Blog Archives

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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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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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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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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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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Upcoming Events

Sunday, January 12,  1:30 pm, Writers Group, at the home of TBD. Cathy Robbins will present.

Sunday, January 19, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program, details to come. Oliver Pollak will present.

Tuesday, January 21, 1:00 pm, Play Readers Group, at the home of Phyllis Maxwell in San Francisco. We will finish reading Long Day's Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill.

Sunday, February 16, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program, at the home of Nancy Zinn in San Francisco: Exploring an Urban Legend: San Francisco 1923  - Monika Trobits

World War I had ended and the Depression was still a decade away. In between were the 1920s . . . the “Roaring Twenties,” a time of optimism and prosperity. A “New Woman” emerged during the ‘20s when women received the right to vote while the birth of public radio broadcasting led to the “Jazz Age.” The decade began with Prohibition and a new president, who installed the first radio in the White House in 1922. The following year, he and his wife came to San Francisco. In her illustrated presentation, Monika will enliven the era as she explores the circumstances of that visit and the local urban legend that arose out of it against the backdrop of the city as it was in the early 1920s. Her talk will be a visual augmentation of the two-part article she wrote for the IHS newsletter.

Saturday, February 29,  Annual Meeting, with four short talks by new members.

Member News

Welcome to our newest members: Elise Ackerman, Kevin Knauss, Pam Peirce, and Anne Schnoebelen. Learn about them under Member Profiles.

Members' Recent Activities:

Taryn Edwards has an article in the latest Argonaut (Journal of the San Francisco Historical Society) on “Before the Midwinter Fair: The Mechanics’ Institute’s ‘Pacific Rim’ Industrial Exhibitions of 1869 and 1871."

In October Peter Stansky and his co-author Fred Leventhal are publishing with the Oxford University Press Leonard Woolf: Bloomsbury Socialist. In April, Peter published an “Afterword” to Elisabeth de Waal’s Milton Place (Persephone Books), a novel written shortly after the war but hitherto unpublished. “It came to light through a meeting I had with her grandson, Edmund de Waal, author of the highly regarded memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes.”

Christopher L. Webber has just published Christian Psalms for Worship and Prayer. “The
traditional psalms written between two and three thousand years ago are an irreplaceable treasure,” Christopher writes, “but they can create problems for modern users. They come from an age unimaginably different from ours and take for granted patterns of life unfamiliar to most of us. To supplement, not replace, these psalms, I have taken passages from the writings of some of the greatest Christian teachers of every era, for example, St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and restructured them in the poetic style of the Biblical psalms which rhyme ideas, rather than sounds, to provide texts that can be used either in formal worship or in private meditation.”

In May, as part of the series of talks for the Supporters of the Museum of Russian Culture, Maria Sakovich presented “Russian Choral Music in San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s: Cultural Riches and Cultural Sharing.” She was very pleased to have Rob Robbins in the audience. In the June 22 issue of Russian Life her talk from last year in the same series was published with photos: “Last Steps of a Long Journey – First Steps of a New Life” (part of a panel presentation about the USAT Merritt’s 1923 Russian refugee-emigrant passengers). Anatol Smelov kindly translated the article from English to Russian.

Ann Harlow wrote an article about the history of Berkeley’s City Hall for the Berkeley Historical Society newsletter and is working with a group on a self-guided history walking tour of Solano Avenue. She recently attended the Conference of California Historical Societies in Placerville, as did Peter Meyerhof.

Jody/Judith Offer writes that she is “enjoying readings and some sales of her new
‘soon-to-become-history’ chapbook, The Grating of America, about the disastrous consequences of our current administration and some of the people fighting it. Copies are available at several bookstores in Oakland and Berkeley and online. If you have any ideas for bookstores, clubs, or churches/synagogues that might schedule a reading, please contact me."

Congratulations to Our 2018 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Jim Gasperini, for editing and other expenses in preparation of a book manuscript with the working title Fire in the Mind: How We Imagined the Non-Living Relative that Gave Us Control of the World.
Richard Hurley, to revise and reprint panels of a traveling exhibit, California in the Civil War.
Joe Miller, for research, editing and illustrations for an article, “Wild Women Suffragists and the Sex Scandals that Almost Sank the Movement.”

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

Contact Us

Institute for Historical Study
P.O. Box 5743
Berkeley, CA 94705
info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org

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