Campus offers a portal to the past with a collection of decades old items

A new exhibit is bringing a hidden timeline of artifacts from SF State’s performance history to J. Paul Leonard Library this October.

The exhibit, titled That’s Entertainment, runs from Oct. 10 to Jan. 30 and showcases a series of photos and items curated by the University archives on the fourth floor.

The oldest article featured is a pair of dance shoes owned by a professor, dated from 1930, and a sweatshirt from Kampus Kapers, a campus review from the same era.

Many of the pictures feature glee clubs, jazz bands and operas, both from SF State’s old campus at Buchannan and Haight, as well as the present campus. Meredith Eliassen, the library’s curator, is the main person overseeing the exhibit.

Eliassen said that music at SF State dates back to the school’s earliest curriculum. According to Eliassen, this is the first display that is focused on the performing arts. Unlike other exhibits, it will be viewable for the duration of the library’s hours.

“We could always use more exposure,” said Dianthe Spencer, a jazz professor, who was unaware of the exhibit. “I knew nothing about it, but I would definitely tell my students and faculty to go see it.”

Eliassen said the key pieces detail the school’s music and performance history. One such photo is from a summer event that allowed local high school students to learn, at a nominal fee, from SF State students who received credit by teaching them at the University.

“It was totally unique for its time,” Eliassen said.

Many of the pictures that will be featured are from performances at the University’s old campus.

“It was a very good location for a campus, and it’s probably part of the reasons why we became the first college to have a sanctioned jazz course,” she said. “It was right on the southern edge of the Fillmore district.”

Not everything that the archive has went into the exhibit. The pieces on display were hand-picked by Eliassen, who judged them on relevance and quality.

“Some of these (pictures) are going to be digitized, so when the exhibit comes down, there will be a version with our digital special collections,” Eliassen said.

Ellie Rizlenjani, 22, and an environmental studies major, believes that SF State’s history is still relevant.

“I don’t know if I would go see this exhibit because I hadn’t heard about it, but I think that’s a general problem on the SF State campus,” Rizlenjani said. “A lot of events and exhibits aren’t publicized as well as they could be so most students have no idea they’re available to them.”

Eliassen said that the exhibits in the Library do not get enough exposure because of the building’s prior construction.

“There’s a whole generation of students who don’t know that this is here,” she said. “All of this was packed away while it was being built.”

She said that students have had to fight for their ability to learn what they wanted to. After WWII, over a third of the school’s population was enrolled in an extracurricular group called the Music Federation, an umbrella organization for different musical interest groups. The exhibit features multiple pictures from the Music Federation’s performances. The Music Federation was not in the curriculum, but students spent time outside class to practice niche artistic subjects.

“Students always have the opportunity to organize and explore their interest themselves whether or not it’s recognized as a course curriculum.” Eliassen said. “This is a place where ideas are exchanged, and that’s what was happening before, and that’s what can happen again.”

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