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Historian Buffing Up:
Alumnus Considers County Archivist
a Dream Job


From Titan Magazine (Fall 2003)

Phil Brigandi
Phil Brigandi

In a technological world where people around the globe are becoming “virtual” neighbors, one former Titan is encouraging us to remember to “think locally.”

“We need connections to the people around us to be able to work together to solve problems and meet challenges,” says Phil Brigandi ’87 (B.A. history). “Local history gives us a sense of place, and that’s important these days.”

Brigandi should know. He was hired in April to serve as the official Orange County archivist, a position that has been vacant since the budget woes of the mid-’90s. For someone interested in local history since fourth grade and already an authority on county history by his teens, it’s a dream job.

Brigandi is an Orange County native who graduated from Orange High School in 1977. As a teenager he cultivated his interest in the county by joining the local historical society and researching the history of his high school.

Once at Cal State Fullerton, he signed up for a variety of classes on topics from earthquakes to western American authors. “If it had anything to do with California, I took it,” he says.

After graduation and a few free-lance research jobs, he joined the Ramona pageant in Hemet, the longest-running outdoor play in the United States, as its historian. Moving out of Orange County was hard, but the chance to make a living as a historian was too good to pass up. Thirteen years later he’s come home to the historical Santa Ana courthouse.

Since Brigandi started his job, he’s been trying to organize and catalog the archives collection. One of the most interesting documents he’s come across is the Great Register of Voters, a voter registration list from the turn of the century. Already the author of several books on local history, Brigandi is toying with a few other ideas—a book on the citrus industry or perhaps the origin of names of Orange County places.

In the meantime, he’s relishing his new position and the rare opportunity for a career as a local historian: “Orange County is my home, and I’m glad to be back.”

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