History came alive Saturday at Doheny Memorial Library, where L.A. as Subject, an association of archives and collections hosted by USC Libraries, presented the 11th annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar. Hundreds of people learned and reminisced about Southern California’s regional past as they perused through more than 80 exhibits spanning the floors of the library.
The bazaar formed a “one-stop shop” for learning about Southern California history, according to Tyson Gaskill, the executive director of communications and events for USC Libraries, which allows organizations both big and small an equal opportunity to display their materials to the public.
“We wanted to have some kind of an event that included as many of the L.A. as Subject member organizations as possible and this seemed like a great idea,” Gaskill said. “And as far as we know, it’s actually spawned other similar archive bazaars around the country.”
Oftentimes, the exhibitors are capable of bringing only a small fragment of their extensive collections to the bazaar, encouraging attendees to seek them out at their original sources in museums, archives or personal collections that are largely available to the public.
The bazaar began when L.A. as Subject moved to the USC Libraries in 2000. Since then, USC has taken advantage of this invaluable collection of resources to the benefit of both its students and faculty.
“The Los Angeles, and sort of, regional history is one of our big collection strings here at the libraries, so we’ve sort of historically had lots of research materials that other people just don’t have,” said.
According to Hugh McHarg, associate dean of planning and communications, it’s the rich cultural history of Los Angeles that makes the bazaar an invaluable resource for USC students.
“It’s a unique strength that we have. It’s a unique resource for our faculty and students, for [students] especially,” McHarg said. “Because if you’re studying regional history, or even cinematic history or urban planning or arts and culture here in Los Angeles, there’s resources here that other places just don’t have.”
Besides being an academic resource, McHarg stressed the collection’s value for creative pursuits, such as a three-episode TV series called Lost L.A., which was co-produced by USC Libraries and KCETLink and released in January 2016. The series featured the works of nine directors, including SCA MFA graduates, who produced shorts ranging from documentary to animation based on primary sources from the collection.
“The research side is obviously a huge part of what we do, but we also want to make sure that creative artists understand these materials are here for them too,” McHarg said. “So that’s sort of a way of getting that message out into the world.
While the collection is certainly extraordinarily beneficial to those at USC, its value is also felt in the surrounding community. According to McHarg, many K-12 students came to the event, where for many of them, it’s their first time seeing artifacts related to the history of L.A.
“They’ll find old photographs, or old journals, or magazines or things that they never knew existed, and it’s a way of showing them that there are these artifacts about their communities,” McHarg said. “Sometimes this is the first time they’ve experienced things that somebody actually saved, and it’s meaningful because it’s about where they’re from. That’s something that never gets old.”