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Showing Off the Records of Southern California's History

Archives from all over the Southland, including five from UCLA, came to USC Saturday, to show off their collections and encourage the public to look them up.

There were historical societies, public libraries, university libraries, museums and even cities represented at the L.A. As Subject Los Angeles Archives Bazaar, Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California.

Approximately 1,000 people came to peruse the offerings of the 80 exhibitors from all over Southern California, even as far away as The Banning Museum, in Banning.

Collections ranged from baseball artifacts from The Baseball Reliquary, political posters from The Center for the Study of Political Graphics, two train museums, neighborhood historical societies including the Eagle Rock and Boyle Heights Historical Societies. Museums from the Getty Research Institute to the Orange Empire Railway Museum were represented.

This is the sixth year for the Archives Bazaar, which started after representatives from several local archives began getting together on a regular basis. The archivists wanted more people to know about the different manuscripts, recordings, artifacts and records that were available to historical and other researchers and the breadth of the many archives in the Los Angeles area.

"It started from us meeting every other month," said Liza Parras, who is the coordinator for LA As Subject, an association of archival institutions currently hosted by USC, although the group is independent of the university.

Parras said that the bazaar was first put on at The Huntington Library, in San Marino, California, but it eventually outgrew that space. This is the bazaar's second year at the Doheny Library.

"It just kept getting bigger and bigger," Parras said.

The University of California, Los Angeles, was well represented with five different archives, including their famous Film and Television Archive (the second largest such archive in America after the Library of Congress) and their not-so-famous Ethnomusicology Archive, which holds one of the largest collections of ethnographic recordings, including both commercial and non-commercial popular, folk, traditional, and artistic music, in North America.

"We're here so more people are aware of us," said Aaron Bittel, archivist and librarian for the Ethnomusicology Archives. Nodding toward the exhibit table featuring the much better known Film and Television Archive, Bittel added, "You get lost among the giants sometimes."

Historical societies, such as the Pacific Palisades Historical Society and the Culver City Historical Society, were well-represented among the exhibitors, showing off collections that are often not open to the public.

"We don't have a museum," explained Eric Dugdale, president of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society, about why his collection is not open. "We do have regular shows."

The shows, in various places in the city, are where the historical society displays some of its holdings. In addition, Dugdale said, that the "thousands" of photos in the society's collection have been digitized and are available online through the Santa Monica Public Library's photo web project, Imagine Santa Monica digital collections. Those interested in looking at the Palisades photos can click on browse, then select that collection from the search box drop down menu.

"Since they're contiguous regions, it's nice to have them together on the website," said Cynni Murphy, image archives librarian for the Santa Monica Public Library. She said that the project, as a whole, has over 8,000 photos of Santa Monica, both historical and current, on the website.

Karen Coyle, of the Culver City Historical Society, said the Archives Bazaar was an important way to spread the word about the society's exceptional collection of movie memorabilia and materials from the old MGM studios (now Sony Studios).

"We want to reinforce what we have here in Culver City," Coyle said. "We enjoy being part of this every year."

Leah Kerr, of the Mayme Clayton Library, also in Culver City, said that she does notice a bump in interest after the archives bazaar every year. The Mayme Clayton Library is the largest private collection of African American memorabilia in the country.

"A lot of people knew Mayme," Kerr said about Clayton, an African American librarian and historian who collected the memorabilia - ranging from posters to sheet music to artifacts - for over 40 years before she passed away in 2006. "But not a lot of people know what she had. We come here so that we can reach out."

"It just presents us to the public," said Gail Stein, the archivist for the historical collection at the Beverly Hills Public Library. Stein, who said she was still trying to process the entire collection of photographs and other records at the library, was presenting the library's digitized version of the Beverly Hills Citizen newspaper.

But not all of the reaching out was to let the public know about various organizations' holdings. The gathering also allows the various groups to connect with each other.

"It's more about outreach," said Sparky Bowman-Carpio, of the Centinela Valley Historical Society, which covers the history of Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, all the way down to the Peninsula. "Reaching out to other historical societies. We wanted to see how other groups work."

Diane Sambrano, the president of the group, agreed. "It gives us the opportunity to interact, to learn and to incorporate that into what we're doing."

Gordon Skene October 26, 2011 at 11:32 PM
It would be nice if they tried publicizing it. I've had an archive here in L.A. for over 40 years and I never heard of this get-together.
Dale Stieber October 27, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Dear Gordon, Please visit the LA as Subject website to learn more about joining over 240 organizations in the group. http://www.laassubject.org/ Dale Stieber, Special Collections @ Occidental College -- member of LA as Subject

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