Cultural institutions in San Francisco continually search for new acquisitions. Alexis Coe brings you the most important, often wondrous, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally downright vexing finds every Friday.
Christmas has come early for the Stanford University Libraries. In the last month, Stanford has announced three wildly different acquisitions: A portable Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale Test kit, the archives of environmentalist William McDonough, and 65 years of archives from Road & Track magazine.
Robert Berner was waiting in line for movie tickets on Market Street when he noticed an attractive young man staring at him. They locked eyes, but it was too dangerous to speak. Berner had only just arrived in San Francisco, but this was the late 1950s. He had been warned that police didn't take kindly to males loitering in the streets.
"We wanted to get to know each other, so we started walking together, and it just happened to be in the direction of his house," Berner remembered. "We picked up some beer and ice cream on the way."
Jessa Crispin arrived at the 2012 Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia in March with high expectations. And by high, we mean abysmal.
"Secure in the knowledge that libraries are now permanently fucked," wrote the editor-in-Chief of the popular "litblog" Bookslut. Surely librarians would crumble before her, the harsh fiscal realities having reduced the bibliognosts into heaps of despair, wailing about furloughs and nonexistent arts grants.
But Crispin is not a librarian. Once a publishing outsider, she launched Bookslut in 2002 while working at a Planned Parenthood in Texas. She now enjoys insider status, and she contributes to likes of NPR, PBS, and the Washington Post on all things books. The conference falls within the realm of the "book world," so Crispin, donning black garb, traveled all the way from Berlin in search of heavyhearted roundtable discussions and forsaken vendor booths.
But the whole affair seemed rather ... hopeful.
"I was not sensing any anxiety that day, and it was pissing me off," Crispin says.
So she offered bait. How many more budget cuts can libraries sustain? What about evil e-books?
Between 1942 and 1945, 11,200 Japanese-Americans were sent to Topaz Camp. It was located in a parched stretch of desert about 125 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Most of the prisoners were from San Francisco. Some were forced to live in horse stalls at Tanforan Race Track before being shipped there. Two-thirds were U.S. citizens. None had been charged with a crime. Kids lucky enough to turn 17 while at Topaz were administered a two-question loyalty test, which could win them "freedom" through the draft; resistors came to be known as the "No-No Boys" and were immediately shipped to another camp.
Amazingly, in the midst of this madness, an art school was born. Boasting 600 students, the school offered classes in watercolor, architectural drafting, oil painting, and anatomy, taught by 17 reputable instructors. One was professor Chiura Obata, who found his own UC Berkeley students similarly interned. Because writing and photography were forbidden, these images became the only record of camp life, and its primary pastime.