletins, Journals, Newsletters, Reports, and Statistics. This series documents the IRSC's vigorous monitoring of the border region throughout research center existence.  The first subseries is organized alphabetically by subject, and chronologically within each subject. The contents of the second subseries were generated by various institutions concerned with the border region, illuminate institutional priorities coinciding with the research materials and also evidence of the IRSC's persistent monitoring of the region. The second subseries is separated into single-issue publications and multi-issue publications, and filed alphabetically by publication title.

The International History Fair Files document the IRSC's involvement with the International History Fair, a binational educational fair that was held annually from 1982 until 1991. The series consists of two subseries: 1) Working Files and 2) History Fair Audio-Visual Materials. The series was compiled during the course of History Fair preparations, promotion, and events, and is comprised of correspondence, student applications, teacher materials, conference outlines, budgets, books, brochures, flyers, and audio-visual materials.  These documents track, record, and reference those activities and indicate IRSC involvement and support of the History Fair. The Working Files are arranged chronologically by year, for example 1982-83, 1983-84, and alphabetically by broad subject within each year. The History Fair Audio-Visual Materials are arranged alphabetically.

The Audio-Visual Materials supplement the research materials and evidence continued by the IRSC's concentration on United States – Mexico border and related topics.  They are divided into two subseries: 1) VHS Cassettes and 2) Slide Carousels. The first subseries, comprised of VHS cassettes, are primarily documentary films, ranging in topic from the international history fair to border economies. They are arranged alphabetically. The second subseries, the slide carousels, are arranged as originally received in three slide carousels.


  • Creation: 1959-2004


Conditions Governing Access

Some materials in this collection are sealed until June 1, 2017.  All other materials are open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

The Institute for the Regional Studies of the Californias (IRSC) is located at San Diego State University (SDSU). Preceded by the California Border Area Research Group, the IRSC was established in 1983 by Norris Clement and Miguel Angel Cardenas who served as interim co-directors while a national search for a director was conducted. In 1984, Paul Ganster was hired as IRSC director. Clement and Cardenas continued as associate directors for some time thereafter. Subsequent years saw Joe Nalven and Steve Jenner working at the IRSC as associate directors. Bertha Hernández is Administrative Coordinator and Associate Editor.

As a research center focused on the United States-Mexico border region, the IRSC serves numerous functions. Specifically, it provides San Diego State University with a forum for the investigation, discussion, and dissemination of information about the US-Mexican border region with particular focus on the border region of California and Baja California. It publishes books, monographs, and pamphlets, and conducts major applied research projects on border environmental issues and policy, regional economic issues, and cross-border planning issues.

Additional functions of the Institute include conducting binational symposia, facilitating communication between public and private sector representatives of the border region, and serving as a clearinghouse for information on border region events, issues and institutions. The IRSC serves as SDSU's link to the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, a congressionally established consortium of Mexican and US universities for research and policy studies on environmental issues of the border.

In addition to its affiliation with the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, the IRSC is also involved with the Border Trade Alliance, the International History Fair, the San Diego Association of Governments and its Committee on Binational Regional Opportunities, the Border Governors Conference, the Border XXI process, the United States Environmental Protection Agency US-Mexico Border Program, the Commission of the Californias, the Rand Corporation, and the Good Neighbor Environmental Board.

Important historical events and circumstances occurring since the creation of the IRSC include Mexico's economic crisis of the 1980s, the US Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Mexican peso devaluation and its associated increase of borderland maquiladoras during the 1990s, the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, and the extraordinary shift in Mexican political powers starting in 1997 with the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) loss of the lower legislative house, and the mayoralty of Mexico City, followed in 2000 by their loss of the presidency, ending 71 years of one-party rule.

The IRSC donated its collection to Special Collections & University Archives when its offices moved to the newly finished Arts and Letters building in 2006.


136.77 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Research Subject Files, 1950s - 2000s

II. Clipping Files, 1979 - 2004

      1. Newspaper Clippings

      2. Bulletins, Journals, Newsletters, Reports, Statistics

             a. Single Issue Publications

             b. Multiple Issue Publications

III. Border Trade Alliance Files, 1987 - 2003

SEALED until June 1, 2017

IV. International History Fair Files, 1982 - 1991

        1. Working Files

             a. 1982 - 83

             b. 1983 - 84

             c. 1984 - 85

             d. 1985 - 86

             e. 1986 - 87

             f. 1988

             g. 1989

             h. 1990 A

             i. 1990 B

             j. 1990 Secondary School Student Applications

             k. 1991

             m. Brochures and Flyers

        2. History Fair Audio-Visual Materials

V. Audio-Visual Materials, 1984 - ca. 2000

Source of Acquisition

Institute for the Regional Studies of the Californias


2006-013, 2006-014, 2006-016, 2006-043

Institute for the Regional Studies of the Californias Collection
Gail Ryan (Intern)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US