Photographic prints and posters from the archives of Acción Latina and El Tecolote newspaper are now available for research at Bancroft Library, with an online finding aid newly published at the Online Archive of California. This is the result of the dedicated work of Isabel Breskin, an intern in Library and Information Science at the University of Washington. Below we have Isabel’s reflections on the collection, along with snapshots of a few photographs encountered while she arranged and described the files. Organizational records and other materials from Acción Latina will be made available in the coming months. -JAE
A Guest Posting by Isabel Breskin
Acción Latina is a community organization based in San Francisco’s Mission District. The roots of the organization’s work go back to 1970, when San Francisco State University journalism professor Juan Gonzalez launched a newspaper with his students. That newspaper, El Tecolote, is still published bimonthly and is now the longest-running bilingual newspaper in the country. In 1982, volunteers from El Tecolote and New College of California staged the first Encuentro del Canto Popular, a festival celebrating Latin American music. The festival became an annual event; the 41st Encuentro was held in December 2022.
The Acción Latina and El Tecolote Pictorial Archive contains thousands of photographs, hundreds of posters and artists’ prints, as well as negatives, slides, cartoons and other drawings, and digital images. The photographic print collection and the poster and artists’ print collection are now available to researchers.
The photographs capture all aspects of life in the Mission beginning around 1970 and continuing into the first decade of the 21st century, as people took to the streets to protest and celebrate, as they went to work and school, played music and danced, painted murals and listened to poetry. I found the photographs of protests particularly compelling — and I think researchers will, too. They are both rich in information about the issues and causes of the times, and moving evidence of the passion and belief that stirred people to action.
Here are just a few snapshots I took as I worked to arrange and rehouse the photographs.
As I’ve been working on the collection I’ve been thinking about all the people involved: the many people who have been part of Acción Latina over the decades, who have lived and worked in the Mission District and have contributed to the vibrancy of its community, the photographers and artists who created these materials, and the people who will now turn to the images and learn from them.
We recently had our first researcher come to use the newly available collection. He was interested in Bay Area events related to the politics and culture of Chile. Among the relevant images in the collection is this photograph.
I am struck by the look on this unknown woman’s face – she looks both tragic and absolutely determined. It is meaningful to me that her decision to go out and protest that day is being preserved in the collection, and is being recognized and honored in the work of scholars.
As staff eagerly anticipate a return to more regular on-campus work, we have a guest posting by pictorial processing archivist Lori Hines. She provides a peek at one facet of work that we have been doing remotely in 2020-2021. -JAE
A posting by Lori Hines
Working from home during the COVID-19 closure has allowed Bancroft Library pictorial unit staff to enhance descriptions of digitized items, improving online searching.
One of my recent projects was to improve the description of items from the James D. Phelan Photograph Albums, BANC PIC 1932.001–ALB , which were scanned many years ago with only brief caption transcriptions. This photograph in album 85 is identified only as “Geneveve” [sic].
Having previously worked on collections related to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, I had an idea that Geneveve, or Genevieve, could be posed at a similar event. Currently the photo is essentially unidentified and lost in the sea of images.
A photo a few places earlier in the album was identified as “Crossing Columbia River,” so that gave a clue to a possible region. A photo a few spaces later had a date of 1909, so that gave a probable date.
Doing a quick Google check, I typed in “Exposition US 1909”, and voila, I easily confirmed that Geneveve must be at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. I then added “entrance” to the search, because there appear to be turnstiles behind the arches. Google image search gave me some pretty good matches. There was one image from the Seattle Municipal Archives that showed the turnstiles with part of the arch. A couple of other pictures had better views of the arch.
Now we have a useful identification for BANC PIC 1932.001 Vol. 85:296—ALB:
Not all of the items get this depth of attention, but this is one example that is worth the extra time. It’s been difficult being away from collections and researchers for over a year, but there is no shortage of online content with minimal identification, so there’s gratification in taking this time to make improvements.
DH+LIB: BUILDING AND PRESERVING COLLECTIONS FOR DIGITAL HUMANITIES RESEARCH
Wednesday, April 17th, 9:30 – 11:00 AM
This session will feature panelists building collections and tools for local digital humanities projects. Kathryn Stine, manager for digital content development and strategy at the California Digital Library, will talk about building web archive collections through collaboration, preparing these collections for discovery and use, and tapping the research potential of the resulting captured content and data. Mary Elings, Head of Technical Services for The Bancroft Library, will talk about the role libraries can play in developing research-ready digital collections to facilitate emerging research methods. And Gisèle Tanasse, Film & Media Services Librarian at the Library, will discuss her role in Shakespeare’s Staging, a DH project to help digitize, preserve, and make accessible Shakespeare performances from UC Berkeley students.
DH Fair 2019
2019 DH Fair Library Committee
Stacy Reardon, Chair
In the Bancroft Library Pictorial Unit, work continues on 115 panoramic Cirkut camera negatives being conserved and scanned as part of our NEH-funded work on the Edward A. Rogers Panama-Pacific International Exposition Photograph Collection.
The digital images produced give the chance to peer into these panoramic scenes and pick out small details – and often our gaze is returned by characters in the crowd, caught some 102 years ago.
The panorama (pictured above) at the Fillmore Street Gate on San Francisco Day, November 2, 1915, is among the best crowd shots, and all the images in this posting are details from it. At center the throng recedes eastward into the distance, down the thoroughfare of popular amusements known as The Zone. At left the crowds fill the Avenue of Progress which leads toward the bay, past the Machinery Palace. At right are the entrance gates, with the ridge of the Pacific Heights neighborhood beyond.
In the crowd there are so many marvelous faces (not to mention terrific hats!) that it is hard to select favorites.
For a “world’s fair” there’s not a lot of diversity in this crowd. But this stylin’ family are holding their own.
This fellow’s bound to have a good time, and he’s ready to make memories with his handy portable box camera at the ready.
This kid seems to have just made a balloon sale, but it’s serious work.
When mixing with hoi polloi, veils and a no-nonsense attitude are necessities for some. Even at a fair.
ESPECIALLY at a fair.
This lady is smiling even though she’s enjoying neither an ice cream nor a cigar. Perhaps she knows her hat is at the cutting edge.
It will be over 40 years before Sputnik challenges her design-forward look.
Three distinct kinds of trouble.
Make that four.
With all the fine hats, how can we choose a winner? – But wait! – Never mind.
The wee chap on the right steals the show!
And this favorite auntie’s outstanding chapeau falls victim to another well-accessorized scene-stealer.
Work on the Rogers Panama-Pacific International Exposition collection will continue through June of 2018, at which time digital images from over 2,000 negatives will be put online. In the meantime, we will share favorites, along with project updates, on this Bancroft Pictorial Unit blog. Check back again!
James Eason, Archivist for Pictorial Collections, Bancroft Library
This year staff in the Bancroft Pictorial Unit have been hard at work housing and preparing to digitize glass plate negatives from the Edward A. Rogers Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) Photograph Collection. Supported by funding awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), about 2,000 glass negatives and 115 panoramic film negatives will be put in order, housed in archival sleeves and boxes, listed, and scanned. Although the work will not be complete and online until June 2018, great progress has been made, and we are starting to see some of the images produced by our digital imaging technicians.
The Rogers Collection was a gift presented in late 2014, just months before the centennial of the opening of San Francisco’s great world’s fair. In addition to the negatives (filling about 40 large boxes), there are also huge ledger books containing about 6,700 photographic prints. These originally served as a visual inventory of the negatives, which were mostly produced by the Cardinell-Vincent Company of San Francisco, official photographers for the PPIE. (Others are by the H.S. Crocker Company that previously held the PPIE photo contract.)
The Cardinell-Vincent photograph archive was broken up many decades ago, with much of it sold off in small auction lots in 1979; but Ed Rogers had collected this material well before that sale. In 2014 his was believed to be the largest PPIE photo collection in private hands – and certainly is the largest quantity of glass negatives known to have survived.
The most challenging images to conserve and digitize are the 115 panoramic negatives. These sweeping views and group portraits, made with a pivoting “Cirkut camera,” are on flammable cellulose nitrate film. Handling, transportation, and storage must meet stringent safety requirements. The rolled negatives were soiled from years of warehouse storage, so they are being cleaned by photograph conservators. They are so large (eight or ten inches high and up to 60 inches long!) that they need to be digitally photographed in segments, and these segments are digitally merged to create a file reproducing the original view.
The first scans from these panoramic negatives have been delivered, and they do not disappoint. The broad views over the bay-front PPIE site, just inside the Golden Gate, are stunning.
There is enough detail present to zoom in and closely study segments of the view.
Even the more prosaic group portraits offer great detail and often capture candid moments at the fringes of the crowd. Some of the crowd views are the most entertaining, and place the viewer in festive moment captured 102 year ago.
As more digitization is completed we will share favorites, along with project updates, on this Bancroft Pictorial Unit blog. Stay tuned!
James Eason, Archivist for Pictorial Collections, Bancroft Library