Norman Neuerburg

Hello! My name is Kelsey Blois and I’m an intern at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library. I’m also a sophomore at Westmont College, working toward a double major in History and Spanish. This internship serves as my first foray into the wild word of archiving. It’s been an incredible learning experience, and I’ve loved having the opportunity to help preserve the history of the Santa Barbara community.

I’ve spent most of my time at the Archive-Library working on the Norman Neuerburg Collection, which includes photos, papers, research, and correspondence from art historian and mission enthusiast Norman Neuerburg.

Norman with Rhino

Neuerburg in front of Zoology Building, Harvard, CT

Neuerburg was born in Universal City, California on February 3, 1926. From a young age, his love for the California missions was obvious. At the age of 15, he was already providing tours of Mission San Fernando. Some of my favorite documents housed within the Archive include a poem written by a young Neuerburg that describes in detail the “musky odor” of Mission San Juan Capistrano, as well as an old autograph book of Neuerburg’s that is filled with the signatures of various friars who populated the missions.

That passion for history would lead Neuerburg into a life of scholarship. After serving in Italy during WWII, he graduated from UCLA with a degree in Greek before going on to earn his master’s and doctorate in art history from NYU. In 1955, he won the Rome Prize Fellowship, which allowed him to research fine arts and classical studies at the Rome Academy. He became an educator, teaching art history in such esteemed universities as the University of California Berkeley, USC, UCLA, Indiana University and the California Institute of the Arts. In addition, Neuerburg worked as a historical consultant to El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historical Preservation, and the Getty Villa.


norman poem

“San Juan Capistrano” by Neuerburg

Throughout his life, Neuerburg traveled widely, capturing through the lens of his camera countless edifices and landscapes. Most of his voyages found him in Mexico or Spain, and he also spent a considerable amount of time traveling up and down the California coast, forever researching and photographing the architectural masterpieces he fell in love with as a child.

When Neuerburg died in December 1997, his memorial service was held at Mission San Fernando, a fitting end for a life dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Missions.

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