News

Nov 10, 2020

A Librarian’s Update on Our New Home

Despite pandemic restrictions, the Archive’s Collections Team is actively (and safely) making our new space feel like home.

The calm before the storm. A look at the new vault and staff workspace soon after the buildout was finally complete and before the big move began.

As you may have heard, we moved to a new space in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood in September. Like a lot of things this year, it didn't come easy, but it feels like a fresh start. At our original location in Potrero Hill, we were just plain out of room — for desks, for books, for collections care projects. Despite turning every corner and closet available into bookcases, our shelves were overflowing. We had to keep incoming collections in boxes after processing them, because we didn't have a linear inch to spare.

In September 2020, Letterform Archive moved to our new home at the American Industrial Center on Third Street in San Francisco. Here is the six-day process of shelving “the stacks”, where most of the collection is stored.

What it looks like to do collections projects during a pandemic.

While we continue to remain closed to the public during this stage of the pandemic, the Collections Team is using this time to settle materials that never had a proper place in our old space. (Our time onsite is in accordance with city guidelines and COVID safety protocols, of course!) I cannot begin to express how incredible it is to have sufficient flat file capacity.

Our Collections Associate Paola Zanol has embarked on a poster sorting project that will make most of our posters available to researchers and tour guests for the first time ever. We’re installing new flip bins that will finally hold all of our type ephemera. (We had to keep a lot of them in boxes, too.) And the shelves in our stacks have some room to grow for the first time in years.

Happy books and posters go into their new shelves and drawers, each with a temporary label. The extra flat file capacity will allow us to pull posters that were once virtually inaccessible.

Our new dedicated processing area means that we’ll no longer have to choose between setting a table for a tour or using the reading room to survey a donation. I have no illusions about the amount of work ahead of us. With well over 60,000 objects and counting, it’s a lot. But the Collections Team is here for it. Knowing that our collection will be the most accessible that it has ever been when we open our new doors to the public is exciting and motivating. We cannot wait to welcome first-time visitors and for our local and traveling friends to hold books and view posters that they never knew we had.

Collections Associate Paola Zanol checks the stacks after the move. In the foreground is a run of Redfoxpress’s C’EST MON DADA series of handmade books.

We’re so grateful to everyone who makes this massive effort possible by supporting the fundraising campaign, sponsoring a shelf, or simply by being a member. We’re thrilled to share this new home with you — even if it has to be through our computer screens for a while. Stay tuned to hear about some new ways to get a closer look.

Kate Long, Librarian