Saturday, April 15, 2006

The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum

We visited the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum last week to see the "Harlem of the West" exhibit (More about that in the next post) and discovered this little known resource. The name of the library says it all. It archives information on the history of the performing arts of San Francisco, from circuses to opera, a portion of which is online. You will find performance recordings, photographs and information on individuals, theatres and companies.

They display their collections in a series of galleries using the halls of the 4th floor surrounding the Herbst Theatre. Currently, one hall displays a history of theatre, which I know nothing about. The second hall is dedicated to an exhibition of photographs by Tom Zimberoff of 50 world renowned conductors. These dynamic black and white portraits capture the personalities of both the conductors and the photographer.

Another gallery documents the history of San Francisco in song, displaying original sheet music of any song that uses the city as a theme. The artwork of this old sheet music is captivating.

Gallery I is dedicated to the "Harlem of the West" exhibit (on view until June 10th) and features pictures from the book of the same name, a video and background music documenting the life and times of the people, the architecture and especially the jazz clubs of the post war Fillmore district. See my next post for more on this.

The Library and Museum are well hidden on the 4th floor of the Veteran's building at 401 Van Ness Ave in San Francisco. This is the same building that houses the Herbst Theatre, is next to the Opera House and across the street from City Hall. The old site of Kimball's is a block away (Lori and I had our first date there) as is Max's Opera Cafe and A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, all favorite places to hang.

Open hours are limited, Wednesday to Friday from 11am to 5pm and Saturday from 1pm to 5pm. Check the web site for scheduled closures. If the lobby guard tells you the Library is closed, ignore them and look for yourself. The elevators are the only access to the 4th floor and only one of them may be unlocked to go that high. Try them both.

The Library is non profit and you can leave a donation if you like, but what they appreciate most is if you can contribute something real, from artifacts to identifying the many unknown people and places in their collection of photographs. Check it out, you will be glad you did and while you are there, stick your head in the Green Room on the second floor for a little eye candy. Maybe you've played a wedding there before.

SFPALM web site
Harlem of the West exhibit


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