Sunday, September 28, 2014

October is American Archives Month

And also California Archives MonthEach year California produces an Archives Month poster. This year's poster celebrates 150 Years of  California’s State and National Parks. The photograph is from the Annie R. Mitchell History Room, Tulare County Library collection. 

But what do archivists do?  In the words of Lisa Lewis, archivist:

"Archivists bring the past to the present. They are records collectors and protectors, keepers of memory. They organize unique, historical materials, making them available for current and future research."

But what archival material does the San Lorenzo Valley Museum hold? Hundreds of photographs, letters, scrapbooks, oral histories, newspapers, maps, posters ... the list goes on. Each of these require careful storage to preserve them for future generations. Purchasing appropriate storage can be expensive. We usually purchase our archival material through Gaylord Archival. Our membership with the California Association of Museums gives us a discount, but on average a single archival box exceeds $10, depending on the shape and size. Just take a look at the cost of 20"x24" buffered acid-free tissue - over $44 for just 100 sheets. 

But what does it mean to be "buffered" and "acid-free"?  There is a good explanation here. Buffered tissue (usually with the buffering agent Calcium Carbonate) helps to neutralize acids and prevent acid migration to the objects that the tissue is used to protect. Buffered interleaving tissue extends the life of paper, photographs, some textiles, and artifacts.  We use buffered tissue to interleave the pages of photograph albums and scrapbooks. 

The letter is from the South Pacific Coast Railroad Company to lumberman, and founder of the town of Lorenzo, Joseph Peery.
Here is a letter from the collection dated November 1880. The letter is from the South Pacific Coast Railroad Company to lumberman, and founder of the town of Lorenzo, Joseph Peery. 

Dear Sir,

Replying to your favor of the 15th inst. You may cut out the live oak timber on the ranch of the S.L.F.&T.Co. [San Lorenzo Flume & Transportation Company] as desired, and at price named in yours at former date.

Yours truly,

R. M. Garrett

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jason Brown, Ben Lomond Mountain Resident, Flying Machine Experimentalist, and Son of John Brown

Jason Brown
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason Brown was not with his father John Brown or his two brothers at Harpers Ferry. Jason had been injured in a prior incident and was recovering from his wounds. But Jason was, and remained all his life, an avid abolitionist. 

He was a very private individual and lived a minimalist life denying himself "all but the necessities that he may aid a blind orphan." The orphan in question was his adopted daughter who resided in an institution in Ohio. 

Jason and his ill wife had moved from Ohio to Southern California for her health. She died just a year after the move. Jason and his brother Owen, lived in a cabin close to Pasadena. Owen passed away in 1889. More information on this period can be found here.

Jason's Cabin on Ben Lomond Mountain
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason moved to Ben Lomond Mountain in the 1890s. The cabin he built was constructed of roughly hewn boards, paneless windows, and no door covering the door frame. Boxes were used as chairs and his bed was a bunk of boards halfway between the floor and the ceiling.

The land he had acquired on Ben Lomond Mountain was owned by Wesley Fanning. He hadn't the money to buy the property outright so each day he worked constructing a wagon road from the Fanning property (now Fanning Grade). Jason was now in his 70s.

In the 1900 census he lists his occupation as a Day Laborer, however, Jason was an intellectual.  He had a significant library of scientific books and was building a machine for "aerial navigation" but rarely talked to anyone about it for being fearful of being called a crank. His interest in flying was not new. In the 1850s, his father had written a letter to an American scientist describing the work his son was doing, saying he was "experimenting with a ship that was to sail the air."

Ben Lomond resident and local historian Alice Wilder remembered Jason in an article written in the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1965. She recalled him saying that: "Someday ... I'm going to fly down to Ben Lomond and surprise the whole town."

Jason died on a trip to New York in 1912. A neighbor who had agreed to look after his property contacted his family about his "mountains of old books" and other priceless records of the Civil War. Sadly, they were uninterested and for three days she burned them. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Have you taken down your Christmas tree yet?
Santa Cruz Sentinel January 1, 1889, Page 3

I hope not. Traditionally the Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and lasts though the twelve days of Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas Trees were traditionally taken down on January 6th or 7th. 

For the full two weeks after Christmas the season was celebrated with fine food and in the company of family and friends. When I was growing up, New Year's Day dinner was a repeat of the Christmas dinner, and leftovers were eaten with pickles and preserves.

Today the Christmas shopping season seems to have taken over Advent, and even Advent calendars today have a door for the 25th - tut tut. As a youth my Advent calendar featured images behind the door - not chocolate - and I was still excited to open them. Whether Christian or not, Advent is a time for reflection, anticipation, and excitement - not shopping with angst! 

The full Christmas season should be enjoyed, so next year put your tree up a little later and enjoy your tree a little longer - your cat will thank you.

Merry twelve days of Christmas.