Guest Post: Local Bay Area Photographer Lynne Buckner Shares Her Bayview/Hunter’s Point Story For Year of the Bay

An abandoned home in Hunter's Point Shipyard in San Francisco, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

We’re excited to share this great contribution from local Bay Area photographer Lynne Buckner, part of our Year of the Bay project. Lynne, a resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco, pinned her photos and story of visiting the now ghost-like Hunter’s Point shipyard in San Francisco, once a commercial shipyard established in the 1870s and subsequently a naval base. The now desolate area, on the shores of the San Francisco Bay, is currently in the midst of a large redevelopment plan that will ultimately include up to 1,600 homes, 27% to 40% of which will be affordable, and 26 acres of open space. In 2004, Lynne created a set of photos of all the the shipyard houses front and back, as well as some interiors of the houses that were torn down to create the new housing area in what is known as parcel A.

Abandoned Japanese-style house on Innes St., Parcel A, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

She shares her experience here:

“In 2004 I was taking photo classes at CCSF. I was attracted to ghost towns and abandoned buildings and cabins and was looking for something I could photograph without traveling to the desert. I ended up in the industrial areas of Bayview Hunters Point. I really loved Hunters Point Shipyard, and used to go early on weekend mornings saying I was visiting an artist friend who had a studio. I would then drive around and photograph the buildings of the shipyard.  After being busted one too many times, I went to Lennar Corporation and asked permission. They granted me permission to photograph in “parcel A”, an abandoned neighborhood on a hill that I had no idea existed.  There was some talk of Lennar buying the photographs but that never worked out because I was developing and printing the pictures myself and the price seemed too high to them and too low to me. I was just happy to have my own private ghost town to wander around in when I pleased. I spent as much time there as I could and really felt that I was preserving a bit of overlooked San Francisco history.

Interior of a Natoma St. house, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

Rail lines to Hunter's Point Shipyard, 2003. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

I was devastated when, after a few months, the neighborhood was demolished. It was very disturbing that efforts to salvage building materials and antique fixtures appeared to be minimal. I was grateful to have salvaged some light fixtures, road signs, knobs, 2 sinks and a medicine cabinet some of which I have in my remodeled bathroom.  The demolition of this local ghost town seemed an apt metaphor for what was happening to the analog photography I was doing and, more broadly my life as a woman over 50.

As the years have passed, my pass to enter the Shipyard was stolen out of my car and I now go only twice a year when the Shipyard is open for Open Studios.  I walk up to the housing site late in the day and photograph the progress on the new housing project. On a recent photo trip, I noted that building has started on what looks like townhouses or an apartment buildings. I’m hoping that someday the new inhabitants will be interested in what their neighborhood once looked like and enjoy imagining their link to the history of the area.”

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All of Lynne’s photos were developed in her own darkroom, and we are happy that they have traveled from the darkroom onto Historypin. This is a nice snapshot into how one person experiences the life on the rapidly changing Bay waterfront, and a great addition to our Year of the Bay archive.

Explore more of Lynne’s photo pins on her Channel. If you’d like to contribute a guest piece to our blog about your experience around the San Francisco Bay, contact Kerri at kerri.young@wearewhatwedo.org.

Project Officers Max and Kerri go to the 2014 National Council on Public History

Check-in table at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, CA.

Hello from Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young, Project Officers at Historypin, here to tell you about our experience at the 2014 National Council on Public History conference in Monterey, California last week:

This year’s National Council on Public History conference was held in Monterey, California, which lucky for us, is only a two-hour drive from the Historypin office in San Francisco. Taking a day-long road trip from San Francisco to Monterey gave us the opportunity to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, snack on salt water taffy, and, of course, learn about some new and exciting developments and projects in the field of public history.

Touristy shops near the activities at the Monterey Conference Center.

With projects like Sourdough & Rye, Year of the Bay, Europeana 1989, Historypin is constantly trying to engage with history in an effort to cultivate communities and create local connections. This year’s NCPH conference—with its theme of Sustainable Public History—was the ideal place to learn about other projects with similar goals. That is, the desire to preserve historical resources while still aiming to meet the needs of the present and future.

Cover of this year's NCPH program.

Some fun activities we engaged in included some speed networking, a panel exploring the teaching of sustainability through digital Los Angeles, talking with local history vendors in the exhibit hall, and attending a panel on an oral history endeavor here in the Bay Area from the National Park Service and UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO).

The panel Crowdsourcing and Public History: Reports from the Field was particularly insightful. Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society talked about their collaboration with Historypin for their exhibit Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History. As many may have read about from us, this exhibit incorporated our Year of the Bay project in the form of a touch screen and pinning station, the latter for visitors to bring in their Bay Area memories to scan into the project. The exhibit itself asked visitors to help solve some Bay history mysteries, and in conjunction with this Historypin rolled out our mystery-solving interface for the first time. From the perspective of the California Historical Society, the power of Historypin lies in our layered sense of place, and its ability to let users travel back in time. Visitors had fun exploring contributed memories within the exhibit on the touch screen, though they were also more comfortable contributing their own memories at home rather than bring in photos to a pinning station. Other thoughts from Anthea included the success in utilizing the SF Chronicle to post history mysteries (with the photos also pinned to Year of the Bay), the relative ease in tracking Historypin site activity through Google Analytics, and the fact that most interaction with CHS photos occurred over social media (including mysteries). Overall (and we agree), it was a hard sell asking people to bring in photos physically to scan onto our website, even with a Project Officer stationed there; the project’s success relies on building trust from both individuals and institutions before they can contribute, and this takes many months after the project launch to gain traction (and more than the couple of months the exhibit was open).

Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society introducing findings from working with Historypin's Year of the Bay project.

Kerri at the Curating the Bay pinning station in the California Historical Society this past summer.

Rebecca Federman from the New York Public Library’s talked about the menu transcribing project, What’s on the Menu?; so far, volunteers have helped to transcribe over 17,000 historic menus, helping to track food trends over time. Crowdsourcing the history of lunch certainly brought out food enthusiasts to help, as well as community groups and individuals. Hiring interns to do outreach over social media, designing a simple interface, creating simple how-to’s, and getting rid of registration were and are all crucial to the project’s success, though a lack of the latter makes it harder to track the user base. Creating more targeted events to do this, as well as thinking about how the project can be transferred over for researchers in the future were some thoughts for moving forward.

Lorraine McConaghy from the Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry spoke about her ambitious efforts to crowdsource Civil War history in the state of Washington, so local residents could participate in the ongoing national discussion about the war in the Pacific Northwest and its meaning. Some lessons learned was that the project needed a more streamlined process for dealing with the tech involved, that it needed more volunteers or interns to answer daily inquiries, more training days for the public, and that the facilitators underestimated how much editing they would need to maintain consistency. However, the project gained about 150 solid readers to analyze Civil War texts; the appeal lay in the fact that what they were exploring was not known before about the Civil War in the Pacific Northwest, and that participants found out lots of new information only obtained through deep reading.

Rebecca Federman talking about the New York Public Library's "What's on the Menu?" crowdsourcing project.

While each of these wonderful crowdsourcing projects have adopted distinct approaches to crowdsourcing history, they collectively see public engagement as a key strategy for creating and making accessible new kinds of history. Engagement in these projects are what makes them successful; a comment, suggestion, or annotation can make all the difference in measuring a project’s success. For us at Historypin, there is always much to learn on the crowdsourcing front, and being able to connect and learn from others who are using similar or different approaches is invaluable.

Overall, this was a very insightful trip and a great national gathering, and we met many public historians doing great work. We hope to see you at the next one!

-Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young

Browse the full program of this year’s NCPH conference, and don’t forget that you can still contribute your memories and solve some history mysteries in our Year of the Bay project.

Year of the Bay: The Bold Italic Photo Essay Featuring SF Public Library pins

Help us overlay this image onto Street View: Divisadero Street, south of Oak Street, on July 21, 1940. Historic Photo Collection, San Francisco Public Library.

Today The Bold Italic published a wonderful photo essay featuring Year of the Bay pins from our friends at the San Francisco Public Library, another fruitful collaboration between Historypin and the popular local San Francisco magazine. The photos, pinned to the Year of the Bay especially for this spread, feature San Francisco’s rapidly-changing Western Addition neighborhood. The SFPL asks that you have fun overlaying these photos onto their modern-day locations using our mystery-solving tools:

SFPL's Western Addition mysteries on our Year of the Bay project page.

Scroll through these current “Mysteries” on the Year of the Bay project page, as well as some past SF neighborhood ones. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Go to yearofthebay.org and at the top right, log in with your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account. If you don’t have a Historypin account, create one for free!
  2. Back at www.yearofthebay.org, scroll down until you see the Mysteries Tab (default).
  3. On the left side, select Show me: Unsolved mysteries (also the default), and scroll down the list of Western Addition mysteries (among others). If you want to see mysteries that other people have already commented on, tick Show Me: Under investigation on the left bar.
  4. Choose a photo from the list you want to help solve, and press Solve.
  5. Depending on what kind of mystery it is, the interface will prompt you to either enter a new date, find a new location, or overlay a photo onto Street View. Once you make your suggestion, you will be able to enter in why you’ve made the choice you have.
  6. That’s it!  Because this is a beta tool (which is to say we’re still working on it to make it better), if anything weird happens, feel free to comment on this blog post, or fill out this easy form to let us know what happened.

Read The Bold Italic’s post featuring SFPL’s Western Addition photos here, and visit the Year of the Bay project page to start overlaying the photos onto their modern-day locations. Don’t forget to share your mystery-solving skills with your friends!

Bay Motion Contest Entries from the Oakland Museum of California

Oakland Harbor at Sunset, Getty Images.

The great folks over at the Oakland Museum of California recently uploaded a bunch of video mashups into our Year of the Bay project which you can now check out. The videos, in conjunction with the museum’s Bay Motion exhibit, are contest entries asking members of the public to submit a video interpretation of their relationship to the San Francisco Bay. Those entering the “Bay Motion Contest” had the option to use their own home videos, or to remix footage from the wonderful Prelinger Archives, a collection of over 60,000 “ephemeral” (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films.

"A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire," 1906. Archival footage from the Prelinger Archives.

Rick Prelinger in the archival vault. Photo by Megan Prelinger.

The Bay Motion mashup contest continues the theme of the the exhibit itself, exploring how the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding region “was captured by amateur, professional and industrial camera people.” The museum received entries from a wide range of locals, from middle school students to working individuals. Here are some observations from the contest screening a few weeks ago, from the Oakland Museum’s champion Historypinner Robert Fahey:

“…it was a great atmosphere and everyone enjoyed the many different types of videos screened. The judges also greatly enjoyed each video and loved the experience of having them all screened and enjoyed/watched together. Rick Prelinger also made an appearance since his wife, Megan, was one of the judges. They both expressed how much it meant to them to see people creatively taking from the Prelinger Archives and and turn it into something of their own.”

Here are the entries from winners Solomon Kamara and CB Smith-Dahl:

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Solomon and CB with their Adobe Creative Suite prizes at the Museum.

These videos are great creative materials for our Year of the Bay project, and an an example of the ways you can contribute your San Francisco Bay story to Historypin. Watch the rest of these great contest entries on the Oakland Museum’s Channel, and click “Pin Your Memories” on www.yearofthebay.org to submit your own photos or videos of how you experience the Bay.

Celebrating the Opening of the Golden Gate International Exposition in Year of the Bay

Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) on Treasure Island in 1939, the colorful world’s fair held to mark the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge in San Francisco. An important event in the history of the San Francisco Bay, we are celebrating the fair in our Year of the Bay project by sharing some lovely images contributed by individuals and institutions.

Aerial over San Francisco looking towards the Bay Bridge and GGIE on Treasure Island, 1939 (San Diego Air and Space Archives).

Treasure Island, an island built just for the occasion, juts out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay between the City and Oakland. With the Bay Area’s two famous bridges just completed, the GGIE and Treasure Island proclaimed to the world that San Francisco was resilient enough to create a Disneyland-like wonderland in the midst of the Great Depression. As with many of the famous world fairs of yesteryear, the GGIE of 1939 featured many peculiar attractions, such as an automobile racetrack for monkeys, a Western town with little people in cowboy costumes, and Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch. Elaborate architectural buildings, corny historical pageants, technological innovations, and plenty of good old-fashioned amusement-park fun and games were also what you could expect to enjoy at the exhibition.

Today, with most of the exhibition buildings gone, Treasure Island is an unassuming flat piece of land jutting out from Yerba Buena Island in the Bay and it is easy to drive by without noticing it. But at the time of the exhibition, it was a grand fairground and world destination. Here are some great images from this event mapped out in our project, from those such as the San Francisco Chronicle Archives and more:

Constructing the Elephant Towers at the GGIE with San Francisco in the background, Jan. 1939 (Chronicle Archives).

Street View of people watching a parade at the GGIE, 1939 (Chronicle Archives). Despite the construction of the new eastern span of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge this past year, the old span remains on Street View for a great then-and now comparison.

The pavilions of the GGIE, 1939 (Chronicle Archives).

Massive Federal Building at the GGIE, pinned by docomomo-noca.

Entrance to the very Californian "Redwood Empire" exhibition at the GGIE, 1939 (Chronicle Archives).

A postcard I found in San Francisco's Ferry Building depicting the Fountain of Western Waters at the GGIE, 1939.

Like many world’s fairs, San Francisco’s turned out to be a financial failure. Although around seventeen million people visited the GGIE during its two years, the $7.8 million fair still lost money. But those who visited it never forgot their experience there.

Built and held as World War II approached, the GGIE was a last moment of simplicity before everything in the world changed. Famous SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, who visited the exhibition as a young reporter, later recalled, “Then came the night the lights went down forever at the 1940 Fair on Treasure Island, and we knew there was nothing left to do but wait for our war to come along and get us – for what was left of our youth died then and there, out in the black bay.”

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To explore all these images and more in our Year of the Bay project, and to pin some of your own, click the image below to go to our map of pins:

Map of GGIE pins in Year of the Bay.

Solving Dogpatch Mysteries in Year of the Bay

Potero Police Station at 20th and 3rd in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood. From the San Francisco Public Library.

For those of you visiting our site for the first time via the Bold Italic, welcome!

Using photos contributed by our collaborators over at the San Francisco Public Library’s San Francisco History Center, we’re hoping you can help solve some date and location mysteries as well as help Street View photos of San Francisco’s ever-changing Dogpatch neighborhood.

As mentioned above, in addition to solving traditional location and date mysteries within our Year of the Bay mysteries interface, we now have the ability to take it a step further and ask our users to help overlay these old photos onto their current Google Street Views.

Using the Year of the Bay Mysteries tool to overlay a photo onto Street View, allowing you to interact with a location's change over time (or lack thereof).

Selecting a new date in the Year of the Bay mysteries interface.

We hope locals and out-of-towners alike can have fun solving some of these and more, while at the same time helping to enrich the San Francisco Public Library’s collections.

It’s easy to get started.  Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to yearofthebay.org and at the top right, log in with Google, Facebook, or Twitter account. If you don’t have a Historypin account, create one for free!
  2. Back at www.yearofthebay.org, scroll down until you see the Mysteries Tab (default).
  3. On the left side, select Show me: Unsolved mysteries (also the default), and scroll down the list of Dogpatch mysteries (among others). If you want to see mysteries that other people have already commented on, tick Show Me: Under investigation on the left bar.
  4. Choose a photo from the list you want to help solve, and press Solve.
  5. Depending on what kind of mystery it is, the interface will prompt you to either enter a new date, find a new location, or overlay a photo onto Street View. Once you make your suggestion, you will be able to enter in why you’ve made the choice you have.
  6. That’s it!  Because this is a beta tool (which is to say we’re still working on it to make it better), if anything weird happens, feel free to comment on this blog post, or fill out this easy form to let us know what happened.
Don’t forget to share your mystery-solving skills with your friends!

How You Can Participate in Year of the Bay

The Year of the Bay map

There are many ways to participate in our Year of the Bay project, celebrating the diverse history of the San Francisco Bay. Here are just a few:

Pin photos, video, or audio (and start your own channel!)

Be sure to use the “Pin your memories” button on Year of the Bay’s homepage in order for your content to appear in the project.

The "Pin Your Memories" button on the Year of the Bay homepage

Anything you post through Year of the Bay will automatically appear in your own (customizable!) Channel, which houses all of your content.

Example Channel, from the San Francisco Public Library

If you’ve already started a channel and want to add its content, email us at yearofthebay.sf@gmail.com and we’ll migrate it for you into Year of the Bay.

Solve a History Mystery

 …or two, or three, or all of them!  If you have expert knowledge about a certain place, time, or topic, share it by identifying the location, year, or subject of some photos.  You can also help by overlaying photos to the modern day street view.

Mysteries you can help solve on the Year of the Bay homepage

Suggest more accurate details

If you believe you see incorrect information on a photo, please use the “Suggest more accurate details” feature found on each pin.  Anything you suggest will be seen by the original pinner.

"Suggest more accurate details" button on each pin

Add comments, suggestions, and share your story

The Comments and Stories tab of a pin

You might have a story directly related to some pinned content.  We’d love to have you share it under the “Comments and suggestions” tab found on each pin.

Host a pinning event

Get together with friends and family, share photos and stories, then add them to Year of the Bay!

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If you have any further questions, contact us at yearofthebay.sf@gmail.com.

Mystery-solving with the Bernal Heights History Group, San Francisco.

Bernal Heights History Group member John points out a detail in one of our Year of the Bay mystery photos, Wednesday Nov. 20. 2013.

Last Wednesday on November 20, we met with San Francisco’s fantastic Bernal Heights History Project (BHP) to introduce Year of the Bay mysteries and to tap into their expertise to solve some Bernal Heights-related photo mysteries. The small gathering, held at the Bernal Height’s Branch Library on Cortland Ave., brought together some enthusiastic group members despite the rainly weather that night. With help organizing from the group’s illustrious coordinator Vicky Walker, we were able to talk about Bernal Heights-specific photo mysteries, many of which she uploaded from the San Francisco Public Library onto the Bernal Heights History Channel on Historypin.

A section of the Historypin map within our Year of the Bay project showing Bernal Heights in San Francisco.

We had visited the BHP back in May to introduce Historypin and Year of the Bay, and were very excited to be invited back to one of their monthly meetings to work on some Bernal-specific photo mysteries with them.

Bernal Heights History Project members Ben Valdez and Vicky walker in front of a Bernal Heights mystery on Historypin, solved at our meeting with them this past May.

Since the launch of our Year of the Bay project last year, we have most recently introduced the Mysteries interface to the project so that users from far and wide might help us crowdsource data for pinned content in a fun and engaging way. We are now focusing on mysteries relating to one local history group, Bernal Heights History Project, to see how one enthusiastic community can come together around these tools.

That night at the library, which included lots of discussion and talking through some of the mysteries pinned to Year of the Bay, was lots of fun and is hopefully the beginning of some in-depth mystery-solving on Historypin. As a native San Franciscan, learning about a neighborhood so close to where I grew up is always fascinating, but even more fun when done amongst the intimate community setting of BHP. Below is an example of one of the photos we looked at together, a sweeping panorama of what is today’s Noe Valley neighborhood in San Francisco:

A Bernal Heights location mystery, which we were able to discuss that night. BHP members were able to point out an old laundry, theater, and other landmarks and discuss their histories. We also discussed the fascinating raised railway in the photo that many of us did not know was there!

Our mystery photo nice and big on the projector in the Bernal Heights Branch Library.

Our Mysteries interface with Bernal Heights photos in Year of the Bay.

The Bernal Heights History Channel on Historypin

You don’t have to be a BHP member to help solve these Mysteries in Year of the Bay! Whether a Bernal Heights history enthusiast, a San Francisco history one, or someone who likes to solve history mysteries, you can check out Year of the Bay Mysteries here.

Here are some quick tips for solving:

1. Go to www.yearofthebay.org., and at the top right make sure you “Login” with your Google, Facebook, or Twitter accounts.
2. Once you are logged in scroll down to the Mysteries tab on www.yearofthebay.org (the default view).
3. On the Mysteries interface select “Show Me: Unsolved Mysteries” and you’re ready to get started!

Because this is a beta tool (which is to say we’re still working on it to make it better), if anything weird happens, feel free to comment on this blog post, or fill out this easy form to let us know what happened.

Historypin at the Potrero Hill History Night, Nov. 2nd 2013.

Project Officers Kerri and Max at the Potrero History night in San Francisco

Last night on November 2nd, 2013 Historypin attended the 14th annual Potrero History Night in San Francisco, in the heart of the city’s Potrero Hill district. Peter Lilenthal, who helps run the fantastic Potrero Hill Archives Project, invited us to talk Bay history with local residents in an evening that included food, jazz, and discussions with local authors and historians. According to the Archives Project, the History Night “always draws a large crowd each year, with those eager to hear about the neighborhood and to make sure no mistakes are made in the telling of local history!” It was indeed a great turnout and a fun and casual atmosphere in which to reminisce and share local history. From moving entire houses by cart to the Hill being a refuge from the devastating 1906 earthquake, there were lots of great stories to go around.

The baby in the buggy in the poster below is Etienne Simon, who turned 90 on October 30 and was interviewed at the History Night. Her grandmother’s home at 1333 Vermont Street was moved to make way for the 101 freeway; no one knows where it ended up.

We were able to chat about our Year of the Bay project, and many people mentioned all of the old photos they had lying around from their family’s time in the Bay that they could share with us. We want everyone to to dust off those old photo albums and rediscover their histories, and are happy to give that push and encourage sharing! And of course, all (Bay) history is not only things that happened way in the past, but anything meaningful to you that may have happened yesterday.

This was a great community event and we were happy to be a part of it. Some more photos:

The view from the Historypin table at the History Night.

The History Night took place at 655 De Haro in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood

Students of the International Studies Academy raising money for their school.

Local musicians playing jazz while people ate

Bill Perez of the Bethlehem Shipyard Museum sharing his photos on the night

Etienne Simon, from the flyer's photograph, accepting flowers on the night. The original buggy from the photograph is there as well!

Check out some Potrero Hill history at the Potrero Hill Archives Project’s Channel on Historypin.

Visit 1964 San Francisco and Help The SF Public Library

We’ve just launched a new section on Year of the Bay called History Mysteries that asks for your help in improving our knowledge of the past using your knowledge of the Bay Area.

Starting with 500 photos from the San Francisco Public Library’s San Francisco History Center, we’re hoping you can help Street View this survey of churches, theaters, schools, playgrounds, and businesses from 1964 San Francisco.  We have a pretty good idea of the locations of these photos thanks to the work of the OldSF team, and with your help, now have the ability to take it a step further and overlay the old photos onto the current Street View and see how these locations look today (or close to it).

It’s easy to get started.  Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to yearofthebay.org and at the top right, log in with Google, Facebook, or Twitter account
  2. scroll down until you see the Mysteries Tab, and click on it.
  3. On the left side, select Show me: Unsolved mysteries, and Only Show: Street View mysteries. This will get you into the current batch of 1964 photos.
  4. Choose a photo you want to overlay, and select Solve.
  5. Once you have it the way you want it, click Record Position on the right and tell everyone why.
  6. That’s it!  Because this is a beta tool (which is to say we’re still working on it to make it better), if anything weird happens, feel free to comment on this blog post, or fill out this easy form to let us know what happened.
Thanks for your help in giving us a better picture of what the past was like!