Thursday, August 21, 2014

Los Angeles Archives, II

In my previous post I showed you an impressive room at the Los Angeles Archives. I think of that room as "The Organized Room." It's awesome in the true sense of the word.
Perhaps even more awesome is "The Disorganized Room." This one's a vault. Many of the files are ancient by California standards, some are of more recent memory. Some are in need of repair, some just need to be organized. There are photos, paintings, memorabilia and documents. Michael Holland, the Los Angeles Archivist who gave me a tour, has a big job on his hands. So did the Archivist before him. So will the Archivist to come after. There is so much here it will never be finished. "I'm in danger of learning something new every day that I come to work," said Michael.


Before 1877, all court documents were written in Spanish, by hand. This document is from 1850.

After 1877, legal documents began to be written in, or translated into, English.

 
I offered to take this old library shelving cart off the City's hands if it was taking up too much space. My offer was not accepted.

See that red tank behind the cart? It contains halon gas, a fire retardant used in spaces where a sprinkler system would do too much damage. If there should be a fire, the halon gas comes down from above and suppresses the oxygen in the room to keep the documents from catching fire. If that ever happens, the tanks would not be refilled with halon in the future because halon is now outlawed. LA still has it because it's never been deployed.

If you're working in the depths of the vault, you have 30 seconds to get out before there's no oxygen left. I couldn't forget that the whole time I was there.

More to come. I have a few more pictures to show you from the vault.

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You can visit the Los Angeles Archives, too. (You even can see some records online.) If you want a tour, just call for an appointment. If you want to see a specific document, you need to call ahead for that, too, so the document can be found and retrieved for you.

Michael can often be heard on KPCC's Off Ramp with John Rabe, Saturdays 12-1pm and Sundays 6-7pm. Thanks to Anne Louise Bannon for setting up the tour and coming with me.

28 comments:

LOLfromPasa said...

This is just amazing. I will never complain about that large box of photographs I have to sort...! I am so impressed at the size and volume of information that has been saved. Imagine the treasurers of information just waiting to be discovered. Marvelous photographs, Petrea!

William Kendall said...

The 1850 document really strikes my interest, Petrea. Quite a place!

Petrea Burchard said...

I might go back and edit. The vault isn't entirely disorganized by any means. But its tendency for a jumble of stuff is fascinating.

Ann Erdman said...

I never knew about the court documents in Spanish. What a wonderful find! They didn't make you wear gloves?

altadenahiker said...

30 seconds? Oh, my lord.

Petrea Burchard said...

They didn't, Ann! I meant to ask Michael about gloves. I didn't touch the documents, but he did.

Really, Hiker. There are some crannies in that room that might be tough to get out of. But Michael says he can do it.

Ann Erdman said...

The first couple of years of Pasadena City Council minutes beginning in 1886 were hand-written with flourish. I had the pleasure of seeing them the first time in 1991 when I became Pasadena PIO and wanted to learn more about the city seal with the crown and the key and how it was decided upon. (A preposition is something you never end a sentence with.)

Petrea Burchard said...

Are those archived at the library or at the Museum, Ann?

Petrea Burchard said...

Or maybe I should say, where are those archived at?

TheChieftess said...

Where are the archives?

Petrea Burchard said...

They're just steps from Union Station. You know how if you come out one end you're at Olvera Street? At the other end you come out and cross Vignes Street, and at Vignes and Ramirez there's a large red brick building. This building houses the elections office, parking, and other records, and the Archives are there. Call first for an appointment, and they'll tell you how to enter the building.

TheChieftess said...

It's amazing the things I've learned from your blog about the area I've lived in most of my life, that I didn't know before!!!

Petrea Burchard said...

I've had some leisure to explore, Chieftess, and I love to do that. Also I think we're often more curious about a place when it's new to us. I wonder how many Parisians have never been to the Louvre?

Colonel Green said...

You clever minx!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

those scrap books on the history of the L.A.P.D. I could of used those. It seems as if sources of LA information are disconnected in a way thats not helpful. I'm thinking of the Highland park Police Museum... shouldn't these records be in that museum

just thinking out loud

Petrea Burchard said...

CG:!

PA, I have no idea how these things are decided. I understand there's also a county archive that's quite labyrinthine. Who knows what goes where?

TheChieftess said...

PA...My guess is that records are not necessarily museum fodder...TheChief used to be very involved in the Highland Park museum...I'll ask!!!

TheChieftess said...

TheChief contacted Glynn Martin, Executive Director of the LA Police Museum and referenced your blog post...Glynn responded saying that he knows Michael Holland well and has been to the archives many times!

savannah said...

WOW! and WOW AGAIN! I had no idea about the archives and I worked for a Councilwoman AND a Mayor! (OK, maybe I knew, but didn't realize I knew, but never, ever visited the place!) I'd love to see Parker's scrapbook! But, the handwriting in Spanish and English is gorgeous! Thank you, sugar! xoxox

Petrea Burchard said...

Chieftess, they probably share a lot of information and research. Thank you!

Savannah, thanks for visiting! I'm afraid handwriting is becoming a thing of the past. I know mine isn't as pretty as it used to be.

Ms M said...

So interesting! I'm enjoying going along on your tour.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Ms M!

Bellis said...

In England in the past, young men were educated to be hand-writers - I forget the actual name they were given. Their training lasted for years, and resulted in uniform and attractive writing, like the examples in your photos. It's a career path that's not much in demand any more.

Petrea Burchard said...

Scrivener, I think. Or scribe. The same thing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrivener

Pasadena Adjacent said...

When I look back it may actually be better that the papers aren't in any one place. In reality, I couldn't afford the museums 300 dollar an hour fee to look through their (behind the doors) materials.

Petrea Burchard said...

So scholarship is only available to the wealthy? That sucks.

Another reason to have them separated is practicality. If one archive is damaged, we don't lose all.

Dina said...

Fascinating things you tell us here.
Thirty seconds?! Here in my town we had 90 to get to the bomb shelter after a siren; I'll never complain again.
That handwriting you show is exactly the style they taught us in penmanship lessons in the 1950s in Chicago schools. But I have mostly stopped using the initial capital letters now, though, because younger people no longer recognize them. But then I wince every time I give in and mix printed letters with cursive.

Petrea Burchard said...

That's not much time, Dina. Are you near enough to Meitar's shelter to get there in 90 seconds?
I think we're losing handwriting as a useful daily tool. It's interesting to see such changes in our lifetime.