Blog Archives

Institute Activities

See what’s coming up for Institute members or the public on our What’s New page. Prospective members can inquire about coming once or twice as a visitor before joining. Public events are irregular. 

old calendar

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Conversation on History Publishing

Malcolm and jackie
Speaking June 17, 2018:

Malcolm Margolin headed Heyday Books from 1974 to 2015, and Jackie Pels has run Hardscratch Press since 1990. Join us on Sunday, June 17 (our usual Work-in-Progress time slot, the 3rd Sunday) at the Berkeley Central Public Library,

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Local History Excursion May 20: Niles Canyon

Niles pano

Join the California and the West Group at Niles Canyon in Fremont on Sunday, May 20, for an entire day of history-laden activities organized by Rose Marie Cleese. “Tentative plans call for a late-morning half-hour ride on the historic Niles Canyon Railway from Fremont to Sunol (for a nominal fee),

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The Future of the Past in the Digital Age

RS19165_Case15wallGIS_800px-qut-768x434This March! Two illuminating panels that explore the intersection of digital technology and history. Whether you’re a researcher, writer, history teacher, student, archivist, historian, or simply a history buff, you’ll discover how today’s technology tools are changing the study and accessibility of all things historical forever. 

Panelists include:

  • Chris Carlsson,

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Save the Date: Feb. 24

 

Our annual membership meeting will be on Saturday, February 24 at the Mechanics’ Institute Library, San Francisco. Come hear what we’ve been up to, elect some new board members, have lunch, and hear a presentation by Monika Trobits, one of our mini-grant recipients.

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Holiday Greetings from the Institute!

Christmas greetings

May you have a fun-filled or restful holiday season, whichever you prefer. We hope to see you in the New Year—see our Upcoming Events.

Prospective members, we hope you will join us in 2018. Existing members, please recruit someone new!

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Thank You!

potluckJody Offer once again hosted our annual potluck at her house, and a good time was had by all! Many thanks to Jody and her husband Stuart, and to the fabulous chefs among our group. Eating and drinking together has always been a favorite activity of the Institute for Historical Study!

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Public Event: “Siberia and California”

Siberia and California: Connections during the Russian Revolution and Civil War

Late in 1917 (25 October according to the Old Style calendar, 7 November according to the New Style), shortly after the US entered World War I and began sending troops to France on the side of the Allies,

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History Play Readers Invite Newcomers

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 3.14.48 PMThe history play readers will meet on Friday, October 27, at 1 pm at the San Francisco home of Nancy Zinn to read and discuss Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore. The title refers both to Alan Turing’s work as a mathematician  and computer science pioneer,

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Fandango!   

Martinez adobeThe California and the West Study Group is sponsoring an event on September 30th open to the whole Institute membership.  We will be attending a fandango in Martinez at the historic Martinez adobe, with a number of added inducements. The fandango, a traditional community dance, has been organized by a group that sings historic Californio songs and also plays for dancing,

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It’s Mini-Grant Time!

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 5.42.41 PMThe Institute Board of Directors is pleased to announce the Mini-Grant Program for 2017-18. The deadline for this year’s application is September 15. The Mini-Grant Committee will examine the applications and report its decisions to the Board, which will have the final say. Checks will be issued by October 15.

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Mother Lode Trip, Sept. 23–25, 2016

Members of the Institute, along with members of the Italian-American Studies Association, had a fabulous history trip to the heart of California’s Gold Country the weekend of September 23–25, 2016.

Thank you to Rose Marie Cleese for organizing it! For a report on the weekend, see our Fall 2016 newsletter.

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History of Art Venues in Berkeley

Howard Sketch croppedAnn Harlow and the California and the West Study Group invite Institute members and their guests to a day of local art and architecture history in Berkeley on Saturday, January 23, 2016. We will meet at 10 am at the Berkeley Historical Society, Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center Street.

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It’s Mini-Grant Time!

US-$500-LT-1880-Fr-185lThe Institute Board of Directors is pleased to announce the Mini-Grant Program for 2015-16. The deadline for this year’s application is September 15. The Mini-Grant Committee will examine the applications and report its decisions to the Board, which will have the final say. Checks will be issued by October 15.

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Annual Meeting New Member Presentations

Library Albemarle Constantine cropped

Excerpts from the report in the Spring 2015 Newsletter:

Sue Mote is working on a novel, “An Ordinary Viking,” the story of an adventure-seeking youth who really doesn’t like the shedding of blood. When researching the Viking age for a work of fiction,

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Report on San Francisco Main Library Tour

SF History Center
Nine Institute members received an exclusive tour of the main San Francisco Public Library on January 31, 2015. Our guide, Susan Goldstein, has served as City Archivist since 1995. In her position, she works with all the city departments to preserve and make accessible their historical records.

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SFPL Tour 1/31/15

SFPL-archictectureBrought to you by the California and the West Study Group:  Please join us for a special tour of the New Main Library on Saturday, January 31st, from 10:15 AM to 12 noon. The New Main (now almost 20 years old!) opened its doors on April 18,

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Public Program: World War I Films

All QuietA series of major films about World War I begins in January and continues into May. Showings will be on Sunday afternoons, at the San Francisco Main Library on the dates indicated below. Each film will be introduced by an Institute member, and there will be time for discussion afterwards.

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Local History Field Trips for 2015

Brush_Stroke_2015_CalendarSix members of the Institute whose specialties include California got together on November 8th at Jody Offer’s house to plan for a year of programs.  Meeting were Jody, Ann Harlow, Joanne Lafler, Rose Marie Cleese, Peter Meyerhof, and Edith Piness.  After some discussion, the group concluded that having a series of visits to historic sites had proven to be a winning formula for 2014 and that there was plenty of material for another year of such explorations. 

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Report on Richmond Waterfront Field Trip

On July 26 a dozen or so Institute members and friends visited aboard the SS Red Oak Victory ship moored in Richmond (an exhibition of the Richmond Museum of History). This Victory ship, built in 1944 at the Kaiser Shipyards, was one of ten built for the Navy.

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Report on Los Gatos Field Trip

Institute members converged from the East Bay, South Bay, and San Francisco at the History Museum of Los Gatos on March 27th.  Dawn Maxson gave us a leisurely tour, beginning with the story of the handsome stone building, part of a flour mill from the 1850s that hosted rock concerts in the early 1970s.

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Los Gatos Field Trip

Los Gatos catsLos Gatos gateThe California and the West study group invites you to tour the exhibition at the History Museum of Los Gatos, American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos.  The exhibition explores the storied lives of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Sara Bard Field,

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History Expo

For the first time, the Institute for Historical Study will have an information booth at the San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint, presented by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society on March 1 and 2, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  

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Visit to Juana Briones Exhibition

Juana tour

On  January 25th about sixteen of us had the privilege of a preview tour of the new exhibition at the California Historical Society, San Francisco, guided by Executive Director Anthea Hartig with commentary by Institute member Jeanne Farr McDonnell. (More to come soon.)

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Report on Archives Program

We had a good turnout at the San Francisco Main Public Library on October 10th for the program on “Treasures in Archives: Research Possibilities for Students, Teachers and Scholars.”  All four speakers gave interesting presentations. Susan Goldstein spoke about the City Archives in the library’s San Francisco History Center.  They have recently acquired huge amounts of records from city departments from the Police Department to the Redevelopment Agency to the Medical Examiner (coroner). 

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Public Program on Archives, October 10

Where would historians be without archives? Come to the San Francisco Main Public Library and learn about some lesser-known archival treasures of San Francisco. Four archivists will highlight resources for local history and national history within a local setting: Chris Doan, Archivist for the Sisters of the Presentation; Susan Goldstein,

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Annual Potluck, September 7

About 25 Institute members and guests gathered on Saturday, September 7th, at Margaretta Mitchell’s house on the Berkeley/Oakland border. Thank you, Gretta, for hosting us! After a sumptuous dinner we discussed possible uses for the Frank Brechka bequest. A task force was created to explore some of the options, to be chaired by Ellen Huppert.

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Trip to Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

On August 15, a beautiful, sunny Thursday, fourteen Institute members and friends ventured to Marin County to the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center near Muir Beach. Jody Offer worked on arrangements, and David Chadwick, our long-time member, whose work on a website on Shunryu Suzuki he had summarized in a work-in-progress recently,

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World Map, Thomas Cavendish, 1707

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.

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Native American Encampment on Lake Huron, Paul Kane (1810-1871)

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.

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The Old Plantation​, ca. 1790, attr. to John Rose

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.

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The Unicorn is Found

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.
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Companions, Claude Raguet Hirst (1855-1942)

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.

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Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay, Fortunato Arriola (1827-1872)

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history.

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Vallejo Outing April 13, 2013

Twelve Institute members had a history-filled day in Vallejo on April 13, with private viewings of two institutions: the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, where Executive Director Jim Kern gave us a tour before regular open hours, and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library.  Highlights at the museum included artifacts from Mare Island (the first U.S.

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2012 Annual Dinner Lecture Report

The Global Migrations of Ornamental Plants

Plants migrate across the globe by hitching rides on exported building materials, riding as seeds in the entrails of animals, stowing away in the luggage of plant-loving travelers, or simply floating on wind that sweeps across continents. Author-neurologist Judith M. Taylor not only traced the migratory movements of numerous plants but also introduced botany’s earliest explorers,

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California and the West Events

Fall 2020: Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts, lecture by Susan D. Anderson, SF History Days (video here)

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento

Fall 2019:  Tour of Marin Civic Center and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

In the abundance of caution recommended by heath authorities, the group has decided to take a break from regular meetings.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, November 13, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. new member Esther Shallan will present.

 

Public Programs

Saturday, September 26, 1:00 pm, Public Program  via Zoom - pre-registration required Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts Part of San Francisco History Days, this event is co-sponsored by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. Join Susan D. Anderson, history curator of the California African American Museum, for a talk and tour of artifacts that reveal the hidden history of San Francisco’s 19th-century African American past. Anderson’s talk begins with the Gold Rush and weaves the state’s raucous beginnings into the national narrative. The photographs, manuscripts, and publications in this presentation allow viewers to experience the urgency of early campaigns for civil rights and the fervent hopes of the African American community. Learn about the beloved ship’s captain who has a street named for him in West Oakland. Hear a Civil War poem by a distinguished Black poet and friend of John Brown proclaimed in public in 1864 San Francisco. See court documents of the lawsuit brought to challenge discrimination on streetcars 90 years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This presentation proves that California history is more challenging, complicated, and fascinating than we’ve been taught. Hosted and co-sponsored by the Institute for Historical Study, co-sponosred by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. This event is free but pre-registration is required.  
Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, December 20, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program  via Zoom.
Oliver Pollak: The Arc of Our Own History, 1980-2020
B.Y.O. Holiday/anniversary party snacks & beverages
Amid 2020's procession of enormous events,the Institute commemorates and celebrates the 40th anniversary of our founding. Our own Oliver Pollak surfaces from immersion in the organization's newsletter archive, mountains of board minutes, and members’ reminiscences. His presentation illuminates our development from a small circle of young women scholars confronted by a desolate academic employment market, into the enduring forum, research and writing resource, and social hub that we know now. It’s a story of belonging, camaraderie, utility, and collaboration. Please join us in taking advantage of this opportunity to glance back and appreciate those who started the organization, why and how they did it, and how it has evolved along with its world.     Oliver B. Pollak was born to German and Austrian refugees in England in 1943. The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1952. He earned a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles; a Ph.D.in history at UCLA; and a law degree from Creighton University, in Omaha, Neb. Oliver taught at the University of Zimbabwe in the early 1970s, was a history professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1974 to 2012, and practiced law until 2016. He has written 11 books and hundreds of articles.He co-founded the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society and belongs to the Institute for Historical Study. His interests include print culture, higher education, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and legal, food and Jewish history. Oliver and his wife, Karen, retired to Richmond in 2016. 

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 

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We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history

 

 

Member News

Welcome to our newest members, members, both currently residing in London, England. Laure Latham describes herself as “a blogger, storyteller and lawyer,” holding a B.A. in religious anthropology from Paris Jussieu University and a B.A. in law from La Sorbonne. She has practiced law at the Paris Bar and has taught international tax at La Sorbonne. Her writings include articles on the environment as well as children and the outdoors. Laure coauthored George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin and is currently working on a fictional account of Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California.

Esther Shallan is a philosopher (PhD in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University and Mphil in the philosophy of psychology from Kings College London) with interests and research on the problem of evil, the nature of suffering, and personality traits. She is also a psychotherapist working in North London who specializes in bereavement, depression, and anxiety disorders. Esther is currently working on a book entitled “God, Good and Evil: The Problem of Moral Evil Re-evaluated.”

Members' Recent Activities:

This summer saw publication of John Graham’s Looking For Elves At Wood Creek: Hunting And Other Stories (TheBookPatch), which “follows my relationship with a ranch property that I visit in San Benito County. It covers some history of San Juan Bautista, Paicines, Tres Pinos, Highway 25 and local flora and fauna.”

Oliver Pollak’s “Downsizing Generations of Family photos,” republished from San Diego Jewish World can be found here.

Peter Stansky has just published Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press). It is a selection of the pieces he has published over the last 20 years on aspects of British history and culture, notably on William Morris, the Bloomsbury Group, and George Orwell as well as other topics, introduced by an essay on how and why he became a historian of Britain. It is available as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon and other sites.

Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada completed a biographical sketch of Alice Charlotte Williams (1877-1945) for the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States. Williams served as the corresponding secretary of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association from 1905 to 1909. She was also a librarian. Liz appreciates the perceptive comments she received about the sketch from Institute members Joanne Lafler, Rose Marie Cleese, and Bonda Lewis.

Leslie Friedman’s play, “The Panel,” was the September offering of Play by Play, the organization presenting performance readings of new plays founded by Institute member Judith Offer. “The Panel” was originally accepted for March, but the pandemic cancelled the live event. Leslie was delighted to have The Panel read online and to receive many positive responses to it from audience members. After the reading Judith led a discussion about funding for the arts and diversity. On October 24 Leslie also presented her book The Dancer’s Garden at Stanford’s Company of Authors, an event founded and directed by Institute member and Stanford professor emeritus Peter Stansky. This program was originally slated for live presentation on May 2, but rescheduled for the Zoom format.

Bonda Lewis reports: “I’m doing my first show by Zoom on 28th October, for a Rotary meeting in Los Gatos. Is that sort of off-the-wall? I think so—but it’s an interesting challenge to perform for one camera—and that fixed—and no real audience. (Even when doing television, there are crew members and production types as sounding board.)

Ernie Hook notes that “I just finished an article on aspects of the history of therapeutic bloodletting, far I suspect from the general interests of almost all members.”

Kevin Knaus writes that he has recently started writing the biography of Amos P. Catlin, who came to California in 1849 and was active in mining, business, politics, and eventually was elected as a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge. “Catlin was a very honorable and ethical man. The drama and interest of his life comes not from personal failings, but the politics and law suits he was involved with.”

Congratulations to Our 2020 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Steven Levi for expenses of a visual presentation of his poem, “The Contract," about women's suffrage.
Pam Peirce for editing of her biography of Katherine Gibson Wicks.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to webmaster@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.

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We welcome all men and women who have a commitment to historical study, which may be demonstrated in one or more of the following ways...

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Institute for Historical Study
1399 Queens Road
Berkeley, CA 94708
info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org

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