Tuesday, August 9, 2011

San Francisco Subject Cards

In between blogging, facebooking and tweeting, the San Francisco History Center staff has been working on an "old school" project. The subject card files-- which have been adoringly described in previous blog entries-- were moved from the back stacks, staff-only area into the reference room, so that researchers can have self-serve access to the cards.  On your next visit to the San Francisco History Center, please browse the subject cards, especially for the tactile experience of flipping through paper cards!   


The card files are an archive in and of themselves.  Upon creation of the San Francisco History Center in 1964 (then known as the Californiana Collection / San Francisco History Room), the Center inherited the San Francisco and California subject card file trays from the Reference Department.  The earliest subject cards are from the 1910s, when a hiring qualification was based on the quality of penmanship.

The handwritten cards are interfiled with the typed cards that have continued to grow over the last 100 years.  The cards include citations to newspapers, periodicals, and books.  Many times, a small clipping had been glued onto the card.
The subject cards cover general subjects such as associations, buildings, businesses, schools, restaurants, and transportation, but within each general subject are cards for individual hotels, businesses, restaurants, and MUNI lines. Before moving the cards into the reference room, hours were spent ensuring that the cards were in order, citations were legible, and that cards with oversize clippings folded into them were pulled out and incorporated into the San Francisco Ephemera Collection.    

Some of our blog readers may be regular users of our biographical card files; please note that these have been moved to the other side of the cabinet, opposite the subject cards. Now, when you want a break from pointing and clicking for San Francisco people, places, and things, you can visit the San Francisco History Center in person to rummage and rifle to your heart's content!

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