The fourth incarnation of Lost Landscapes of San Francisco played to a sold out house at the Herbst Theater with the chanteuse Suzanne Ramsey opening the evening with a selection of historical San Francisco songs including the 01926 gem Masculine Women Feminine Men.
Rick Prelinger prefaced the footage with a brief introduction to his archive, process, and most of all a request to go into your mother's attic to pull out any films that feature San Francisco or the Bay Area. The archive needs your footage. Prelinger then queued up over seventy minutes of historic San Francisco footage starting with a heart stopping landing by an auto-gyro in City Hall Plaza. As always the audience was encouraged to participate by shouting both questions and answers posed by each segment. This year they were also bolstered by a trio of San Francisco city history buffs: Gray Brechin, Ed Holmes and Woody LaBounty, each with a particular angle on the city. New to the collection this year was wonderful multi-generational family footage from the Gee family who were also in the audience. In the question period at the end Stewart Brand asked what we should be doing now for the archivists of the future, Ricks answer, "shoot gas stations not flowers".
Most archives and libraries put up access barriers in response to copyright laws. In contrast Rick has attacked the vast amount of work that is either out of copyright, or left in the ambiguous gray zones, like home movies. We have always been told that there is no economic case for archives, the Prelinger Archive and Library not only upends that notion, but proves that access is the key, not protection.
Rick Prelinger's archive contains hundreds of historical films showing San Francisco and Northern California history, the history of technology and industry, and everyday life. For future Lost Landscapes programs, he's looking for films and footage showing San Francisco and Northern California history, especially home movies and material shot by hobbyists or amateurs. He's interested in material that can become part of his archives, and will consider paying to copy footage of historical interest. He's reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.-- by Alexander Rose