Category Archives: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

San Francisco History Expo 2011

SF Mint ca. 1900, courtesy the US National Archives

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society (SFMHS) will be hosting the first San Francisco History Expo on Saturday, February 12 and Sunday, February 13 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m. at the Old Mint on the northwest corner of 5th and Mission Streets. Admission is free; and over 20 local history organizations will have exhibits, including:

In addition to the exhibits, the Expo will also feature a variety of programs, including: live performances, screenings of historic films, a forum at which authors will read from their recently published histories of San Francisco, displays of art by Frank Alan Zimmerman and by the San Francisco Quilters Guild, and opportunities for visitors to record oral histories and digitize photographs to be posted on the FoundSF website. On Saturday at 2:00 p.m. there will be a Community History Panel featuring Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project, Peter Linenthal and Abby Johnston of the Potrero Hill Archives Project, and Vicky Walker of the Bernal Heights History Project. On Sunday at 2:00 p.m. there will be a presentation on the work of muralist Mona Caron; and at 3:00 p.m. Willy Lizárraga will give a presentation on the history of San Francisco Carnaval.

Kristin Morris, Associate Curator for the SFMHS, points to the SFMHS’s ongoing series of monthly programs in explaining the basis for this collaborative event. This series has provided an opportunity for the SFMHS to partner with variety of local historical organizations, inviting those partners to introduce their work to a larger audience. Now, the SFMHS has invited those same organizations to participate in the Expo in order to further extend their outreach. The SFMHS is providing free admission in the hopes of attracting as many visitors as possible – especially students. By including exhibits by local archival repositories such as the California Historical Society and the San Francisco History Center, the SFMHS also hopes to introduce visitors to venues where they can conduct their own historical research.

The SFMHS plans to continue ongoing renovations to the Old Mint building and to eventually convert that space into museum of  San Francisco history. Because the SFMHS has a limited collection of materials for exhibition, the new museum would involve a collaboration with some of the organizations who will be participating at the Expo. The permanent exhibition would include artifacts on loan from many of those organizations; and some of the organizations will also be invited to curate temporary exhibits.

For more information about the Expo, please call the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society at: (415) 537-1105, extension 100.


Filed under Bernal History Project, California Historical Society, San Francisco City Guides, San Francisco History Association, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, San Francisco Museum & Historical Society

Searching for Buried Ships

The Steamship California, courtesy the Smithsonian Institution

Scores of Gold Rush-era ships lie buried beneath the streets of San Francisco. LJ Moore’s fascination with these hidden ships has led her to direct a group of writers and artists to develop an audio walking tour, The Armada of Golden Dreams,  that is scheduled to premiere in May 2011.

Moore had been investigating the history of Golden Gate Cemetery in what is now Lincoln Park when she happened across a reference to an 1818 whaling ship, the Candace, that was unearthed at Folsom and Spear Streets in 2005. Doing a search on Google for San Francisco buried ships, she found Ron Filion’s 2000 article and map on the SFGenealogy website. Moore contacted Filion, who was generous in providing further information. Filion especially encouraged Moore to take advantage of the resources at the San Francisco Maritime’s research library, located at Fort Mason – where Moore received valuable assistance. Additional searching on Google led Moore to online resources, such as the image collection at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, the California Digital Newspaper Collection based at UC Riverside, and the online resources of the California Historical Society. Moore conducted interviews with Bill Duffy, owner of the Old Ship Saloon on the corner of Pacific and Battery Streets – the building of which was originally made out of the hull of a ship, the Arkansas. She made use of JSTOR, a database of academic journal articles – one of many databases available for free through the San Francisco Public Library. She also did searches on Google Images and traced images she found interesting back to their online sources.

Moore is considering possible publication projects based on her discoveries. In the more immediate future, however, she has been commissioned by Tavia Stewart-Streit of Invisible City Audio Tours to develop The Armada of Golden Dreams. For that project, Moore curated contributions from a group of twelve local writers, as well as the work of visual artists and musician Jesse Solomon Clark. The result is an audio walking tour of twelve buried ships in the Financial District. Moore described the process as follows:

I had each writer pull a vessel’s name from a hat, then handed them the packet of historical information I had gathered on that vessel. Tavia and I took them all on a tour of the locations, and asked them to write their pieces with an eye to rekindling the life of the ship buried below. I asked them to use their X-ray vision along with their writer’s imaginations to give the people taking the tour a picture of something they could no longer see, that was buried beneath their feet. I wanted to re-connect people with a shared past that is still here, with that child-like wonder that we all remember but don’t often experience. Our constraint for the writers is to keep the pieces under 3 minutes when recorded, but the form is open– poetry, fiction, non-fiction, journalism– whatever they felt was their best medium.

She also describes the voice-overs that she herself provides between sites of buried ships:

I’ll be reading from San Francisco personal accounts, letters written aboard ships, newspaper articles, historical texts from the 1848-1853 time period in order to contextualize the tour for listeners and familiarize them with some concrete imagery while they are walking through decidedly modern cityscapes.

Moore has written up the project for a post on the San Francisco blog The Bold Italic, entitled, “Walk the Plank.” For more information about the project and its upcoming release, please visit The Armada of Golden Dreams.

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Filed under San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park