Primary Sources: Diseños Collection at the California State Archives

hand drawn map of Aguajito Rancho
“Aguajito Rancho,” California State Archives Exhibits, accessed November 27, 2019, http://exhibits.sos.ca.gov/items/show/11154.

“Within the Diseños Collection there are 493 hand-drawn sketch maps, or diseños, that were created from approximately 1866-1871. These sketch maps were hand-copied from originals that were created from approximately 1827-1846. These are part of a larger collection that makes up the Spanish and Mexican Land Grant Records that also include expedientes, or written documents regarding the grant petition, and other related documents. Each diseño includes naturally occurring boundaries such as rivers, mountains, rock outcropping, and trees as markers. Many of the diseños have labeled neighboring properties and as part of the initial land grant process all boarders were agreed upon by surrounding landowners. The diseños also show existing travel routes, locations of houses and local place names.

“At the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, California became a territory of the United States after Mexico and the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Among other things, the treaty directed the U.S. government to honor legitimate land claims of Mexican citizens in the territory. Following California’s statehood in 1850, Congress passed the Land Act of 1851 creating the Board of Land Commissioners. The Board used the diseños, expedientes, U.S. Surveyor General surveys, and other related title documents from landowners to verify individual land ownership and boundaries. Over a period of five years, the Board of Land Commissioners reviewed 813 grant claims, but only approved 553. The Mexican land grant process had a major influence on the development of California land by shaping settlement patterns and land ownership. As some of the earliest maps in California, diseños are essential to understanding the complex system of land ownership in the state today.”

California State Archives: https://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/collections/disenos-collection/


Primary Sources: National Farm Worker Ministry: Mobilizing Support for Migrant Workers, 1939-1985

grape boycott newsletterAnother recent acquisition of the Library is the online archive National Farm Worker Ministry: Mobilizing Support for Migrant Workers, 1939-1985. These records of the California Migrant Ministry, which became the National Farm Worker Ministry, are part of the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs housed at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library.

This collection reproduces correspondence, reports, speeches, minutes; included are materials relating to the farm workers, poverty programs, Public Law 78, Braceros, labor camps, the United Farm Workers Union and the Delano Grape Strike. The landing page for the online archive includes a descriptive list of contents.

 


Now Online: Images from Glass Negatives of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Palace of Fine Arts building, Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Palace of Fine Arts (BANC PIC 2015.013:50522–NEG)

The Bancroft Pictorial Processing Unit is proud to announce that The Edward A. Rogers collection of Cardinell-Vincent Company and Panama-Pacific International Exposition Photographs has been organized, archivally housed, individually listed, and made (substantially) available online. This work was accomplished over two years, thanks to grant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and, of course, careful hard work on the part of many library staff.

In this blog posting, Project Archivist Lori Hines describes some of the most challenging (and rewarding) work; preserving and providing access to fragile and often damaged glass negatives.

 

Handling Glass Plate Negatives: A Lesson in Mindfulness

The Rogers collection of Panama Pacific International Exposition photographs, received as a gift in 2014, includes over 2,000 glass negatives. These fragile items required special handling and archival containers with padding. Hardest to work with were approximately 150 oversize glass negatives ranging from 11 x 14 inches to 12 x 20 inches. Antique glass can become brittle and, of course, is heavy. From handling to wheeling the negatives back and forth to the conservation department and the digital lab, one had to be very conscious of every move and step taken.

Stack of large glass plate negatives

This first photo shows how the negatives were received in the library. Note they have no padding between the plates and there are only original, brittle sleeves to protect them. A stack of ten or fifteen is very heavy and getting your fingers under one, to lift it off the stack, is challenging. The weight of the negatives on top of each other is also a risk — the antique glass can easily crack under the weight.

Large glass negatives in archival box

This photo shows how the negatives have been housed by library staff; vertically with corrugated archival cardboard around each. Our library conservators designed the housing to limit box weight, to provide protective padding, to protect the plates from abrasion as they’re removed, and to make handling safer.

Custom archival box for large glass negatives

 

The largest plates, at 12 x 20 inches, needed another housing solution because it was impractical to store them upright, but the weight of one on another was a concern. The Library’s Conservation Department built custom trays to hold each 12 x 20 negative, with just three plates (and their trays) in an archival box that is stored flat on a cabinet shelf.

 

Handling large glass negative

 

 

 

The negatives are handled on the long side of the glass to offer best support and, during the cleaning, housing, and inventory process, are rested on a piece of thin foam padding to buffer any impact with the work table.

 

 

About 10% of the negatives arrived broken. To be digitized, we had to re-piece the broken negatives together on a supporting sheet of glass, like a puzzle, then hand it off immediately to the photographer in the Library’s Digital Imaging Lab. The glass sheet with the broken negative on top was then placed on a light table, so it was lit from behind, to be captured by the digital camera. The light table and camera are visible in the background of this image.

Staff re-assembling broken glass negatives in the digital imaging lab

 

The results were often quite satisfying,  as can be seen in this example of a badly broken glass negative that was pieced together.

Broken glass negative, re-assembled, of Workmen On Tower
Workmen on tower. Edward A. Rogers collection of Cardinell-Vincent Company and Panama-Pacific International Exposition photographs. BANC PIC 2015.013: 02916–NEG

 

The finding aid describing and listing the entire Rogers collection, with more than 2,000 digital images, may be viewed at the Online Archive of California.

To browse examples of images scanned from broken plates, try searching the finding aid for “negative is broken”, and navigating through the results, or by browsing this Calisphere website search that retrieves just the broken-plate images.

Special thanks go to Christine Huhn and the staff of the Digital Imaging Lab; Hannah Tashjian, Erika Lindensmith, Martha Little, and Emily Ramos  of the Conservation Department; staff of the Library Systems Office and the California Digital Library that worked with us to get the material online; to Gawain Weaver Art Conservation (contractors for preservation and scanning of panoramic film negatives), and to the Bancroft Pictorial Unit team that devoted much or their 2016-2018 work life to this effort: Lori Hines, Lu Ann Sleeper, and a crew of student staff.