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2nd Floor Display - Nellie Burrell Scott, Artist

 

If you haven’t yet had a chance to view the exhibit in the archival display case on the 2nd floor, I urge you to make some time to take a look at it!

Nellie Burrell Scott was an early California still life artist who exhibited at the Mechanics’ Institute’s Industrial Exposition in 1893.  She was most well-known for her paintings of the California Golden Trout, and images of other fish, although her still life paintings also included flora and fauna.

The most fascinating aspect of this collection is that it was discovered by a current Mechanics’ Institute member, Joan Boyd, in the attic of the San Francisco house that she resides in. Joan recognized the value of her discovery and offered the entire collection to MI. Once it was confirmed that Nellie had been an exhibitor at our 19th century Industrial Expositions, we were thrilled to accept her gift!

Although time and adverse storage conditions (prior to the collection’s unearthing) have contributed to the darkening of the paint/images and fragility of the items, most of the collection has survived the years with minimal damage.

The Nellie Burrell Scott collection will be on exhibit until the end of the year.

Posted on Nov. 12, 2019 by Diane Lai

FINALE - 1894 California Midwinter Fair Ephemera Display

 

As the finale (and 4th installment) for our long-running California Midwinter Fair exhibit, in the 2nd floor archival display cabinet, we have an incredible showcase of Ed Herny’s collection of over 200 souvenir spoons, medals, badges, watch fobs, match safes and luggage tags from the Fair!  This is a phenomenal display and a fitting end to this exhibit, which will close in mid-September.

Ed Herny, the current president of the SF Bay Area Post Card Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Historical Society, has been collecting ephemera from the California Midwinter Fair since 1972.  His collection is comprised of a wide-ranging array of objects, souvenirs, photos, and paper-based items.

Be sure to also check out the numerous 3D objects in the side cabinets of the display case which are spectacular and will be on view until the middle of September!

 

Members of the public are welcome to come to the Mechanics’ Institute to view this display – please inform the lobby attendant of your wish to see the exhibit and go to the 2nd floor Library and knock on the door for entrance.

 

Posted on Aug. 19, 2019 by Diane Lai

3rd INSTALLMENT - 1894 California Midwinter Fair Ephemera Display

Once again, there is a new batch of California Midwinter Fair items on exhibit in the 2nd floor archival display case! The third installment of Ed Herny’s ephemera collection showcases beautifully illustrated postcards, postal history covers (envelopes) and letter sheets. (See if you can find the “Midwinter Fair” postal cancellation stamp on two of the covers (envelopes) – very rare!) This part of the display will be on exhibit until August 1st.

Ed Herny, the current president of the SF Bay Area Post Card Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Historical Society, has been collecting ephemera from the California Midwinter Fair since 1972.  His collection is comprised of a wide-ranging array of objects, souvenirs, photos, and paper-based items.

Be sure to also check out the numerous 3D objects in the side cabinets of the display case which are spectacular and will be on view until September 11th!

The current and future rotating displays in the flat, horizontal display cases will include:

  • June 26th  - August 1st  - Postcards, postal history covers & letter sheets
  • August 1st  - September 11th  -  Souvenir spoons, award medals, badges & jewelry

 

Members of the public are welcome to come to the Mechanics’ Institute to view this display – please inform the lobby attendant of your wish to see the exhibit and go to the 2nd floor Library and knock on the door for entrance.

Posted on Jul. 1, 2019 by Diane Lai

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the First Transcontinental Railroad

New Photo Display in Classroom 3A

Prior to 1860, the railroad network in the United States existed primarily east of the Missouri River.  Due to the lack of a rail network in the West, travel took from 4-6 months to make the trek from the Missouri River to California by covered wagon.

The Pacific Railroad Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1863 to grant federal aid to the Union Pacific Railroad Company and the Central Pacific Railroad Company for the construction of a Transcontinental Railroad (TCRR) which would run from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California.  The Central Pacific started laying rail in Sacramento and worked their way east; the Union Pacific began in Omaha and moved west meeting up with the Central Pacific Railroad Company in Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869.

Once the TCRR, considered one of the greatest technological feats of the 19th century, was completed, travel from New York to San Francisco could be accomplished in as little as 7 days at a cost of less than $100.

A photo exhibition of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad is on display in the display case in Classroom 3A in the 3rd floor Library.

Posted on May. 20, 2019 by Diane Lai

2ND INSTALLMENT - 1894 California Midwinter Fair Ephemera Display

The second installment of Ed Herny’s ephemera collection from the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 (also known as the California Midwinter Fair) is currently featured in the 2nd floor archival display case.  This phase showcases trade cards, ribbons, tickets and passes, and embroidered silk handkerchiefs.  This part of the display will be on exhibit until June 26th.

Ed Herny, the current president of the SF Bay Area Post Card Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Historical Society, has been collecting ephemera from the California Midwinter Fair since 1972.  His collection is comprised of a wide-ranging array of objects, souvenirs, photos, and paper-based items.

Be sure to also check out the numerous 3D objects (glassware, jewelry caskets, games, etc.) in the side cabinets of the display case which are spectacular and will be on view until September 11th.

The current and future rotating displays in the flat, horizontal display cases will include:

  • May 13th - June 26th   - Tickets & passes, trade cards, ribbons, & silk hankies
  • June 26th  - August 1st  - Postcards, postal history covers & letter sheets
  • August 1st  - September 11th  -  Souvenir spoons, award medals, badges & jewelry

Members of the public are welcome to come to the Mechanics’ Institute to view this display – please inform the lobby attendant of your wish to see the exhibit and go to the 2nd floor Library and knock on the door for entrance.

Posted on May. 14, 2019 by Diane Lai

New Display - Ephemera from the 1894 California Midwinter Fair

The California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, more commonly known as the California Midwinter Fair, was the brainchild of Michael H. deYoung, the publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle and a commissioner of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  DeYoung was inspired by the great success of the Columbian Exposition and wanted San Francisco to benefit from the public’s desire for this kind of extravaganza.  His idea was to transport all of the exhibits, performers, and concessions from the Chicago fair to San Francisco and add other California-inspired attractions.  Not only was deYoung able to raise the funding and get the necessary approvals in record time,  but they were able to open the California Midwinter Fair only a few months after the Columbian Exposition closed in Chicago.

Ed Herny, the current president of the SF Bay Area Post Card Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Historical Society, has been collecting ephemera from the California Midwinter Fair since 1972.  His collection is comprised of a wide-ranging array of objects, souvenirs, photos, and paper-based items.

The most interesting section of the exhibit consists of the "three dimensional objects", including some that are rarely seen: wooden harmonica, table bell, mechanical puzzle, glass jewel caskets, and reverse decorated glass plaques.   These objects are in the glass, side cabinets of the 2nd floor archival display case and will remain on display until September 11th.

The other items, in the flat, horizontal display cases will be "rotated" each month and will include:

  • April 13th - May 15th - Photographs and brochures
  • May 15th - June 26th   - Tickets & passes, trade cards, ribbons, silk hankies, sheet music
  • June 26th  - August 1st  - Postcards, postal history covers, letter sheets
  • August 1st  - September 11th  -  Souvenir spoons, award medals, badges, jewelry

If you are interested in a more in-depth exploration of the collection, please join Ed on Saturday, April 13th from 1:00-3:00pm, in the 2nd floor Library, when he will be available to answer your questions and show you these fascinating objects up close and personal.

Posted on Apr. 10, 2019 by Diane Lai

New Display - Golden Gate International Exposition 1939-1940

The Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) was the last world’s fair hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area and a celebration of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.  The Mechanics’ Institute is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the GGIE by hosting a series of lectures about the fair on Thursday, April 4th and a party that evening in the library.  

In advance of these events, we are showcasing MI’s special collection of texts, maps, brochures, newsletters and ephemera from the GGIE in our 2nd floor archival display case.  In addition, we have included interesting information about Treasure Island which was built specifically for the GGIE and was intended to be used, after the fair, for the site of the planned airport for the City and County of San Francisco (or SFO).

We are pleased to share these memories about the Golden Gate International Exposition and Treasure Island with you during this 80th anniversary year.

Drop by the 2nd floor and view the items in the archival display case to learn more about an important time in San Francisco history.

Posted on Feb. 12, 2019 by Diane Lai

On Display: Historic Maps of San Francisco, 1868-1929

As artifacts of our history, maps of San Francisco illustrate the growth patterns, politics, and aspirations of city planners over the years.  The four historic maps, currently on exhibit in the 2nd floor’s archival display cabinet, demonstrate the development of an urban San Francisco between 1868 and 1929.

The maps on exhibit are:

  • Railroad Map (1868)
  • Chinatown Map (1929)
  • San Miguel City Map (1900)
  • City and County of San Francisco Map (1910)

Many thanks to our friend and MI member, Charles Fracchia, for the loan of these maps from his personal collection for this exhibit.  Charles is a Fellow of the California Historical Society, and the Founder and President Emeritus of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society.

 

Additional resources about San Francisco maps, in our collection, that you may wish to check out are:

557.94 L42 (Special Collections*)Geologic atlas of the United States, San Francisco folio, California : Tamalpais, San Francisco, Concord, San Mateo, and Hayward quadrangles / Andrew C. Lawson

912.794 S19L (Special Collections*) Land value maps : 1926-1927 / Issued under authority of the Advisory Committee to the Board of Equalization

912.7946 S688 - Infinite city : a San Francisco atlas / Rebecca Solnit

912.7946 W88 - San Francisco in maps & views / Sally B. Woodbrige

917.794 F67 (Special Collections*)San Francisco Bay and California in 1776 : three maps with outline sketches reproduced in facsimile from the original manuscript / drawn by Pedro Font

979.46 S78 - Who discovered the Golden Gate? The explorers' own accounts, how they discovered a hidden harbor and at last found its entrance / Frank M. Stanger and Alan K. Brown

*Special Collections items may only be viewed in the Library due to their size and/or fragility.

 

The Historic Maps of San Francisco will be on display on the 2nd floor until the end of August.

Posted on Jun. 6, 2018 by Diane Lai

Books as Art

 

A new display of artistic Arion Press books

Arion Press Fine Print books are not only literary masterpieces but also artistic treasures.  Many of the volumes in MI’s Arion Press special collection are both beautifully illustrated and bound in unique and imaginative covers and slipcases.

On exhibit, in the 2nd floor archival display cabinet, is a selection of nine books that exemplify the theme that books can also be objects of art.  Here is what makes some of these books special:

Flatland, a satire by Edwin Abbott Abbott

There are 14 line drawings and 10 diecuts by Andrew Hoyem in the volume.  But what really makes this book extraordinary is that it is bound as an accordion-fold of 56 folded panels and is bound in aluminum covers in a hinged and clasped container.  If the accordion-fold was opened out flat, it would be a 30-foot long plane.

Invisible Cities, a work of fiction by Italo Calvino

The artist, Wayne Thiebaud, created 12 drawings that are printed on clear plastic in different colors of ink that are interspersed throughout the volume and are only visible when the transparent sheet is turned back onto the preceding white page. The book is bound in an anodized aluminum ring binding with U-posts which was fabricated by Paul Sheet Metal Works in San Francisco.

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, a poem by John Ashbery

One of the most striking Arion Press books, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror contains original artwork by 8 artists: Richard Avedon, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, Jane Freilicher, Alex Katz, R.B. Kitaj and Larry Rivers.  The poem’s lines radiate out in spokes on round pages and are contained in a stainless steel canister with a convex mirror.

The Voices of Marrakesh, work of travel writing by Elias Canetti

Canetti’s only travelogue is illustrated by etchings by artist William T. Wiley and 29 photographs of Marrakesh and its environs by Karl Bissinger.  Wiley created one large etching with an underlying map of Marrakesh that is colored in an earthy red and then partitioned into 6 segments for inclusion in the book.  A fragment of the etching was used as the cover for the book and slipcase.

Posted on Oct. 6, 2017 by Diane Lai

In the Shadow of the Moon

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

For the first time in almost 40 years, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible in the continental United States on Monday, August 21st.  The eclipse will not be visible from any other country in the world and the total eclipse will only be able to be seen in a wide swath from Oregon to South Carolina.

In San Francisco, a partial solar eclipse will be visible beginning at 9:01am and ending at 11:37am (PST).  At 10:15am, approximately 76% of the sun’s area will be covered by the moon which will be the maximum eclipse possible in the city.

If you are an eclipse geek or even mildly interested in astronomical phenomenon, you may want to familiarize yourself with the science, mythologies, and viewing tips so that you will be able to truly appreciate this wondrous event.  MI Library has several books/magazines about astronomy and the sun, and in particular:

Or, you may want to look online at these blogs and websites for the most up-to-date information about the Great American Solar Eclipse 2017:

I will be joining my husband and a band of intrepid astronomy nerds in the Grand Tetons National Park to carefully peer through our special eclipse glasses, and filtered cameras and telescopes at the disappearing sun for 2+ minutes….that is if the weather gods cooperate and it’s not raining or cloudy!  Fingers crossed!

Otherwise, we will just have to wait until April 8, 2024 when the next total solar eclipse will traverse the skies across the continental United States!

Posted on Aug. 9, 2017 by Diane Lai