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Examiner archives to Cal
5 million items biggest donation ever to UC Berkeley library
- Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
The archives of the San Francisco Examiner, including millions of photos documenting California and the Bay Area in the 20th century and invaluable bound copies of every edition of the daily paper published from 1888 to 1956, are being donated to UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.
The donation, made up of more than 5 million items, will be the largest in the library's 100-year history and one of the largest in-kind gifts ever made to UC Berkeley, library Director Charles Faulhaber said Tuesday.
"This is huge in every sense of the word," he said.
The gift will more than double the size of the Bancroft's photographic print collection and triple the collection of negatives in a library already considered the world's largest storehouse of California and Western history.
Library officials had been aware of the archives since the Hearst Corp. sold the Examiner to the Fang family in 2000. The Fangs in turn sold the newspaper to Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2004.
"We've desperately wanted it come to the Bancroft," Faulhaber said.
Known as the Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Archives, the gift is being donated by the Anschutz Corp. and its subsidiary, the SF Newspaper Co.
Fang family members said Tuesday that the university's high academic standards and tolerant spirit played a major part in the decision.
"UC Berkeley is the world's highest-achieving academic university," family matriarch Florence Fang said. "I really admire UC Berkeley's spirit -- openness, tolerance."
Her son, James Fang, who along with his two brothers graduated from Cal, noted the irony of the Examiner being donated in the name of a Chinese American family.
"The Examiner really had a history of anti-Chinese bias in the past, and now you have a Chinese American family donating the archive to a university that has embraced the diversity of the world," he said.
Thomas Leonard, the university's librarian, said: "There's kind of a moral here -- that prejudice can yield to good sense and tolerance."
The archives include prints and negatives dating from 1919 to the late 1990s, the newsroom's clipping file and 850 leather-bound volumes of Examiner editions from 1888 to 1956.
James Fang noted that the gift will give scholars access to the work of such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain and Jack London.
The photographic record covers "essentially the 20th century," Faulhaber said. "Every major story the Examiner covered."
"This has got Jonestown. It's got the Loma Prieta quake," he said. "It's got the Free Speech Movement, World War II, the 1934 waterfront strike."
The materials stretched end to end span 3,000 linear feet, or more than a half-mile of shelf space. They will be moved bit by bit from the Examiner's building in San Francisco to a university warehouse in Richmond, where they will be cataloged and eventually made part of the library's resources on campus.
Library officials hope to digitize much of the collection so it is available to the public online.
From its start under William Randolph Hearst, the Examiner had one of the most comprehensive libraries in the business.
"He wanted a good library because this was his flagship paper and the love of his life as far as newspapers," said former Examiner head librarian Judy Canter.
Professional librarians clipped every item, no matter how small. Everything was cataloged for easy retrieval by reporters on deadline.
The paper also kept comprehensive picture archives on regional topics such as the building of the state freeway system, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and the San Francisco beatnik and hippie scenes.
"And of course the pictures of national and international figures -- the British royal family, Hitler, FDR." Canter said. "And all the wars? Oh, my God, the First World War and Second War files -- they're fabulous."
Faulhaber predicted the photo archive will prove a boon to scholars.
"Increasingly in scholarly research people are making use of pictorial materials not just to illustrate articles but actually to see how particular events are covered," he said.
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©2006 San Francisco Chronicle