News Release - January 20, 2009

For Immediate Release: January 20, 2009


Michelle Jeffers (415) 557-4282 or

Genevieve Antaky, California Historical Society (510) 482-3553,

CLIR awards major grant to support the California Ephemera Project

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has awarded four San Francisco institutions a Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant of $247,738 to support the California Ephemera Project. The California Historical Society (CHS) will lead the project, collaborating with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBTHS); the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL); and the Society of California Pioneers (SCP). The California Ephemera Project will result in a searchable, online catalog linking the ephemera collections of all four institutions.

"This grant provides an exciting opportunity to bring some of our hidden treasures to light, offering a window onto the history of local ethnic communities, as well as social and political movements, among many other topics," said City Archivist Susan Goldstein.

"The ephemera files are some of San Francisco Public Library's most heavily-used collections, but people don't know they exist until they come into the History Center and ask for help at the desk."

The grant is funded by the Mellon Foundation and administered by the CLIR. "We were one of only 15 applications funded from a total of 118 applications. The size of the grant, its association with Mellon, and the national competition makes this one of the most competitive and prestigious grants that CHS has ever received and we are proud to be sharing it with the collaborating institutions," said California Historical Society Executive Director David Crosson.

The collections to be catalogued are comprised of materials that were created to be short-lived or discarded, such as brochures, catalogs, menus, billheads, mining certificates, theater programs, bylaws, political flyers, travel guides, wine labels, and more, but whose content and graphic richness are a historical and cultural resource for researchers. There is overlap in topics between the collections of the four institutions, yet many of the items themselves are unique. Often the only existing documentation for some topics, the material is relevant for research into 19th- and 20th-century California history.

Interest in ephemera by scholars and others is longstanding, yet the collections of ephemera are frequently 'hidden' within institutions because they are not adequately documented and cataloged. The four institutions view the California Ephemera Project as the first step toward greater public access to these collections. The records and descriptions this program creates will be available online, exposing the collections to a global audience of scholars, students, and teachers.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit, organization whose mission is to expand access to information, however recorded and preserved, as a public good. Through publications, projects, and programs, CLIR works to maintain and improve access to information for generations to come. In partnership with other institutions, CLIR helps create services that expand the concept of "library" and supports the providers and preservers of information. Information about CLIR and its work is available at

The California Historical Society (CHS) was founded in 1871. A non-profit, membership organization, CHS is the state's official historical society and is privately funded. Its mission is to inspire and empower Californians to make the past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives. For more information, visit

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