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Library Helps Latinos and Others Digitize History

digital library

[Nicky Trasvina goes through old family photos. Photo by Andra Cernavskis]

On Saturday afternoon, Susan Goldstein, the City of San Francisco’s archivist, could be found in the San Francisco Public Library’s fifth floor DIGI Center, a room for digital archiving, pouring over old, print photos with Alejandra Palos, a woman ready to donate some of her father’s photos.

Manuel Palos,  an architectural sculptor,  worked on projects throughout the city including the restoration of the Legion of Honor’s eight mythological creature sculptures and the ornamentation on the Neiman Marcus building downtown.  Palos,  a Mexican immigrant, came to San Francisco in 1966 to work as a mold maker for the Palace of Fine Arts. Despite his lack of professional experience,  the lead sculptor recognized his talent and took him under his wing. Palos continued to worker as a mold maker while sculpting on the side. He eventually made enough money to take a three-week trip to Italy every year for 20 years to study sculpting and in 1984, he opened his own sculpting business, Manuel Palos Sculpture.

Now that her father is 78, Palos wants to document his life, which is why she seized on the opportunity to bring the collection of photos and documents to the DIGI Center, which ran a free-of-charge, drop-in event as part the San Francisco Latino Heritage Fair.

It was the first time the DIGI Center, which officially opened at the main branch in January, has hosted an event like this for the public at their new central location. The goal on Saturday was to help Latinos publicly document and digitize their family’s history in San Francisco.

“We are trying to do a lot more outreach about digitizing and making it a core library service,” Goldstein said as she held a black and white image of Palos with a classical human sculpture.

Those who work at the DIGI Center decided to open their services to the public during the afternoon portion of the fair, which also featured seminars on how to preserve old photographs and how to organize digital documents and photos.

Palos, who grew up in Bernal Heights, heard about the fair through the San Francisco Latino Historical Society, one of the groups that organized the day’s events. She became emotional while explaining the content of the photographs to Goldstein.

“I almost want to cry…I thought I just really needed to jump on this,” she said to Goldstein.

More at MissionLocal.org