Blog Archives

Monthly Program: A Torrid Splendor: Can this book be saved?

Sunday, April 21, 2024

A presentation by Cathy Robbins

In her work in progress, A Torrid Splendor: Seeking Calabria, Cathy Robbins tells a story about a society’s fall from grace. Once upon a time Calabria was a jewel in the diadem of Magna Graecia,

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Monthly Program: Mendocino Refuge: A World Apart and A Part of the World

Sunday, March  17, 2024

A presentation by Dot Brovarney

Dot’s book, Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon, is a multifaceted story of the people, plants, and animals who inhabited the wild Reeves Canyon on California’s North Coast.

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Monthly Program: Bringing History Alive From the Words of Those Who Were There

Sunday, February 18, 2024

“Bringing History Alive From the Words of Those Who Were There
A presentation by Judith Robinson

Author Judith Robinson tells stories from her historical and political biographies about the Hearst family,

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Monthly Program: Writing “Letters to Berlin: Writings of a German Jewish Refugee”

Sunday, January 21, 2024  Monthly Program via Zoom.

Letters to Berlin: Writings of a German Jewish Refugee
A presentation by Peter  Crane

October 31,

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Monthly Program: Writing “Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Leader”

Sunday, November 19, 2023  Monthly Program via Zoom.

Writing Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Leader
A presentation by Robert Cherny

The iconic leader of one of America’s most powerful unions,

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Monthly Program: Round Table on Historians’ Work

Sunday, October 15, 2023, Monthly Program via Zoom.

“Round Table on Historians’ Work”
A Conversation with Rob Robbins and Oliver Pollak

 
How do historians work? How do they decide what to study,

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Monthly Program: How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us

Sunday, September 17, 2023, Monthly Program via Zoom.

How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us
A Presentation by Jim Gasperini

Jim is nearing completion of his cultural history of fire,

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Monthly Program: First Ladies and Women’s Rights: Daughters of the Enlightenment

Sunday, August 20, 2023, Monthly Program via Zoom.

First Ladies and Women’s Rights: Daughters of the Enlightenment
A Presentation by Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada and Patricia Southard

 
Ms.

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Monthly Program: A Brief History of the End of the World

Sunday, June 18, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

“A Brief History of the End of the World”
A Presentation by Dan Kohanski

Many religions expect the end of the world to happen eventually.

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Monthly Program: One Picture — Several Stories: The Petrograd Children’s Colony in Russia and America

Sunday, May 21, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

“One Picture — Several Stories: The Petrograd Children’s Colony in Russia and America.”
A Presentation by Maria Sakovich

The identification of a photograph found in a Sakovich family album has revealed over the course of 30 years a little-known and unusual,

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Monthly Program: “Designed for Large Explosions” – The Port Chicago explosion and the Manhattan Project

Sunday, March 19, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

“Designed for Large Explosions” – The Port Chicago explosion and the Manhattan Project
A Presentation by Daisy Brown Herndon

Daisy Brown Herndon, a former school librarian,

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Monthly Program: Kissing Cousins: The Artistic Lives of San Francisco’s Albert M. Bender and Anne M. Bremer

Sunday, March 19, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

Kissing Cousins: The Artistic Lives of San Francisco’s Albert M. Bender and Anne M. Bremer
A Presentation by Ann Harlow

When Anne M.

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Monthly Program: The Who, What, When, Where, How and Why of Paraplegic Vivian Edward’s Transcontinental Goat Cart Odyssey, 1907-10

Sunday, February 19, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom

The Who, What, When, Where, How and Why of Paraplegic Vivian Edward’s Transcontinental Goat Cart Odyssey, 1907-10
A Presentation by Oliver B.

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Monthly Program: Mindful Surrealism: Practice-Based Research in San Francisco

Sunday, January 15, 2022 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

Mindful Surrealism: Practice-Based Research in San Francisco

A Presentation by Nathan Foxton

Surrealism is a cultural and art historical movement that evolved over the 20th century,

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Monthly Program: The Genocide in California’s Closet

Sunday, December 18, 2022 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

The Genocide in California’s Closet
A Presentation by Robeert Aquinas McNally

Most Californians are unaware that in the second half of the 19th century their state sponsored and funded a campaign to exterminate its Indigenous peoples — a mass atrocity known under contemporary international law as genocide.

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Monthly Program: Eternal Flames: Excerpt from a work in progress

Sunday, October 16, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom. View a video of this presentation here.

Eternal Flames: Excerpt from a work in progress
A Presentation by Jim Gasperini

Jim presented a chapter of his work in progress,

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Monthly Program: How to Create Your Own Legacy Book

Sunday, September 18, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

How to Create Your Own Legacy Book
A Presentation by Margaretta Mitchell

Margaretta is both photographer and writer, who always brings research and history into her books.

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Public Program: Writing and Revising Narrative History

Sunday, August 21, 2:00 pm, Public Program. view a video of this presentation here.

Writing and Revising Narrative History
A Presentation by Megan Kate Nelson

Join the Mechanics’ Institute and the Institute for Historical Study for this exciting talk about writing with historian Megan Kate Nelson who left academia in 2014 to become a full-time writer.

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Monthly Program: The Joy of Life: Impressionists and Post-impressionists in Russia

Sunday, July 17, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

The Joy of Life:
Impressionists and Post-impressionists in Russia
A Presentation by Marina Oberatova

Russia has one of the world’s best collections of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. It rivals the holdings of French museums—especially when it comes to the masterpieces of Paul Gauguin,

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Monthly Program: General Vallejo’s Efforts to Establish a Mission in Santa Rosa

Sunday, June 19, 2:00 pm,  via Zoom.

A Presentation by Peter G. Meyerhof

In 1834, all of the 19 missions in Alta California were turned over to civil administrators who were to take over secular control from the mission priests and arrange distribution of assets including the land to the baptized Native Americans who had worked there.

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Monthly Program: Second Wave Feminism in a Post War Suburban Synagogue

Sunday, May 15, 2:00 pm,  via Zoom
A Presentation by Michael Several

Between 1968 and 1979, women at the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center wrote and produced five musical comedies. These productions are an example of women forging a presence in an institution that barred them from equal participation in religious ritual and prevented them from fully participating in temple governance.

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Monthly Program: Why the Jews Won’t Accept Jesus, and Why This Is a Problem for Christians

A video of this presentation can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.

Saturday, April 16, 2022 10:00 am

From the start, Christians have made special efforts to convert Jews. With rare exception, however, Jews have never been interested. Focusing mainly on Christianity’s first few centuries,

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Monthly Program: Matera and the Sassi: From National Shame to International Fame

Sunday, March 20 2022        A video of this presentation can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.
A Talk by Marilyn L. Geary
 
Its troglodyte residents ravaged by poverty and disease, its rock-walled churches all but forgotten,

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Monthly Program: George Daniel de Monfreid: Post-Impressionist Trailblazer & Gauguin’s Best Friend

Sunday, February 22, 2:00 pm
A Talk by Laure Latham

The French artist George Daniel de Monfreid (1856-1929) broke from mainstream impressionism early on, becoming a leading voice of the post-impressionist movement in his country.

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Monthly Program: Beyond Genealogy -Tips and Techniques for Researching and Presenting Family History Online

Sunday, January 16, 2:00 pm.
A Talk by Jim Gasperini

The internet can bring life to a tree of boxes listing who begat whom. Jim will show how – using The Colburn Chronicles,

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Monthly Program: The Four Wars That Shaped George Orwell, From the “Great” One to the “Cold” One

Sunday, December 19, 2:00 pm

A Talk by Peter Stansky

Peter Stansky will discuss how Orwell was shaped by his experiences of living through four wars: the First World War while he was growing up; the Spanish Civil War,

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Monthly Program: Exploring Indigenous California History

Sunday, November 21, 2:00 pm
Ann Harlow presented

An informal talk for Native American Heritage Month about my recent adventures in developing a group and blog site on “Honoring Indigenous Peoples,” formulating a land acknowledgment, paying Shuumi land tax,

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Monthly Program: Organized Crime, Big Business, and the Corruption of American Democracy

Sunday, October 12,  7:00 pm
Jonathan Marshall presented

Bay Area author Jonathan Marshall offers an original take on an old subject, political corruption, and challenges the myth of a past golden age of American democracy.

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Monthly Program: Out of the Fog: The Surprising Origin Story of the Cable Cars

Sunday, September 19,  2:00 pm
Taryn Edwards  presented

San Francisco’s historic cable cars have reopened! Beloved by tourists and locals alike, the cable cars are integral to the development, character, and culture of San Francisco. Join Taryn Edwards for a peek into her research about the cable car’s surprising origins and an update on the life of Andrew Smith Hallidie,

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Monthly Program: George Templeton Strong, the Civil War Sanitary Commission, and the Women’s Movement

Sunday, August 15,  2:00 pm, Monthly Program, via Zoom.
Christopher Webber presented

A Wall Street lawyer’s Civil War project to help preserve the Union inadvertently ended up empowering women and paving the way to health-care reform.

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Monthly Program: Solomon Schocken: Sonoma’s Preeminent Jewish Entrepreneur

Sunday, July 18,  2:00 pm
Peter Meyerhof presented

Solomon Schocken (1842-1932) was a Jewish immigrant who rose quickly to considerable significance in Sonoma and beyond, through his own business ventures and as a mentor to several future entrepreneurs.

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The Social Crusader: Berkeley Mayor J. Stitt Wilson’s Lifelong Quest for a Just Society

Thursday July 22 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM PDT

Author Stephen E. Barton introduced his new book, J. Stitt Wilson: Socialist, Christian, Mayor of Berkeley. Faced with the dramatic extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized Gilded Age America, Wilson (1868-1942) gave up a promising career in the ministry to advocate for “applied Christianity”—a democratic and socialist economy based on caring and cooperation that would embody Jesus’s message of love.

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Monthly Program: The Socialite and the Sea Captain – Louise Arner Boyd and Captain Bob Bartlett on the 1941 Arctic Voyage of the Effie M. Morrissey

Sunday, June 20,  2:00 pm
David Hirzel presented

A talk by David Hirzel on the prickly relationship between the socialite and the sea captain on his famous schooner Effie M. Morrissey. When war threatened U.S. neutrality in 1940,

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Monthly Program: Richard Hurley, “Campaigns of the California Volunteers”

Sunday, May 16,  2:00 pm, Monthly Program, via Zoom. Richard Hurley  presented:

Campaigns of the California Volunteers
 
This multimedia show chronicles the adventures (and misadventures) of the nearly 17,000 young men who volunteered for the Union army during the Civil War. Moved by passionate patriotism,

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Monthly Program: David Goldberg, A Family History

Sunday, April 18,  2:00 pm,  Institute member David Goldberg on

A Family History
a photographic historical essay using the language of contemporary visual art

This essay sits at the space where family and history intersect.

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Monthly Program:  a special webinar

Sunday, March 21,  2:00 pm, 
Beth Wright (daughter of longtime IHS member Georgia Wright) will provide practical information and guidance to help aspiring authors succeed with their self-published books. The webinar will include tips on how to find and work with the most suitable editors and other book publishing professionals;

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Monthly Program: Lost Department Stores of San Francisco

Sunday, October 18, 2 pm, Monthly Program  via Zoom. Anne Evers Hitz presented:
Lost Department Stores of San Francisco: Six Bygone Stores That Defined an Era

In the late nineteenth century, San Francisco’s merchant princes built grand stores for a booming city,

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Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts

Saturday, September 26, 1:00 pm, Public Program  via Zoom – pre-registration required

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,

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Monthly Program:  Black History in Marin County

Sunday, September 20,  Monthly Program:  Black History in Marin County: From the Spaniards to the Great Migration

IHS member Marilyn Geary presented unique stories of Black individuals who made their marks amid the biases of a predominantly white society.

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Monthly Program: Exploring the Links between Tourism and War

Sunday, July 26,  2 pm: Mills College history professor emeritus and 40-year Institute member Bert Gordon presented  “Exploring the Links between Tourism and War, based on the research for Bert’s most recent book, War Tourism: Second World War France from Defeat and Occupation to the Creation of Heritage,

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Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment

A lecture with Elizabeth Pepin Silva
Sunday, August 16 2020 at 2:00 PM
via Zoom

Ms. Silva is a documentary filmmaker, photographer, writer, and former day manager of the historic Fillmore Auditorium. She grew up all around the Bay Area 

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The Coit Tower Murals: Visual Feast, Political Controversy, Decades of Neglect, and a Spectacular Restoration

A lecture with Professor Emeritus Robert Cherny
Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Presidio Interfaith Chapel

The murals at Coit Tower were completed 85 years ago, in the early summer of 1934. They were, at the time, the largest art project funded by the New Deal, and they influenced other New Deal art across the country.

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Monthly Program – Museum Exhibit Talk and Tour

Monthly Program for May: Exhibit Talk and Tour at the Richmond Museum of History

Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 2 pm

Richmond Museum of History, 400 Nevin Avenue, Richmond

Prof. Oliver B. Pollak will give a talk and a tour of the exhibit:  Pioneers to the Present,

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South Asians in the South Bay

Friday, September 28  12:00 pm to 1:00 pm:  South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants – with Jeevan Zutshi

profile_jeevan2Offered in partnership with the Indo-American Community Federation and the Mechanics’ Institute, IACF founder Jeevan Zutshi will talk about the South Asian community that has developed in Fremont,

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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, June 9, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. Pam Peirce will present.

Public Programs

Sunday, August 21, 2:00 pm, Public Program via Zoom.
Writing and Revising Narrative History
A Presentation by Megan Kate Nelson
Join the Mechanics' Institute and the Institute for Historical Study for this exciting talk about writing with historian Megan Kate Nelson who left academia in 2014 to become a full-time writer. During this Zoom event, she will offer advice for writers who want to publish trade history books and other pieces for general readers. Dr. Nelson will talk about how to make the transition from academic to narrative history writing, how to revise manuscripts for trade publication, and how to pitch articles and Op-eds to newspapers and magazines.
Megan Kate Nelson is a historian and writer, with a BA from Harvard and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa. She is the author of four books: Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America (Scribner 2022); The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner 2020; a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History); Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012); and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia, 2005). She writes about the Civil War, the U.S. West, and American culture for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, and TIME. Before leaving academia to write full-time in 2014, she taught U.S. history and American Studies at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. She grew up in Colorado but now lives in Boston with her husband and two cats.

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, June 16, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.
Judaism, Christianity, and War
A presentation by Dan Kohanski
At almost any moment in recorded history, someone, somewhere, is at war. While wars are fought for many different reasons, when religion gets involved, it can change everything. In this presentation, Dan Kohanski explores how Judaism developed its theology of war from the experiences of the early Israelites and their descendants down to Roman times. Then he shows how Christians built on that history, and added their own experiences and beliefs, to fashion an approach to war that continues to impact the world today. Dan Kohanski has spent a lifetime studying the history and development of Judaism and Christianity. His current book, A God of Our Invention: How Religion Shaped the Western World, was published in 2023 by Apocryphile Press. This presentation is based in large part on chapter 6 in that book: "When God Goes Off to War." You are welcome to invite friends and colleagues to attend.
The presentation will be recorded, and the question-and-answer part will be posted on YouTube for IHS members only. If you don’t want to be on the recording, just make sure your video is off. And please remember to mute your microphone!

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

Members' Recent Activities:

Peter Stansky, professor emeritus at Stanford, received the Peter Davison Award from the Orwell Society in recognition of “outstanding ability and contribution to the study of George Orwell.” The judges considered Professor Stansky’s ground-breaking investigations and publications over fifty years, which have continued into the present day with the publication of The Socialist Patriot: George Orwell and War (Stanford University Press, 2023) and Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press, 2020). “Virtual meetings have allowed Professor Stansky (who was 91 in 2023) to remain a major contributor to discussions and colloquia on Orwell, permitting readers and students from around the world to interact with him.” Peter notes that “the late Peter Davison was the editor of the 20 volumes of the collected Orwell which made it possible for me to continue to work on Orwell without going to archives.”
Dot Brovarney’s seminal research on noted California native plant expert, Ukiahan Carl Purdy, will inform the upcoming issue of Eden, the journal of the California Garden and Landscape History Society. “My access to both personal and business records held by Purdy’s descendants enabled me to flesh out much of a fifty-year career which also included his work as a horticulturalist, nurseryman, writer, and
landscape designer.” Dot’s book, Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon, continues to sell well. Kirkus Reviews states “Brovarney deftly mixes regional history, ecology, and character studies of people who shaped and were shaped by the land, writing in lucid . . . prose dotted with flights of vivid
lyricism.” To read the complete review, see Mendocino Refuge at www.KirkusReviews.com.
Nathan Foxton reports that he is “showing work in the group show “The Big Softie” at Soft
Times Gallery, 905 Sutter Street, February 1 - 24. It opens February 1st, 6-9pm during the First
Thursday Art Walk of the lower Polk and Tenderloin neighborhoods. I am facilitating a professional practices group for artists at my studio in the 1890 Bryant Street Studios building in addition to organizing collector tours with studio visits and artist talks.”
Joe C. Miller will be teaching a class on women’s history in the College of Marin Community Education program, “Wild Women Suffragists—A Forgotten Side of Women’s History.” The class meets weekly, on Thursday evenings, 7:10 - 8:30, starting February 1 and ending on the 29th (no class on the 22nd). Joe
will also give a talk at the Merced branch of the San Francisco Public Library on Saturday, February 17. He reports that his recent talk on the subject at Mary’s Woods Retirement Community near Portland, Oregon was well received.
The discovery of a cabinet found on a San Francisco street containing hundreds of old Kodachrome slides of early Bart construction, city agencies, and family photos from the 1960s prompted Tim Welsh to add to his collection on his website “San Francisco Film Locations Then & Now.” Tim writes: “I took current photographs at the approximate location of some of the vintage slides of BART construction along Market Street in 1967 and 1968 for a comparison.” See the BART slides here; for the full story of the discovery of the Kodachrome slides see https://www.sfmemory.org/TiffanyCabinet/.Leslie Friedman reports that she has been writing reviews of historical works and poetry. “Several of the poetry collections have significant historical content. For Wind—Mountain—Oak: The Poems of Sappho, a new translation, I needed to get back to very early Greek history, the burning of the Alexandrian library, and cultural developments that led to 18th- and 19th-century translations. I also traced Sappho’s lines—of which there are so few—in Walt Whitman lines and a J.D. Salinger title. Another book of poetry, membery, grew out of a woman channeling the lives of her grandparents during the Partition of India and Pakistan. It was a valuable window into the experiences of the Sikhs. The fate of Punjab, its language, religion, and customs, is seldom included in Partition histories. I also wrote about a novel, What Start Bad a Mornin, following Jamaican families to the United States.
Anne MacLachlan, researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), organized and spoke at a symposium in honor of the late Carroll Brentano, a long-time Institute member. “University History Past, Present and Future,” took place at the UC Berkeley Women’s Faculty Club on October 5, 2023. She notes: “Carroll’s work made major contributions to the history of the University of California. She firmly believed that a university and all those in it should know its own history. To that end she was the moving force in creating the University History Project in 1989 and launching two periodicals documenting the history of the University of California. ‘The purpose of creating the new series’ she wrote in the introduction to the Chronicles of the University of California was ‘to increase the store of institutional memory and thereby to revitalize institutional identity and enhance community.’ Now more than ever as documenting the history of the university seems to be on the decline, her purpose is even more significant. Several symposium speakers commemorated Carroll’s contributions. The program was concluded by Gia White, who spoke about the first African American students at Cal, based on an article she wrote for the campus project celebrating 150 years of women at Berkeley. Her article represents the mix of reflection and painstaking research which Carroll Brentano fostered during her lifetime.” A recording of the symposium is available at the CSHE website; find Gia White’s article here.

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