The University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library is pulling out the stops to share with the public its extensive collection of materials on San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire.
The library will open an exhibit, "1906: The Great Quake -- The History of a Disaster," on Jan. 11 in the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery of Doe Library that features The Bancroft's own photos, ephemera, manuscripts and more that tell the dramatic story of the April 18, 1906, disaster and its aftermath.
In the wake of recent calamities such as Hurricane Katrina -- the largest urban disaster in the United States since the '06 quake -- The Bancroft exhibit takes on added importance.
During the exhibit, which will run through April 5, The Bancroft will preview a new digital archive that features 17,000 images and 10,000 pages of written material relating to the earthquake. The collection, assembled by The Bancroft with partners such as the State Library, the California Historical Society and others, will be available online to the public starting Jan. 18 at: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/earthquakeandfire/.
Both the campus exhibit and the digital archive reflect similar themes, including the ostentatious wealth of the pre-quake San Francisco; how civic corruption, poor construction and racism affected responses to the earthquake and the fires that burned unchecked for three days; reconstruction efforts; and first-hand accounts of the tragedy that affected residents throughout Northern California.
"It wasn't just San Francisco's earthquake, it was a lot of people's earthquake," said Theresa Salazar, curator of The Bancroft's Collection of Western Americana and the exhibit's co-curator, along with Dylan Esson, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate in history.
In 1906, student cadets from UC Berkeley were dispatched to San Francisco to help patrol the streets after the quake, help fight the multitude of fires that broke out, prevent looting and maintain order in food lines.
Numerous emergency clinics and tent cities were established for quake victims in locations such as Golden Gate Park, Oakland and on an athletic field adjacent to what is now UC Berkeley's Hearst Gymnasium. Central Valley residents baked bread to send to the makeshift shelters, and school children collected pennies for a relief fund.
The exhibit also notes the contributions of Andrew Cowper Lawson, a UC Berkeley professor of geology and anthropology who led the first systematic investigation of a major earthquake.
Working with then-Gov. George Pardee and the Carnegie Institute, he documented with photographs the ruptured San Andreas fault line all the way through the rolling hills of Marin County just north of San Francisco to the rugged coastline near Fort Ross in Mendocino County.
Lawson also chaired the State Earthquake Investigation Commission in 1906 and prepared the most complete and informative report ever published on a great earthquake.
A related campus-wide exhibit on earthquake awareness will be on view in the same Doe Library gallery starting April 14, focusing on contemporary approaches to earthquake preparation and retrofitting, highlighting UC Berkeley's distinctive and cutting-edge contributions to engineering and earthquake science, as well as the Bay Area's response to transportation, public policy and water issues.
The Bancroft is celebrating its centennial this year. It officially dates from 1905, when the University of California acquired Hubert Howe Bancroft's personal library devoted to California and other Western states. Located on Valencia Street in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake, The Bancroft Library was the only major library in the city to survive the '06 devastation.
Today The Bancroft includes the Mark Twain Papers and Project, the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, the Regional Oral History Office, the University of California Archives, the History of Science and Technology Program, and the Pictorial Collection. Overall, the collection focuses on California, the West, Mexico and Central America.
It currently is housed in temporary quarters during seismic retrofitting of its permanent home in the Doe Library annex.