The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

BART - What Could Have Been

In 1997, on the 25th anniversary of its inaugural service, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International (ASME) recognized the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) as a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. According to ASME, BART's development “was revolutionary, embodying a futuristic spirit that produced historic innovations." ASME called BART “the prototype for most modern rail transit systems.”

Bill Stokes, BART's first general manager, credits Adrien J. Falk, BART's first Board President, for fostering the creative atmosphere that prevailed on the project. He called Falk "a catalyst for spirited, imaginative approaches to engineering challenges. He created a dynamic environment in which creative energy could soar. People could look for quantum leaps in innovation.” Most of the innovations cited by ASME, such as the engineering details in the transbay tube, were not readily visible to the public. However, people did notice the sleek trains. The Adrien Joseph Falk papers (72/39 c) included a "Photographic Record of Progress on Prototype Model for BART."

These photos illustrate what those BART cars could have looked like and show some proud engineers/boosters showing off a BART modelprototype of a BART train.

Quotes taken from “National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark,”, 1997. Falk became director and first board president of BART in 1957, when he was 73 years old. According to the biography in the finding aid for his papers, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized Falk's strong sense of civic responsibility when they proclaimed January 17, 1970, “Adrien J. Falk Day" to honor is contributions to civic life and community welfare.

-- M. Bryer

Ode to My Old Stocking!

Journals offer glimpses into people's lives and personalities. Many of the journals that we've surveyed so far are not illustrated and I always look forward to coming across ones with sketches.

Here is an example of a poem and drawing of a sock found in the journal of Isaac W. Baker. It was written on the ship John Q. Adams while he was on a voyage from Boston to California in 1852.

The poem shows his sense of humor and I think his use of the pun 'darn' is great!

The poem says:

Ode to my old stocking!

Heeless and toeless work of art
Alas! thou'st getting old.
So worn and torn I scarcely know
The relics I behold!
Thy foot, sore scratch'd by many a nail
In many a place worn thin,
Indeed 'twould be a darned hard task
To make you whole again!

From the Isaac W. Baker journals, BANC MSS C-F 53
--A. Croft

Therese Bonney- famous photographer, cheese lover!

When I ran across this collection in the stacks one day while surveying, I was immediately charmed by the diversity of its contents. The three main sections of the Therese Bonney manuscript collection (in catalog as BANC MSS 83/111) reflect three major focuses of her career: early fashion photography, war correspondence, and her personal love of and fascination with -- you guessed it -- cheese. I was surprised that a woman with such a serious career- famous for her work exposing the horrors experienced by child victims of World War II- would also be infatuated enough with cheese to capture several hundred images of it and to keep boxes of notecards describing different varieties of cheese (see picture above.)

While there are many paper documents and several photographs and a few negatives in the Therese Bonney papers held by our manuscripts division, I knew there were also a very significant number of photographs and negatives in our photograph collection (BANC PIC 1982.111--PIC). Photo archivist Sara Ferguson was working on them at that time, so I asked her to provide some details about Bonney's collection and Sara's project work overall.

Pictorial Stabilization Project Archivist Sara Ferguson’s primary role is to coordinate the move of Bancroft’s acetate photographic film collections into the library’s new on site cold storage facility and to establish procedures for their access. In addition, Sara has been identifying major photographic collections in need of processing and re-housing work, such as the Therese Bonney Photographic Collection.

Sara Ferguson:

What I love about working on this collection is being able to see the progression of Bonney’s life, from model to author and publisher to photographer, to see how her life experiences influenced the direction her work took.

The collection includes Bonney’s early fashion and editorial work in Paris, but primarily consists of her work throughout Western Europe during WWII. Bonney’s best known photographs illustrate the effects of war and exile on children, taken with the hope of securing aid for civilian victims.

However the collection as a whole shows her work was even more ambitious and far reaching. She photographed not only the effect of war on children but documented daily life in war time society. She recorded entire communities: their families, customs, and industries, their artists and politicians, their schools and their churches. Taken as a whole, the Bonney collection shows not only the horrors of war but the hope and perseverance of those who lived through it.

Sara does not mention the cheese, but she confirmed verbally to me that there are many, many images of cheese in the Therese Bonney Photographic collection in addition to the more serious matter discussed above. I personally find it heartening that a professional who used her profession to deal so eloquently with such weighty issues could also indulge interests of a lighter nature. It shows great dimension to her personality-- and I never knew how many kinds of cheese there were!

-- D. Miller.

(Left: Some of the "cheese files" in the manuscript collection. The blue folder at top is labeled "cheese correspondence.")

(Right: cheese labels on a folder marked, "cheese research." Triple Creme Brie anyone?)