San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Carl Nolte has written today about a project in which Bernal Heights residents have taken content about their neighborhood from the San Francisco City Directories of 1907, 1915, 1922 and the 1933 city phone directory, and posted it on the Bernal History Project website. This is the first instance of which I’m aware in which this content is being provided in an online format – previously it was available only in print and microform at repositories such as the Magazines and Newspapers Center of the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. While increasing accessibility, this project also highlights some of the challenges involved in designing a content delivery system. In this instance, the online content exists in the format of PDF documents that are organized by year and street name. While a researcher is able to do a full-text search within a single PDF, there isn’t a search capability to allow searches across PDF documents. That more robust kind of searching would have been possible if the content had been input into an online database built using FileMaker Pro. In spite of this limitation, however, the project represents a considerable improvement in access.
For any San Francisco resident interested in researching the construction or former residents of their home, the San Francisco History Center has created a website entitled How to Research a San Francisco Building.