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Special Collections and Archives Supports City of Irvine Exhibit

News Date
February 8, 2023
By Christina Acevedo


A new exhibit at the Irvine City Hall, Old Town Irvine, offers a glance into the city of Irvine in the 1980s through photographs, a few of which are from UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives.

An installment of the Art at City Hall series, which features local artists, a significant portion of the exhibit’s images are by commercial photographer Rene Laursen.

“You might not think of Irvine as a place that has a lot of history, but Old Town Irvine illustrates how much the city of Irvine has grown,” one of the curators, Virginia Arce, shared. “I think it’s fascinating how intense that growth and change has been, but also the role of local archivists and residents in documenting it.”

The Irvine Historical Society, which Arce described as “having a fantastic oral history,” provided the bulk of the photographs and accompanying research in the exhibit.

“It’s interesting to be able to hear Irvine’s history from people who have been in the area since maybe before it was officially Irvine,” she elaborated. “There are many grassroots historians in the community and oral histories.”



On top of the photographs that Research Librarian for Orange County Krystal Tribbett helped the Irvine curatorial team find for the exhibit, Special Collections and Archives also contributed its expertise to Old Town Irvine by fact-checking a part of the exhibit.

“The staff were extremely helpful,” Arce said about her visit to Special Collections and Archives. “Being able to have that place that is accessible not only to students but also to members of the community was really fantastic.”

Old Town Irvine isn’t the first time that Special Collections and Archives has worked with the city. In the past, the two have partnered for Irvine’s Lunar New Year, Juneteenth, and Fiesta Latina celebrations, to name a few.

“We had a series of really positive relationships working with the Special Collections and Archives team, so we thought it would be a great partnership to join some of the images that the Irvine Historical Society had with some of the research and scholarship that the UCI Libraries had,” Arce said.

Arce, who is a 2017 graduate from UCI’s MFA in art program with a concentration in critical and curatorial studies, expressed excitement at the continued opportunities to collaborate with UCI Libraries as well.

“It’s exciting to be an alum and to also be able to continue to work with the university in this capacity,” she expressed.



Old Town Irvine will be on display in the Irvine Civic Center until March 17, 2023. Visit the Art at City Hall webpage for parking information and hours.

Those interested in Old Town Irvine may enjoy UCI Libraries’ recent book talk and lecture, "The Big Plan: History of Irvine and UCI, From Ranch to Global Community.” Highlighting materials in our Special Collections and Archives, it offers insight into Irvine’s early history and can be viewed on the Libraries’ YouTube channel.

Further archival materials on Irvine and Orange County’s histories can be accessed via the Libraries Orange County Collection.


Header image credit: East Irvine Historic Resources Documentation Photographs. MS-R 66. Special Collections and Archives, The UCI Libraries, Irvine, California.