saturday, october 04, 2014
I wrote this on Facebook on October 4 and later realized it also works fine as a public post, so I’m posting an edited version here too, backdated to that day.
When I lived in Isla Vista, I daydreamed a lot about establishing an Isla Vista History Museum, which would be me occasionally setting up somewhere outside with a folding table and the tons of cool old images I’d found and stories I’d learned, talking to people who stopped by. I wanted to share some sense of connection to previous generations of students, some kind of pride in our weird little neighborhood. But I didn’t know what would happen if I tried it, and I never got around to just going for it.
Today I got a chance to set up an amateur history exhibit about San Francisco’s Market Street for a street fair that was part of an event themed around prototyping public art and other interventions for public spaces. I made some cards with entertaining/interesting information, and since I had to make this interactive (a theme of the event), I decided to provide paper for people to make their own pretend “plaques” for some memory or meaningful place along Market Street. This was a little bit of a cheesy idea, but it turned out better than expected — most of the people who stopped by told me something they knew about the street that wasn’t on the cards, and I asked them to write down their information to share with the next visitors. Everyone knows something interesting about where they live and spend time. I talked to my mom on the phone this evening, and she told me a cool thing about Market Street that she learned while living in San Francisco many years ago: the story of the company that built its street lights.
Display cards I made:
- There are ships buried under Market Street / Views under Market Street for promoting transit
- Why is Market Street set at an angle? / Landowners didn’t like the new Market Street
- Photos of a happy 1890s and then 1906 / Photos of growth in 1920s and struggle in 1969-1972
- Use an old nickname: call SoMa “South of the Slot”
- “A Trip Down Market Street” — A video taken a few days before the 1906 earthquake
- In 1935, merchants wanted to rename an unsuccessful Valencia Street to “South Market”
- 717 Market Street is an ordinary building — But even ordinary buildings on Market Street have cool stories
- Check out the Market Street Railway Mural — On 15th Street near Church Street (near Market)
- Examples of plaques on Market Street — For history, for memory, sometimes illustrated, placed by people for other people.
- Make your own pseudo-historical plaque
A couple of the nice contributed “plaques”:
So I tested my idea for informal history exhibits and it worked, at least in this context. Some people read the cards, some watched the old video of Market Street, some enjoyed talking. There weren’t that many people who came to the street fair, but eight people were interested enough in this table to sit down and write something down. I even met somebody who works in the Market Street building that I did a longer project on (717 Market Street), and he was interested in this so I gave him the printout of it.
A fellow Double Union member volunteered to hang out with me at the table and help talk to people, which was fun and also meant that we could take turns finding water and food occasionally. Thank you to her!
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