About the Project

Project Summary
Project Staff
San Francisco Examiner Photographic Negatives

Processing of the San Francisco Examiner photographic print collection is part of an ongoing project to provide access to the entire San Francisco Examiner photograph archive (or "photo morgue", in newspaper parlance), which was donated to the Bancroft Library in 2006. The project is funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

The photographic prints project began in 2010 and will continue for two years, at which time the collection will be made available for use by researchers in the Bancroft Library reading room. Staff for the project consists of the project archivist and two assistant processors, with additional assistance from several full time staff members in the Pictorial Unit of the Bancroft Library. A parallel effort is providing improved description of the estimated 3.6 million negatives that are also part of the Examiner archive.

The photographic print portion of the archive is estimated to include over one-million images, and is housed in over 1,000 record storage cartons and oversized boxes. Due to changes in custody prior to its donation the collection arrived at the library in some disarray. The first task of the staff is to restore the collection's original order. This includes re-filing loose photographs into their original envelopes and arranging envelopes and folders into their respective series in alphabetical order. Those interested in seeing photographs of the collection's condition and the work done to restore its original order may find them on the staff blog.

After returning the collection to its original order the file headings are entered into a database, which will become a searchable finding aid on the Online Archive of California (OAC). While the file labels are generally self-explanatory, a portion of the collection, primarily photographs that concern the history of the San Francisco Bay Area and California, will receive brief additional descriptions in the finding aid.

Dates of the photographs in the print collection range over almost a century from the 1910's to the early 2000's and provide an interesting visual narrative of history from a journalistic perspective. In addition to the usual topics of crime, natural disasters, sports, and politics, the photographs provide a record of civic life, scientific and technological breakthroughs, and the activities of early and mid- 20th century society women among many other things. A small sample of the types of images to be found in the collection is being posted to the staff blog, with frequent updates.

Project Staff:
Michele Morgan, Project Archivist
Tessa Updike, Processing Assistant
Christina Mune, Processing Assistant (January - March 2011)
Lu Ann Sleeper, Processing Assistant
Beth Shippey, Processing Assistant
James Eason, Principal Pictorial Archivist

San Francisco Examiner Photographic Negatives
There are approximately 3,600,000 photographic negatives, dates ranging from ca. 1929 to 2000. The collection consists of local news photographs taken by staff of the Examiner, a major San Francisco daily newspaper. The vast majority of the negative files record local persons and events in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Included are all the topics typically found in local news coverage, including politics, state and local government, society, sports, visiting dignitaries and celebrities, fashion, the arts, crime, accidents, transportation, urban and suburban development, and human interest stories. The negative files are not limited to images that were published in the newspaper; the majority was never printed.

Negative files are open for research, by appointment only, in the reading room of The Bancroft Library.


April 4, 2006
Announcement by the Fang Family and the SF Newspaper Company LLC of donation of the San Francisco Examiner archives to the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley.

May-June 2006
Gift agreement finalized and executed.

June 2006
The Bancroft Library takes possession of the collection, moving it from San Francisco to Berkeley.

June 2006-April 2007
Bancroft Library staff re-assigned part-time to begin organizing and surveying photographic archives, and to assess and separate any hazardous film stock present.

July 2006
Submitted preservation grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities to rehouse the collection.

May 2007
NEH grant funds awarded to support two year project with full time staff to house negatives and transfer them to cold storage.

Spring 2007
Separation of hazardous nitrate negatives and transfer to off-site freezer storage completed.

November 2007
Glass negative rehousing completed.

August 2008
In-house scanning of earliest negatives begins.

September 14, 2008
"Twenty-five Years in Black & White: Negatives from the Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Photograph Archive, 1935 to 1960" exhibition opens in the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery in the Doe Library.

October 2008
Pilot project to scan 10,000 nitrate negatives (circa 1934) begins.

April 2009
Boxing of 3.6 million safety negatives completed. Work continues to put high-interest negatives in archival sleeves and to describe contents of files.

June 2009
Received a Save America's Treasures grant to continue preservation housing of negatives and reformat some of the most unstable and important (2009-2011).

November 30 2009
The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) announced a "Hidden Collections" grant awarded to further support description of negative files plus arrangement and description of the Examiner's surviving photographic print files (2010-2012).

July 13, 2010
Online guide to the negative files of the San Francisco Examiner released on the Online Archive of California. Negative files are open for research, by appointment only, in the reading room of The Bancroft Library.

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Last updated 03/31/11. Questions & Comments