Mustn’t Miss Display at Our Museum – and On Market St.

Treasures poster.jpg

Poster of 1914 image by John Henry Mentz, part of the Treasures From the Muni Archive Display on Market Street and (in this case) at our museum on Steuart Street, very close to the spot where this image was taken.

As part of Muni’s centennial year activities, Mayor Ed Lee has unveiled a new, multi-faceted display that brings the history of Market Street, and its transit, to life. Part of it centers on our San Francisco Railway Museum. SFMTA (Muni’s parent) has partnered with us (Market Street Railway) and with the online non-profit Historypin, to create a cool window into our storied main street’s past.

It’s all based on Muni’s photo archives, long unavailable to the public, but now coming into view, thanks to the efforts of archivist/photographer Heather Moran. Our museum features a wall of fantastic large blow-ups of shots taken by Muni photographers (and their counterpart at the old United Railroads, John Henry Mentz) over the past 110 years. Outside the museum, more great archival photos, tied to our physical location — just across from the Ferry Building and its famed streetcar loop (preceded by a colossal cable car turntable before the 1906 earthquake and fire).

But that’s just the beginning of the show. On many Muni passenger shelters along the downtown part of Market Street, you’ll find historic photographs of that very location screened onto the glass itself. Each one of these has a QR code, which, if you scan it with your app-equipped mobile phone, will take you to a spot on the Historypin site that shows you more photos of that same location over the decades. (Don’t worry; if you don’t have all that capability, you can see all the photos linked to the shelters in one place.) Additionally, SFMTA has set up a supporting photo archive site.

In announcing the exhibit, Mayor Lee said, “San Francisco is excited to launch the ‘Treasures from the Muni Archive’ exhibit to engage the City about Muni’s rich past and begin the celebration of Muni’s centennial. The high-tech features of this exhibit make history come alive and represent San Francisco’s commitment to innovation.”

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin added, “With nearly 30,000 photos in the SFMTA archive, we are pleased to have such a unique way to share them with residents and visitors. We are grateful to our long-standing partner, MSR, and one of our newest partners, Historypin, for making this exciting exhibit possible.”

MSR President Rick Laubscher hailed the multi-faceted partnership that made this possible “Our City has one of the richest transportation histories in America,” he said. “We salute Muni for the work it is doing in preserving its own precious archives and sharing them with San Franciscans and visitors alike through this project. We’re proud to help on this and other activities marking Muni’s centennial.” The shelter photos are scheduled to be up through the end of March, but we plan to keep our exhibit up all summer.

By the way, many of these images come from the great book on Muni’s first hundred years written by our members, including the late Cam Beach, the late Phil Hoffman, Bob Townley, Grant Ute, and Walt Vielbaum. You can get it at our museum, or in our online store.