Photos preserved at Bayview Library to archive neighborhood life over the decades

A family reuniting for Father’s Day in 1967. Churchgoers gathering in 1968. A girl playing softball in 2002.

Those images and dozens more — some taken as early as the 1930s and all depicting life in the Bayview-Hunters Point area — were captured for future generations at the first Shades of San Francisco event in seven years, held at the San Francisco Public Library’s Bayview branch on Sunday.

Nearly two dozen residents hauled personal photo albums to the library to have pictures scanned and preserved in the library’s archives for the community history photography project, which collects pictures to fill in the gaps of the 2 million photos already archived at the San Francisco History Center on the sixth floor of the Main Library.

Memories documented at the Bayview branch included church events, weddings, work life, retirement parties and school events that highlight the cultural history of the Bayview-Hunters Point area, said Christina Moretta, the library’s photo curator. Some of the pictures, too old and delicate to remove from their albums, were carefully photographed instead of scanned.

“These are just everyday, man-on-the-street, neighborhood photographs that you don’t find anywhere but these collections,” said Jeff Thomas, a photo desk assistant at the library.

The Shades of San Francisco project began in 1998 following a similar project in Los Angeles, Moretta said. Since then, the archival effort has generated more than 1,000 photos from five other neighborhoods; the Western Addition, the Sunset district, the Mission district, the Oceanview-Merced-Ingleside area and an LGBT-themed collection in the Castro district.

“People are interested in the history of Bayview-Hunters Point,” Moretta said. “But we didn’t have anything documenting the people. We just have exteriors of the shipyards and that type of thing, but not everyday life.”

It’s especially important to depict how the area once thrived, said sisters Eldoris Cameron and Mae Threadgill, who noted the Bay Area Census indicates that the black population has declined each decade since 1970, reaching 6.1 percent in 2010.

“I really felt a part of San Francisco,” said Cameron, who retired from her post in 2000 as an assistant principal in the San Francisco Unified School District. “We were immersed in clubs and organizations, and the church was very active. Everybody was employed.”

Jonique K. Green, 26, a city planner for San Francisco who also brought photos of her childhood in the Bayview-Hunters Point, said sharing the pictures from the Bayview was important to the black community, which has a rich history in San Francisco that hasn’t been consistently documented.

“It brings attention to the value of us being here,” said Green, a third-generation San Francisco resident. “It really opens up people’s minds in saying, ‘I’m important. My history is important.’”

The photos also help preserve memories of what Green called the more diverse times of San Francisco in the 1990s and early 2000s — before housing rates began to skyrocket as The City wended its way out of the Great Recession.

The 100 or so photos collected from the 22 donors Sunday will be made available to the public online and in print by June 30, Moretta said.

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