We've all got memories of the good old days, but when was the last time you saw some evidence that they happened?
The prolific digital media, like home movies, TV broadcasts and radio shows of last century created a sea of ephemera that captured life in California. It's recent history, sure, but it's also important cultural knowledge, according to archivists, and preserving it is a race against time.
An anonymous YouTube channel called "California Nostalgia" and a TikTok account with a similar username and branding have been posting an extensive archive of niche clips from California broadcasts from the '50s through the '90s since the early days of the pandemic.
The box doesn't lie, but the archives' glimpses into the recent past aren't just the highlights. They're records of the quirky slices-of-life that make up Bay Area culture.
The accounts post footage from old advertisements, television broadcasts and home movies from the Bay Area and, sometimes, even Los Angeles. Each clip is short, in the ballpark of about 30 seconds to two and a half minutes — but they cover a huge range of topics.
One features KTVU's "Captain Cosmic," a popular local kid's show from the late 1970's. Another broadcast reports on the closure of a guerrilla urban farm under Highway 101 on Potrero St. Many showcase San Francisco's old political theater — putting a casino on The Rock, for example.
The clips speak for themselves, aside from a brief description by the curator — usually just a title for the video. Some of the footage includes references to local news stations, but they are all otherwise unsourced.
The Examiner reached out for comment from the pages' curator, but did not receive a response at time of press. But it's not the only media preservation hub on the internet.
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The state library has an ongoing project called California Revealed (which "cali_nostalgia" follows on TikTok) that contains a massive, publicly available digital archive of historic audio and visual media from around California. The project helps institutions digitize their analog media — like cassettes, slides and anything else — in order to preserve them before time takes its destructive toll.
So far, the site resembles a dense, well-organized stack of books. But director Pamela Vadakan has plans to make it more "inviting" — mapping collections on a timeline and creating a geographic tool, for starters.
She hopes that it will soon be a major resource in classrooms around the state.
"We're trying to make it an exploratory space," she said. "Right now, we're challenged in that, but we want these collections to get in the hands of students and educators. We're hoping to get the word out with teachers that we have this amazing resource."
All of the files come from accredited public institutions like libraries, historical societies and museums. The documents range from footage from protests to oral history interviews to lost films, but almost any keywords on the website yields at least a few pieces of interesting flotsam.
The very first result for "donuts," for example, is a short story from a longtime Benicia resident recounting many "warm summer nights in the '80s" where he and his friends would get late-night donuts from the back door of a local joint called Scotty's.
Vadakan explained that what goes in the archive is up to the owners of the donation.
"Our focus is California arts, history and culture, which is intentionally broad definition," she said. "We want our partner organizations to tell us what is important and valuable to their communities."
The academic integrity of pieces like this and the ones posted on "cali_nostaliga" can be minimal, but they're recorded nonetheless. It makes people feel seen, Vadakan explained.
"It is really meant anyone to enjoy. It's intended for all Californians to see themselves," she said. "We are trying our best to expand the historical narrative of California by collaborating with as many people as we can."