27 October 2010

SCGS 1890 Project Sleuth Spotted at 5th LA Archives Bazaar

It was a crisp Autumn day; the 'SC football team had a bye so parking was a breeze at Los Angeles' second oldest college (founded in 1880). The path from the garage to the Doheny Library led us across the National and California Register-eligible historic districts that encompass the three major periods of the University of Southern California's development, 1919: Beaux Arts, 1946: Modernism, and 1960s: Master Plan[1].

The sparkling exterior of the Library, with its Italian Romanesque architecture, announced the grandeur of the 5th Los Angeles Archives Bazaar in which we were about to partake. Built in just 12 months from 1930-1 as a memorial to their son, the oil tycoon Dohenys contributed the entire $1.1 million needed to build the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library and actively participated in the design and construction of the facility. Edward L. “Ned” Doheny Jr., who studied at USC and remained involved in the university after his graduation in 1916, was tragically murdered in 1929[2].

Inside the 1999 earthquake retro-fitted building, we entered the wonderful and rich world of Los Angeles-related archives. More than 70 exhibitors[3] were on-hand to offer descriptions and guidance about the particular resource in their charge. The author of this post attempted to learn about each and every archive - but of course got caught up in the lovely details at each table visited. Here are two exemplary archives available to the public.

The Emil Freed collection at the Southern California Library, the People's Library: Freed, another 1920s USC graduate, had the forethought to collect and protect "pamphlets, films, papers and other documents that people were disposing of to distance themselves from Communist involvement"[4]. "The Library {now} holds collections that span the breadth of social and political movements in Los Angeles--from labor, civil rights, education, and housing, to immigration, war and peace, and civil liberties. These collections include over 400 manuscript collections, as well as books, periodicals, subject files, pamphlets, posters, photographs, films, audiotapes, and more"[5]. If you have ancestors that participated in LA's Community Change, this is the archive for you. The collection is housed at Vermont and Gage and is open to the public Tue.-Sat., 11-6.

The Seaver Center for Western History Research: Located just across Exposition Blvd. from USC, the Seaver Center is a major component of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles' History department. This archive's focus is the trans-Mississippi American West. This collection includes items, dating back to before the founding of Los Angeles, such as books, maps, photographs, ephemeral materials, newspapers, and historic site surveys, primarily from Los Angeles County but other California counties are represented as well[6].

In between visits with the other exhibitors, Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) board members and volunteers staffed the joint SCGS - Genealogical Society of Hispanic America, Southern California (GSHA-SC) table. At one point, we spied the SCGS 1890 Project master sleuth, "Mr. Bill", on his hunt for new Los Angeles County archives that will help replace the burnt U.S. Census of 1890. One of the speakers from the 5th LA Archives Bazaar "Blogging L.A. panel," Nancy Mills, also stopped by. She is blogging about loft living in downtown LA (Tales of Downtown) and is the founder of the Spirited Woman Approach to Life. We agreed with her summation of the day "I can't believe all of this is right here in LA County!".

Note: Every Friday at the SCGS Library in Burbank, we invite volunteers to index and proof read materials in support of the SCGS 1890 Project.

[1] USC Master Plan Jeopardizes Modern Resources
[2] Doheny Memorial Library
[3] LA as Subject
[4] Emil Freed, from Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia
[5] The Southern California Library index
[6] Seaver Center collections

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