May 26, 2015
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Exhibitions, Programs and Events at the California Historical Society. 
Historic Techniques
A new program series about the intersection of art, science, and history.
The California Historical Society proudly presents Historic Techniques, a new program series bringing California artists, playwrights, photographers and scientists to share their projects and illuminate the connections between history, art, and science. Each month our speakers will join in conversation with a colleague - a fellow artist, historian, or curator - who will ask pertinent questions and respond to both the speaker’s presentation and their body of work.  

From rediscovering historic sound recordings, creating shadow boxes of personal family heirlooms, to tintypes of diverse cultures and Servicemen, join us at our San Francisco Headquarters each month from June through November for a new way to look at the intersection of art, science, and history.
What do we hold onto? What do we let go of?
Arc:Hive and A Moment (Un)Bound

Thursday, June 4, 6:30 PM
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“Archivists Ella and Lucy have a knack for preserving paper ephemera. While they are teaching Tom to sort this from that, mysterious book sprites throw a monkey wrench into the World Archive's Ephemerarium, and expose family secrets. Will they each find what they need to find? Or will they all get stuck in the past?”

Interdisciplinary artist Lessa Bouchard presents about the process of creating the ensemble written play A Moment (Un)Bound. This play explores the tension between the analog and digital, our desire to remember, to preserve, share and protect the artifacts of the past and the need to experience things firsthand, for ourselves, in the present.
The Walls Have Eyes: Animating Public Spaces
Wednesday, July 1, 6:30 PM
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Visual artist Ben Wood’s lecture demonstration will center on two historic episodes in San Francisco's history. The first, a documentary/performance about British photographer Eadweard Muybridge - via a magic lantern - will bring the audience back to the experimental period of the 1870s when Muybridge captured the horse in motion, produced an unprecedented San Francisco panorama, and seemingly got away with murder.

The second show-and-tell will focus on a 10 year long project to reveal an 18th century mural hidden behind the altar at San Francisco de Asis.
The Photo as Object and Object as Photo
Thursday, August 6, 6:30 PM
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Tim Pinault uses historical photography techniques to change the context of objects fraught with personal and cultural meaning. Interested in how photographs become cultural objects, Pinault will focus on how photographs are not only representations, but objects themselves. The medium itself can the alter the meaning of the photograph.
History Through Tin-Types
Thursday, September 3, 6:30 PM
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Ed Drew's first body of work involved photographing his unit in Afghanistan - using the photographic technique of wet plate tintype. Created in between missions as a combat search and rescue gunner on helicopters, this collection of photographs were the first made of American soldiers in war since the Civil War.

For his most recent work he was commissioned by the Klamath tribes of Oregon in conjunction with Klamath Tribal Health services (which included Modoc tribal members who were relocated from their homelands in Tule Lake California after the Modoc War in 1873). This work speaks of a reflection of the past to show the progression of the contemporary, while redefining the tribal peoples definition of self as strong proud individuals.
Aura and the Spectacle of Light
Thursday, October 1, 6:30 PM
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Electrophotography. St. Elmo’s Fire. Kirlean imaging. All are names for an unusual type of photography in which a high voltage electromagnetic discharge is used to expose film directly, without a camera. Filmmaker and photographer Kerry Laitala will present a lecture tracing this process to its origins in the 1880s, when Nikola Tesla captured images of his ‘Tesla Coil’, discussing some of the beliefs that have sprung up around the process, and demonstrating how she utilizes it in her contemporary art practice.

Since 2010 Laitala has been exploring this process to create a body of work residing at the intersection between science and superstition, belief and manifestation. She electrifies materials ranging from vintage letter-press blocks to Mexican “Milagros” that are often left at churches and other places of worship. These objects, in the shape of hearts, legs, and kneeling forms, become talismans to help people with ailments, and to fulfill their desires. Laitala will show examples of these works as well as a video shot in her South of Market studio where she shows how she electrifies the objects to bring out the discharge, leaving its luminous trace on the surface of the film.
Seeing Voices: Using Light to Restore and Preserve Early Sound Recordings
Thursday, November 5, 6:30 PM
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Carl Haber is an experimental physicist and Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His career has focused on the development of instrumentation and methods for detecting and measuring particles created at high energy colliders, including Fermilab in the United States and at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.  Since 2002 he, and his colleagues, have also been involved in aspects of preservation science, applying methods of precision measurement and data analysis to early recorded sound restoration.  

Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877.  Until about 1950, when magnetic tape use became common, most recordings were made on mechanical media such as wax, foil, shellac, lacquer, and plastic.  Some of these older recordings contain material of great historical interest, may be in obsolete formats, and are damaged, decaying, or are now considered too delicate to play.

Unlike print and latent image scanning, the playback of mechanical sound carriers has been an inherently invasive process.  Recently, a series of techniques, based upon non-contact optical metrology and image processing, have been applied to create and analyze high resolution digital surface profiles of these materials.  Numerical methods may be used to emulate the stylus motion through such a profile in order to reconstruct the recorded sound. 

A number of recordings of particular relevance to early 20th Century California have been restored using this approach.  Included is a recording of Jack London from 1915 and a variety of California Native American field recordings. A new project is now also underway at the University of California at Berkeley to digitize the 2700 Native American wax field recordings collected by Prof. Alfred Kroeber and co-workers.

The technical approach, the California collections, as well as studies of some of the earliest known sound recordings, are the focus of this talk and will be illustrated with sounds and images.

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Virginia Stephens letter to Hon. James Rolph, Jr., James Rolph, Jr. papers, MS 1818, California Historical Society. 

Opening of Base Ball Season 1912, Recreation Park, San Francisco, Cal. April 2 1912, Seals vs Oaks, Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, courtesy, California Historical Society.