Friday, May 29, 2015

Cinematic San Francisco: San Andreas

"Shake it, shake it mama,
  Shake it Cali."
                 - California Love, 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre

Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of blockbuster movie season and this year there are plenty of popcorn flicks that put San Francisco on the big screen.

You might say the first "big one" gets The City off to a "shaky" cinematic start, since San Andreas depicts the ultimate big earthquake along the titular fault-line that runs the length of California. It is a quake in which "the Earth will literally crack and you will feel it on the East Coast," according to the movie's seismologist portrayed by Paul Giamatti. The star of the picture is Hayward-born Dwayne Johnson whose character, Ray, is a rescue-chopper pilot in Los Angeles. Ray heads north after the big quake to rescue his daughter in San Francisco. Many exciting scenes of destruction and heroism ensue.

While there still isn't any way to predict when, where, or how strong the next earthquake will be in California, it's an easy guess that there are plenty of materials on earthquakes at the San Francisco History Center.

For information on the San Andreas and other California faults, take a look at: A Land In Motion: California's San Andreas Fault by Michael Collier and The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake Of October 17, 1989 : Tectonic Processes And Models by Robert W. Simpson. Or view the San Francisco and California ephemera files in the San Francisco History Center.
On the left: "Housing development along the San Andreas fault near San Francisco, California (photo by Robert E. Wallace)" from the pamphlet The San Andreas Fault by Sandra S. Schultz and Robert E. Wallace. USGS. 1990.
On the right: Page 1 of the pamphlet The San Andreas Fault by U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey. 1969. [SF. EARTHQUAKES. FAULTS.]

We found these real life heroes in the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection:
"Heroes of the Great Calamity" L. Murat photographer (1907)
[A list of their names can be found in: SF. EARTHQUAKES. 1906. HEROES.]

More Earthquake Stories:
The San Francisco History Center ephemera files include personal accounts of the 1906 earthquake and fire, ask for SF. EARTHQUAKES. 1906. PERSONAL ACCOUNTS. or check out Earthquake, Fire and Epidemic: Personal Accounts of the 1906 Disaster by Gladys C. Hansen.

If fiction is more your thing, use the subject heading: San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906 -- Fiction in the SFPL catalog. For films, try: Earthquakes -- California -- San Francisco -- Drama

And just for fun, check out how Hollywood destroyed San Francisco for San Andreas on the SF Film Commission's tumblr page: How to Make a Disaster Movie in San Francisco

Previous "Cinematic San Francisco" posts: At the Oscars, Noir City, Big Eyes
Coming soon: Inside Out

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preservation Week With Guest Blogger, Vanessa Hardy

The Robin Hood of California

Choosing the appropriate treatment for a piece is more than half the battle in conservation. Considerations that come into play are: the integrity of the original materials, the cultural or monetary value of the piece, its current condition, how much use it is likely to have, the availability of appropriate treatment materials, the knowledge and skills of the conservator, and the time and expense the treatment might take. Sometimes the best treatment is to do nothing. But it can be hard to walk away from something that cries out for conservation. One book, Joaquin the Saddle King, (a man who was otherwise known as the Robin Hood of California) was one such piece that recently passed through Preservation.

Cover of Joaquin the Saddle King
Joaquin Murieta, the storied California bandito of the mid-nineteenth century, arrived in pretty poor shape. This version of his legend - No. 154 of Volume 12 of Beadle’s New York Dime Library - was intended to be read and tossed: cheap, disposable entertainment, printed on poor quality paper. But that very disposability has made the few copies that remain more valuable. 

Over the years our copy was cherished and lovingly mended with tape; it was finally donated to the library to find its proper home in the San Francisco History Center. But what a conservation challenge it presented! The original paper was so acidic it was tea-colored and brittle to the touch. Those loving tape repairs became an additional problem: given the fragile state of the paper, removing them would probably cause even more damage. We took some time to consider our options.

We regularly wash, deacidify and resize paper. But the poor quality of the original paper of this piece, plus those tape repairs, made us pause. It would be a lot of work for questionable gain. We could simply box the item, but that is rarely a satisfying option. Our mission at the library is to make all our materials available to our patrons; any patron who looked at Joaquin in this condition would inevitably cause more damage. A box would be no protection.

Folder custom made for book
We eventually decided to encapsulate the pages in mylar, a transparent archival polyester film. We have an ultrasonic welder that joins the sheets neatly along the edges. This is a treatment we often use for single sheet items like maps, but we rarely do a complex encapsulation like this. Managing the mylar in bulk turned out to be quite a challenge, and we made several models before we came up with a design we liked.
Double page spread encapsulated

In the end we went with a treatment of two sections, guarded with cloth and sewn at the gutter. With the paper protected in this way, a patron will be able to turn the pages and read the story without fear of damage.  The time spent scratching heads and brainstorming feels very worthwhile when it produces a satisfying treatment for a challenging piece.

Vanessa Hardy is a Book Repairer at the San Francisco Public Library. 


Event detail


If you enjoyed learning about how our staff repairs and preserves library materials you may also be interested in a program which Vanessa is hosting on April 30th: 


Fixing This Old Book: Simple Repairs For Your Much-Loved Volumes. Loose pages, worn spines, dog ears? 

Learn some tips, tricks, and basic repairs for common problems on books old and new from our in-house experts. Watch a professional bookbinder evaluate a problem and demonstrate various simple treatments you can do at home. 

You are invited to bring a favorite book for an evaluation.

Please note: We will not be able to repair your books for you at this event.

Thursday, April 30, 2015, 6:00pm, in the Skylight Gallery Exhibit Area, 6th Floor, Main Library.


Presented by the Marjorie G. and Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center and the library’s Preservation Department in celebration of the American Library Association's Preservation Week.