Initially founded as an art museum, the de Saisset developed a second focus on history in the 1970s. The museum's History Collection is divided into two main areas: California History and Mission-era liturgical vestments. The California History collection includes objects that tell the stories of this region before, during, and after the establishment of Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Among the most distinctive and unique features of our History Collection is the Mission-era Liturgical Vestments. The collection includes stunningly well-preserved vestments that speak to the global exchange of ideas and materials during the Mission Period. Much of the museum's History Collection is on permanent display in the California History exhibition.
The California History Collection includes objects related to Native California, the Mission Period, the California Ranchos, and the early days of Santa Clara College, before the school changed its name to Santa Clara University.
The museum's collection of Mission-era liturgical vestments is unique in terms of both its size and its state of preservation. Including more than 100 vestments, the collection speaks to the global exchange of ideas and materials during the Mission Period.