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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 501: California Academy of Sciences Part 2

Academy Head Librarian Rebekah Kim again joins Nicole & Arnold to finish the lengthy history of the California Academy of Sciences.
by Nicole Meldahl - Apr 29, 2023

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 501: California Academy of Sciences Part 2 Outside Lands Podcast Episode 501: California Academy of Sciences Part 2

(above) Golden Gate Park, Nov 1967

Whale sculpture in front of Steinhart Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences


Podcast Transcription

WNP501 – California Academy of Sciences Part 2

Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of Western Neighborhoods Project, your weekly dose of friendly neighborhood history.

And hello again Outside Landers. I am, of course, your host, Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I am, of course, your co-host Arnold Woods.

Nicole: So, last week we aired, I still, am still pinch me, Arnold, we can't cause we're not in the same room, but I still can't believe, our 500th podcast episode aired last week. And it was all about the history of the California Academy of Sciences, which somehow we've never done a podcast on the full history before. Always little bits. But because the Academy is 160 years old, there was so much history to unpack, it could not be contained in one podcast episode. So, we're here again with [00:01:00] part two of the Academy story this week. Which rivals are Muybridge two-parter for the zigs and the zags and the awesomeness that we're about to unfold. And back with us again is Academy Head Librarian Rebekah Kim. So welcome Rebekah.

Rebekah: Hi everyone. Hi Nicole. Hi Arnold. Thanks for having me back.

Arnold: Well, thanks for coming back, Rebekah. And last week we left things on a cliffhanger. As we used to say on this podcast, “and then something happened.” And that something being, San Francisco waking up to the big one, the April 18th, 1906, earthquake. Once again, take your drink, cause it's been mentioned. And what happened to the Academy? How did the staff respond? Did the wooly mammoth make it out alive, but still dead. So, let's find out the answers to all these questions.

Nicole: Now, I have a vision of a wooly mammoth on fire, just like parading down Market Street. But maybe that's not true. You'll [00:02:00] find out. So, happening as it did at 5:12 AM, the museum was empty when the earthquake struck. Museum personnel arrived there within a few hours of the quake and found that staircases, the bridges, walkways, connecting the two buildings, had actually collapsed. Otherwise, the museum came through the shaking in reasonably decent order.

Arnold: However, the fire was approaching, so staff did their best to get what they could out. They managed to get out one cart of materials, which included membership records, meeting minutes, books, and they also got out some 2000 specimens, about 1500 of which came from Alice Eastwood's plant collection. And the fire reached the Academy by noon that day and completely destroyed both buildings and everything else that got left behind.

Nicole: So, Eastwood actually deserved and got a great deal of credit for saving so many specimens. She [00:03:00] lived on Nob Hill and made her way to the Academy after eating breakfast and packing a lunch. Which, I love that detail. She was like, whoa, it's gonna be a long one. Gotta be prepared. Her home would actually be lost to the flames later. And after arriving at the Academy, she had to climb the metal banisters for the stairs to her department on the 6th floor. She had to get there because, through some pretty crafty foresight, she had prepared for just such an emergency. Although maybe not just such an emergency, cause this was a wild disaster.

Arnold: Yeah, so, although it went against the usual museum practices of the day, Eastwood had separated the type specimens, also known as holotypes, of each plant from the main collection, and kept them in a quote, “disaster cabinet.” It was set up so the cabinet could be lower to safety outta window. Remember, she's on the 6th floor.

Nicole: Wild.

Arnold: However, the cabinet itself [00:04:00] was actually damaged in the earthquake. But that didn't stop the intrepid Eastwood.

Nicole: I cannot believe this. This is so awesome. She used her apron to lower the holotypes to a friend on the ground below. Now, we don't know how many times they had to go through this process. How many specimens fit in one, in one apron. I'm not sure. But the whole time she managed to get out 1500 specimens and I imagine it was quite a lot each time that she stuffed in there. She then used a wagon to get the plants and her records to safety. And I'm wondering who this friend was who was like, sure, yeah. It's Rebekah.

Rebekah: It was me. Just kidding. No, it wasn't me. I am a time traveler. I dunno if you guys knew that. I, it was, I will talk about him later. It was Robert Porter. She, and I think he was a member of the Academy, but that, I think he's at the bottom. But it does, like, it is heroic, her efforts to [00:05:00] scale that banister and then get the specimens down to the ground. And they are still with, at the Academy today.

Nicole: So amazing. Where is this Netflix movie about specifically Cal Academy in the 1906 fire.

Arnold: You know, after we did the Eadweard Muybridge podcast, we found that there are both movies about Muybridge and documentaries about Muybridge. So, we need the Alice Eastwood documentary or movie.

Nicole: I'm sure they exist. Well, maybe a doc. I don't know. Things we’ll Google after we stop recording this episode.

Arnold: And the safety she took the plants to was actually a bank vault somewhere initially. And I'd also like to shout out our friend Peter Hartlaub at the Chronicle, who wrote recently a very wonderful story about Alice Eastwood. But, despite these efforts of Eastwood and others, much of the Academy collection is actually lost. [00:06:00] Which includes all the paintings that were done and donated by Sara Lemmon that we talked about in the last episode. But fortunately, we have someone here who knows a lot about what did get saved. So, Rebekah, what can you tell us about both the effort to rescue what they could and what got saved?

Rebekah: Yeah. So, there are a few things. Alice wasn't alone in trying to rescue the materials. Like I said before, she got assistance from Robert Porter. So, there were a few staff members that came to, after the earthquake, but before the fire. I'll make like it's, you know. So, Robert Porter helps Alice get the wagon and like transport materials. There is a Miss Mary Hyde, who is the assistant secretary and librarian who most likely saved the minutes, the membership records, and Hittell's manuscript about the history of the Academy. Which I know we'll talk more about later in this episode. There was a curator of herpetology, Dr. John Van, [00:07:00] Van Denburgh, who, and herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles. He saved 10 type specimens and some other specimens from the collection as well as a set of books. The director at the time, Leverett Mills Loomis, also was there and saved two Guadalupe storm petrel specimens and a book on birds.

Arnold: You know, just to stop you real quick there.

Rebekah: Oh, yeah.

Arnold: I remember reading, I, sometime in the, in one of the Chronicle stories about this, that basically the director stuffed a couple bird specimens in his pockets and then got out of there as quickly as he could.

Rebekah: Yeah. I mean, I'll touch up on that a little bit more, but he was not super helpful. Alice Eastwood makes that really clear that he just saved these birds and the books and then left. Yeah, so not, not, not the hero we wanted for sure.

Nicole: Are you telling me there was no official emergency preparedness plan at the museum?

Rebekah: Yeah. No emergency preparedness plan and no phone tree apparently. [00:08:00]

Nicole: Phone tree. Bummer.

Rebekah: Yeah, and there is a few, I mean, I'll keep going.

Nicole: Yes.

Rebekah: But there's a few that are saved from the entomology collection as well as a few fossils. And there are a few anthropology items that actually survive the earthquake and fire. They get a little charred. But some of them are currently on display at the Academy's exhibit, Hidden Wonders. And, hate to break it to everyone, but the wooly mammoth did not make it. So, no more wooly mammoth?

Arnold: Aw shucks.

Rebekah: But I am, yeah, I am gonna dive back into that historical gossip about Loomis. Alice has, has like her memoirs about the earthquake. She doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about him. He didn't help pay for the wagon to move materials, and she said she knew he had like $50. And he also like left when, you know, when they were trying to do this. She also made a snarky comment that he saved the bird, these two birds, but failed to save items that belonged to [00:09:00] Juana Maria, better known as a lone woman of San Nicolas Island, and whose life was the basis for the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. That's right. The Academy had in their collections, her water bottle and beads with a mortar. And they were donated shortly after her death in 1857. To me, that's super shocking. I love loved Island of the Blue Dolphins. I don't know who, if you, anyone out there has read them, but I did as a kid. And to know that some of her belongings used to be here and were lost is sort of mind-blowing and very sad. And if you don't know her story, I highly recommend Googling to get like the full lowdown. But she was an indigenous woman, found on one of the Channel Islands alone in 1853. And,, at the time thought to be the last person from her tribe. She died of dysentery seven weeks after her “rescue,” in quotes, and died at a mission in Santa Barbara. So, she's a fascinating, [00:10:00] it's fascinating. Her life is kind of fascinating because it's so mysterious, but also Loomis, you could have saved those items.

Nicole: Loving that Alice Eastwood throws shade on him. You have $50 Loomis.

Rebekah: Yes.

Nicole: A stupid wagon.

Rebekah: Yeah. She yeah, she doesn't hold back. I love that about her.

Nicole: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Well, those were amazing selections of a few stories out of the 1906 earthquake and fire. We do know that, in the aftermath, after Loomis failed to do anything he was really supposed to do. The Academy first rented a temporary office at 1806 Post Street. And although much of their collection had been lost, the Academy kept calm and carried on. The prior year, they had sponsored a nearly two-year scientific collecting trip to the Galapagos Islands. That [00:11:00] expedition began in June 1905 and returned after the earthquake. And what they had found on that trip provided a good deal of specimens for a new collection. So, that was a stroke of good luck.

Arnold: This was actually the first of several expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. A 1932 expedition there, which was funded by Templeton Crocker, brought back 331 live specimens for display and study. And these Galapagos Islands expeditions were very important to the Academy's history. And Rebekah, I think you've got some more info about those as well.

Rebekah: Yeah, I mean, the Galapagos for the Academy is like this magical place. They could follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. He's the author of the Origin of Species, which is the theory of natural selection. Even in 1905, they felt like flora and fauna were going extinct, and they needed to go out and at least preserve some of these things for future scientific study. [00:12:00] So, the expedition was led by Rollo Beck, who was a bird collector and explorer, and had been to the Galapagos a few times earlier. The trip was not fun. It was uncomfortable, treacherous. There was a lot of sea sickness. They, and once they got to the islands, they were just very singularly focused on collecting as much as they could while they were there. They even heard about the earthquake two weeks after the event, but Rollo Beck didn't let them go back to Ecuador to find out news about their friends and family. He insisted that they stay on the islands to continue collecting.

Nicole: Wow.

Rebekah: Yeah. When they returned in November of 1906, they brought back 76,000 items, 76, yeah, thousand items.

Nicole: Wow.

Arnold: Wow.

Rebekah: Yeah. Birds, tortoises, insects, reptiles, snails, marine mammals, and rocks. And it is fortuitous, because it helped the Academy [00:13:00] reestablish its collections and it becomes a foundation for the Academy moving forward. I mean, like, what this means is we didn't have an anthropology department until the 1980s, since there are no anthropological items that were brought back from the Galapagos, because they didn't have any humans living on those islands until more recently. And this is a bit of a silver lining for the Academy. The Academy's anthropologist in the past did participate in the studies of phrenology or craniology. Which is the study of shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character, mental abilities and race. And all those things, all those collections burn up in the fire and any kind of further research on those subjects. Which is good for us.

Nicole: Yeah, because, and explain why it's good for our listeners.

Rebekah: Yeah. Yeah. So, the study of phrenology craniology is well, like it, me, like they make some connections about the shape and size [00:14:00] of the skull and they also made statements about race. So, they basically, you know, certain people, non-white people, were like stupider or like, it like they make, try to make it a race science, a real thing.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: By saying, so, there is a infamous collection, the Morton cranial collection at Penn Museum, which is sort of…

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: You can also Google that. I'm not gonna give people a reading list this time, but you can Google it and find out more. And for us, I mean, and because the anthropology collection doesn't reestablish until the mid-1980s, we don't have so many problems with our collections now.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: And we don't have anybody who studied race science. Like, you know, in that period of time, in the between 1906 and the ‘80s.

Nicole: Yeah, it's a real stroke of good luck for them, all that. You didn't inherit that giant anchor.

Rebekah: Yeah. And I will, I do wanna clarify too, we also had like a skull collection that was like cast, [00:15:00] which are like copies as well as real human skulls. So. Yes, those also get destroyed. So yes, it is a bit of a it, we are a little lucky in that way.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: And I will just briefly touch on the 1932 expedition, which was funded by Templeton Crocker. Who, if people don't know, was the grandson of Charles Crocker, one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. Templeton spends his inheritance sailing around the world in his yacht, yacht, the Zaka.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: Fun, right? And then often sponsored expeditions for, scientific expeditions for museums across the nation. So, this expedition in 1932 is much shorter. It’s just five months. It really was just fill in collections from the last exhibition, which was in 1906. And mentioned earlier, they bring back live fishes for the aquarium. And these accommodations were much more lux. [00:16:00] And I read that one of the scientists complained they couldn't stay on the islands past the dinner hour, cause Crocker made everyone return to the boat by dinner.

Nicole: He's like, only fancy dress can be worn to these dinners.

Rebekah: Yes.

Nicole: In addition to the Galapagos specimens, the Academy received communications from the Smithsonian and other natural history museums offering to contribute items for a new Academy museum. So, look at that. Everyone's trying to help out their own. By June 1906, the Academy moved to a bigger space at 1812 Gough Street. And, of course, the Academy of Sciences was now without space for exhibitions. So, they began planning a brand-new museum,

Arnold: And. of course, the first thought was to maybe rebuild at the Market Street location. But there was some fear of future earthquakes and fire happening there and the realization that they could actually make a good deal of money by building and renting office space there instead. [00:17:00] So, this led then to consider other alternative spaces for a museum. And when looking for a safer location, one location stood out to the Academy for this purpose. And that is, of course, Golden Gate Park.

Nicole: Yep. And all the while new acquisitions were coming in and they were focused on fundraising, using insurance money to rebuild the rental office space. The new commercial building on Market was completed in the fall of 1915. And 10 years after the earthquake, a new state-of-the-art Academy of Sciences was dedicated.

Arnold: Yeah, it opened on the south side of the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park on September 22nd, 1916. So, this ceremony was supposed to happen outdoors on the steps of the museum, but they got a rare September rain and forced it inside the building. The first museum building that opened at that time was the North American Hall of Birds and Mammals, which cost $181,000 to [00:18:00] build.

Nicole: Rare September rain is gonna be the title of my first album drop, I think. For a number of years, there had been an effort by one family to get a world-class aquarium built in San Francisco. Brother Sigmund and Ignatz Steinhardt had discussed it, and upon Sigmund's death in 1910, Ignatz offered $20,000 from Sigmund's estate and another $20,000 of his own money toward building one

Arnold: Ignatz’s only stipulations were that the aquarium be built in Golden Gate Park and that the city agreed to fund its maintenance.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Not too extreme there.

Nicole: No, seems reasonable.

Arnold: Ignatz actually raised the offer to $50,000 to get it built in time for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but it got turned down. So, he almost gave up at that point. But, in 1916, made another offer of $75,000 toward an aquarium. And, at this point, the project [00:19:00] begins to gain momentum.

Nicole: Wild. The bus, the city's like, no, we're busy with PPIE. Just hold on. And the city's newspaper had dueling op-eds over its location, with the Examiner advocating for a Marina location and the Chronicle declaring Golden Gate Park would be best. And we're sure the Chronicle publisher Michael De Young's patronage of an art museum on the Music Concourse had nothing to do with the Chronicle’s opinion. I'm gonna give a big nudge, nudge, wink, wink, to the audience that they can't see right now.

Arnold: And, in fact, Golden Gate Park gained a really major ally when Park Superintendent John McLaren, he's the guy who hated having anything not natural in the Park, he actually expresses his opinion that the Park would be the best spot for the aquarium. And that's kind of mind blowing. Maybe he was excited to have so many specimens in the Park at his disposal. Maybe he thought the Academy would help manage all the wild animals like buffalo that kept ending up in the Park. [00:20:00]

Nicole: These are all things we have completely made up on our own, but they feel right. In November 1916, San Francisco voters passed a charter amendment that committed $20,000 a year for the maintenance of an aquarium should it be built. Tragically though, Ignatz passed away on May 15th, 1917, and it left people kind of wondering whether the aquarium would still happen.

Arnold: So, when Ignatz’s will gets read three days later, it turns out that he actually left $250,000 towards the construction of an aquarium, with the same stipulations as before. But there was one more small requirement. And that was that a bust of his brother Sigmund had to be displayed at the aquarium. So, but even if San Francisco actually decided to build the aquarium elsewhere, the will still would leave $150,000 for its construction with no [00:21:00] stipulations.

Nicole: And that bust is still in the museum, right Rebekah?

Rebekah: Yeah, it's actually in the aquarium, in the swamp area by Claude. It's a little hard to see, cause it's kind of dark there, but it's still there, yeah,

Nicole: I always give them a wave when I'm there in November and people think I'm insane. They're like, what’s this girl's up to. But in November 1918, voters passed another charter amendment accepting Ignatz's requirements for the $250,000 bequest. Construction later began next to the North American Hall of Birds and Mammals, with a design by famed architect Lewis Hobart, who would later design Grace Cathedral. A dedication ceremony was held on September 29th, 1923 with over 2,500 people attending. Because of the Steinhardt bequest, the aquarium was named for them.

Arnold: And the Academy just keeps growing from there. The Simson African Hall [00:22:00] was opened on December 16th, 1934. It was named for mining engineer Leslie Simson, who had collected many of the specimens that were displayed in the hall. And even many of the grasses, trees, bushes, soils, and rocks in that exhibit actually came from Africa.

Nicole: Dubious history to those collections, but we shall keep moving forward. The new Hall of Science came next, dedicated on February 20th, 1951, and it connected the Steinhardt Aquarium and African Hall. Inside, this was the 400-seat Morrison Auditorium, the Moffitt Memorial Library, the Augsburg Room of North American Animals, and a Hall of Astronomy, which included the Stephens watch and clock collection.

Arnold: At the time the Hall of Science was opened, parts of it were not yet completed. Still being built at that time was the Lovell White Hall of Man and Nature, which would be completed in 1952. And still under construction was [00:23:00] Alexander F. Morrison Planetarium. It would open on November 8th, 1952 when it was funded by a $200,000 gift from the will of Morrison's widow, May Treat Morrison. And again, listen to podcast number 366 about the remarkable projector at the planetarium.

Nicole: We very nerd into that projector. But it's worth it. It's actually really interesting. We have so many more openings to cover. Okay, so, on October 28th, 1959, dedication ceremonies for the J.W. Malliard, Jr. Library, the appropriately named Alice Eastwood Hall of Botany and the Norman B. Livermore room were held. A Hall of Space Science funded by the widow of attorney Edward Hofield, or Hohfeld, probably, was dedicated on May 2nd, 1969.

Arnold: Then we get Cowell Hall, which was the new entrance to the Academy of [00:24:00] Sciences, which included offices and a trustee's room. And that had a preview shortly thereafter, on May 14th, 1969, before officially opening two days later on May 16th. It was designed by Milton Pflueger, the younger brother of renowned architect, Timothy Pflueger. Finally, the Gem and Mineral Hall was added to the Academy. And throughout the years, there's various redesigns like the fish roundabout and new galleries that get added in.

Nicole: Fish roundabout also sounds like a great band name. So, back when the new Academy opened in 1916, then Director Warren Evermann specified that education was going to be a big part of the Academy's mission going forward. And part of this mission was to create science education programs for Bay Area schools and to host groups at the museum. In fact, Evermann would often personally join school groups at the museum to educate them about the exhibits there. Which is absolutely adorable. [00:25:00]

Arnold: Because the Academy made much use of microscopes and other scientific equipment, it had its own instrument shop for the repair of equipment. During the World War II years, the instrument shop was enlarged, so that the Academy could contribute to the war effort by repairing optical and navigation equipment for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the shop created its own star projector for the Morrison Planetarium when it was built. Again, listen to that other episode where we, which we reran several weeks ago to get more of that whole story.

Nicole: Yeah. Again, I want a Cal Academy, like series on Netflix. Maybe I'm just a museum nerd and I wanna watch this, but I think it would be great Netflix, if you're listening, which you are definitely not.

Arnold: Speaking of TV shows, go on Nicole.

Nicole: Oh, look at that transition. In 1950, [00:26:00] television was still in its fledgling state. However, the Academy quickly realized its potential to benefit its education initiative. That year, they started a weekly program called Science in Action. I don't know why I gave it that weird, but it felt like it needed something to it. Science in Action featuring Earl Herald, the director of the Steinhardt Aquarium and guest scientists. The program would run for 16 years. And many of these episodes have been digitized and can be found on the Internet Archive. Many of our members probably grew up with it, so if that's you, send us an email about how Science in Action changed your life. Ah, Rebekah.

Rebekah: I just wanna add a fun fact about Science in Action. There was a live animal at, it was live TV, so there was a live animal often brought out at the end, and there were lots of snafus. I think there were, they brought on a python that like bit its handler. So, I [00:27:00] mean, if reader, if listeners know of any others, I would love to hear about them. They also had, like Chuck Yeager on. They had, sorry, Anne Pillsbury, that was not her real name, but she was the baking scientist at Pillsbury. They had like such a random assortment. I mean, I think at first, they tried to stay with sort of biological sciences and then they started to branch out. So, with the baking scientist. Yeah. And others. Charles Eames, the furniture designer. It like really, 16 years is a long time to have a weekly program.

Nicole: So, Rebekah, when is Cal Academy gonna reboot this?

Rebekah: I don’t know. It was all really expensive. They, which is why sort of got it, like, didn't last beyond 16 years. But yeah, I don't know. That would be fun. At least the animal, you know, bloopers. I bet a lot of people would turn in for that.,

Nicole: If I were a really gross, rich person, like, you know, like more money than God. Well one [00:28:00] WNP would be much better funded, but I would pay for this to come back. So, if there are any wealthy patrons who have already donated to WNP, please think about whether or not Science in Action should be your next main project. Even though Cal Academy doesn't want this, has expressed no interest in it.

Rebekah: I think it should be a rogue program that is like totally unsanctioned. So yeah.

Nicole: Well, y'all, I think I know what the three of us are gonna be doing next weekend.

Arnold: Anyways, over time, the Academy increased its collection by acquiring other, quote, “orphan collections.” Many times, this was the result of universities deciding that they no longer wanted to maintain their own collections for financial or other reasons.

Nicole: Yep.

Arnold: And the Academy of Sciences did not want these collections simply thrown [00:29:00] away or destroyed. So, they would acquire them even if that meant that such specimens would have to be warehoused for a while or permanently. The result of this though is that the Academy today has one of the largest natural history collections in the entire world.

Nicole: Also, why we ended up with the Cliff House collection. So, then disaster strikes again in, oh, let me check my notes. 1989. What could have happened in 1989?

Arnold: And then something happened.

Nicole: That's right. The Loma Prieta earthquake does not make as many appearances in the podcast as the 1906 earthquake. Although that might change as we all become history. At an alarming rate, might I add. But it does occasionally make its presence felt here and will also be included in the Outside Lands San Francisco Podcast drinking game rules, [00:30:00] if you're still playing listeners.

Arnold: And fortunately, the Loma Prieta earthquake did not destroy the Academy collection. However, it did cause damage to the buildings. It forced a temporary short closure of the Academy, the permanent closure of the Bird Hall, and an evaluation of the seismic safety of other buildings. And ultimately it was decided the Academy had to be rebuilt, basically from the ground up.

Nicole: As you can imagine, this would take a lot of time to arrange the financing and have a new building design drawn up. And there were also concerns the new policy closing JFK Drive on Sundays, typically, one of the Academy's busiest days, would negatively affect the attendance for the museum. So, there was talk about moving the Academy permanently outside of Golden Gate Park. And again, I must say that Western Neighborhoods Project has no official opinion on street closures in the Park.

Arnold: And [00:31:00] in 1995 and in 2000, there's some good news via the voters. Bond measures raised $116 million of the projected $388 million cost to rebuild the Academy. And then, our old friend, Warren Hellman, finances the building of a garage under the Music Concourse, which alleviated the parking concern that they had. Raising the rest of the money was worrisome, but it actually turns out to become the largest amount ever fundraised for a cultural project in San Francisco history.

Nicole: Which is wild. If we could just get a little bit of it. A little bit of that money. Imagine what we could do. So, as for the choice of an architect for a new academy, the board of trustees narrowed their search to five possibilities and then met with each of them. Italian architect, Renzo Piano, known for designing [00:32:00] the Pompidou Center in Paris and the 1998 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, came to his meeting with nothing more than his notepad and rearranged the chairs in the room into a circle. Which is a boss move. Then he sat with Board of Trustees in the circle and asked what was important to them. I'm filing this away in case I ever have to apply for a new job.

Arnold: Yeah. Then, this was apparently a lot different than the other interviews, because they were coming in like with drawings already made up and saying, here's how it's gotta be. So, this turns out to be less of an interview and more of a conversation. As the Trustees talked to Piano about things like nature and a naturalistic form and biodiversity, Piano made sketches on his pad. Developer and Trustee William Wilson III said Piano, quote, “got it right away.” End quote. Adding that Piano's, quote, “idea was to look out and see the [00:33:00] beautiful park around you, have the building be a part of the park.” End quote. And, of course, Piano was the unanimous choice of the Trustees in 1999.

Nicole: Still, it took till 2004 before the Academy started moving everything out to a temporary SoMa location at 875 Howard Street. A former Emporium store that they called the Transition Building. The Academy had just celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2003. Is that true?

Rebekah: Oh.

Arnold: Yes.

Nicole: Aren't we celebrating the 160th this year though?

Rebekah: Oh, you know what?

Arnold: Oh, it's 170th this year.

Nicole: Yes.

Rebekah: Oops. Sorry.

Arnold: We’ve been getting it wrong the whole podcast.

Rebekah: I was thinking about that and, I’m, math is not my strong suit, sorry.

Arnold: These are my notes. I'll take the hit on this. So podcast listeners, [00:34:00] they celebrated their 170th anniversary this year.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. You know what, Ian? Leave all this in. Fun fact, at the beginning of this podcast, we said 160th anniversary. That's not true. We did the math wrong, because historians and librarians are not set up to do math. It’s 170th. Which we just learned by reading our own factually correct notes farther down the podcast. Congratulations, everyone. We're now on the same page. Getting back to our regularly scheduled program. The transition building only had 20,000 square feet of space compared to 150,000 at the Academy. And I know no one's gonna believe any single number we say on this podcast. Continue. But, I believe these numbers to be true, so displays and exhibitions were severely reduced while [00:35:00] there.

Arnold: And after the demolition of the old buildings, a grand, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Academy museum was held on September 14th, 2005. And over the next three years, an entirely green, new Academy of Sciences was built. The final cost was actually close to a half billion dollars. It was unveiled at ceremonies on Saturday, September 27th, 2008. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the new academy is the living roof of plants. Inside is a new Steinhardt Aquarium and Morrison Planetarium, and a really, really amazing rainforest. And Rebekah, did they provide enough room to house the library and collections?

Rebekah: Yeah, maybe not forever. I don't think that's future-proof. But like definitely enough of the current collections. And I have to say that the footprint of the current Academy is the same as the old one. They were not, I don't [00:36:00] think they were allowed to build extra. So, it's the same footprint even, and it's all now one building. Whereas before, I think you caught there were lots of separate buildings. So…

Nicole: That makes sense. And so like, you know, there's a lot that goes on at the Academy and like we only see a fraction of everything y'all do. So, can you give us kind of a peek behind the curtain at what the Academy does?

Rebekah: Yeah, totally happy to. There's so much that happens. I'm really gonna talk about research that happens behind the scenes because that is where the librarian archives sit. We sit in the research division, and so I wanted to ask listeners, did you know that there is an active research collection behind all those exhibits? And there are about 48 million specimens and growing that are stored and cared for. They include birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, coral, shells, gems, minerals, fossils, plants, insects, arachnids, mollusks, [00:37:00] echinoderms, and the librarian archive. I'm gonna, I'm gonna shout out to Lindsay Palaima for putting that list together, because I totally crimped her notes. Collections are an essential resource for scientists as collections help with understanding biodiversity, further education, support conservation, and serve communities. And so, in effort to educate, research collections are also put on display on, in our exhibits. And we also, but we also have scientists that go along with these collections. And they help continue to build the collections. But they also ask questions. Like, how did frog vision evolve over time or what insect diversity is in your home, across the globe, or on your face? There is someone that studies face mites.

Nicole: So that was one of the most disturbing things I learned at Cal Academy. I was like, I'll never be the same again after this.

Rebekah: Yes, there are teeny tiny mites [00:38:00] living on your face. Actually, two distinct species, I think. So…

Nicole: It’s wild.

Rebekah: It's amazing or gross, depending on your perspective.

Nicole: I had actually forgotten about that until right now. So, I now blame you for this unsettling information, I know.

Rebekah: Some other questions. I'm gonna try to like go back to my notes because if not, I'll fall down a face mite rabbit hole. There's a lot of fascinating things about them. But anyways.

Nicole: It's true.

Rebekah: The other questions are like how an extinct marine mammal shaped kelp forests. That's something that just recently got published. And one last thing. Do you know who to call if you see a dead marine mammal on the beach? The Academy is one of the partners for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. And we have staff on site that help perform necropsies to determine cause of death for that marine mammal. And they also take samples as voucher [00:39:00] specimen for current and future research. And, in case you need it, the phone number is (415) 334-6341. So, there's a lot that happens behind the scenes.

Nicole: Absolutely.

Arnold: The California Academy of Sciences is now, I'll get this right this time, 170 years old. And is bigger and better than ever. Prior to the pandemic, it was getting some million and a half visitors per year. We don't know, maybe Rebekah, you know, whether it's returned to those levels yet. But it’s still is a very popular destination for both San Franciscans and tourist alike. It's also one of our personal favorite places. And we've had the good fortune to do some history presentations there on a few occasions. And after all of this 170 years of history, this leads us to say, Say What Now? [00:40:00]

Nicole: So, yeah, you remember us mentioning Andrew Randall in the last episode, right? This is where you pause this episode and you go and listen to part one really quick. Just to jog your recall. He was a founding member of the Academy, it's first chair and it's first president between 1853 and 1856. He also was a geologist and newspaper editor. Unfortunately, Randall's time at the Academy came to an end in 1856 for extremely tragic reasons.

Arnold: Yeah, and Rebekah turned us on to this whole story. Apparently, Randall was active in land speculation and amassed debts well over a $100,000, which is incredible for that time.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: We're talking 1850s. And he was, of course, unable to pay that money back. And one of his creditors, a man named Joseph Hetherington, actually murders Randall on July 24th, 1856. [00:41:00] And Hetherington was then tried and executed by the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, which I think's gotten a mention or two on a podcast before. But it, this is really that puts the what in say what now?

Nicole: I, if you listen to our Muybridge two-part podcast, you will know that he, spoiler alert, he murdered his wife's lover and a jury acquitted him, cause they were like, yeah, he had it coming. Like, this is the kind of law and order that's happening in San Francisco in the 19th century. Just so we're all on the same page here. And, you know, there's more weird stuff for say what here? On a further Say What Now note, on January 8th, 1880, our old friend, Emperor Norton was headed to a lecture at the Academy of Sciences, like a normal gentleman does. And as we mentioned previously, it was then located at what is now [00:42:00] California Street and Grant Avenue, which was then called California and DuPont. He was almost there, but approaching the corner, Emperor Norton collapsed and died. He lived a remarkable life and kept abreast of all that was happening. So, it's not surprising to learn that he was a patron of the Academy. But I am also surprised y'all don't play that up more often as being the organization that killed Emperor Norton.

Rebekah: Yes. That should be our claim to fame. Actually, it should be our, like, you know, on every website, every webpage.

Nicole: I…

Rebekah: I do love that there is a connection to Emperor Norton. Just because like, you know, now it makes us kind of like royalty, the Academy.

Arnold: I would not be surprised to learn that many of the royal proclamations by Emperor Norton were based upon what he learned at the Academy.

Nicole: I hope that's true. We need to ask Joseph Amster if that's true, as the officially [00:43:00] designated Emperor Norton of today.

Arnold: Right. And we do have one more final Say What Now note. And that is, we mentioned that after the 1906 earthquake, among the items saved were the minutes of the meetings. And thereafter, I believe he'd already actually started this beforehand, but thereafter, Theodore Henry Hittell, who was a member of the Academy and had given lectures there over the years, and was actually a lawyer who worked on the Lick Trust, he takes all those minutes and uses them to provide a detailed history of the Academy from 1853 to 1906 in a book.

Nicole: And Arnold, our board lawyer, was the one who studiously read this and I feel like you were like, oh, I feel you, my lawyer man. Like I feel you through time and respect your, what you've done here, because this is not a fun read. But it's extremely detailed and informative going into all the minutia of every meeting in [00:44:00] excruciating detail. We're talking elections of members and officers, the hiring of curators and what they were paid, accountings of monies received and expenses paid, some details of lectures given and expeditions being sent out, listings of every donation or acquisition of specimens. We could go on and on. Arnold read it all for us.

Arnold: Read is maybe, maybe too expansive. More like skimmed. Finding the parts that I need to find. Again, not something you would pick up to read for fun, but it really is an amazing historical document. Pretty much everything you read online about the history of the Academy in its first 53 years comes from this book. Hittell's history of the Academy of Sciences was an invaluable resource for the preparation of this podcast. Cause it provides such important history, we actually purchased a copy of this book, one of the 1997 reprintings of the [00:45:00] book for our small WNP history library here. So, thank you very much, Theodore Henry Hittell.

Nicole: And now you know how the WNP history sausage is made. We are just skimming through history and offering you only salacious details or numbers that we get partially incorrect. So, Rebekah, that ends the history portion of this podcast. You're welcome to stick around to all of our boring WNP business, but I have a feeling you might actually wanna go home and see your family.

Rebekah: Yeah, no. But this was super fun. And Arnold, I am still so impressed that you read that book. Just because I just use the index really. It has a really amazing index.

Arnold: It does.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Nicole: Indexing is its own art form. I might, I add.

Rebekah: Yeah. Yes, it is. Cause not all books have a very good index, but yes. So yes. No, thank you. This was fun. And I should have like, I feel bad because I like [00:46:00] saw that 160th and I was like, is that right? But then I was like kind of rushed about other stuff and I was like, I think so.

Nicole: You know what, we're human beings who do history. Sometimes we're smidge off.

Rebekah: Just to, a decade.

Nicole: But the important part is we caught it halfway through and we're transparent about it.

Arnold: We caught it halfway through the second podcast about this.

Rebekah: I am surprised no one else has caught on. Because you got the founding year, correct? Like the founding year is correct. 1853. So…

Nicole: None of our people are math people. They're all like, well, they must be right. Anyways, Rebekah, thank you so much. This was so much fun. Not kidding. If you and I wanna do Science in Action, I'm down for it.

Rebekah: Yeah. I totally, I just wrestle some animals and then maybe…

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Nicole: It could be super low budget. It could just be like, like, like us holding [00:47:00] up like cardboard, like cutouts to be like, [singing] Science in Action. Science in Action.

Rebekah: I love it. I love that idea.

Nicole: All right. We'll let you go now. Thank you again, Rebekah.

Rebekah: Well, thank you. Have a good evening.

Arnold: Thanks, Rebekah.

Nicole: You too.

Rebekah: Bye.

Nicole: Oh, Arnold let's move on to Listener Mail.

Arnold: So Nicole, how does one actually send us listener mail?

Nicole: Well, let me tell you, Arnold. You can send us an email to podcast@outsidelands.org, which goes to all your podcast favorites. Well, actually just me and Arnold. But, but you can tell us anything you wanna tell us or ask us. You can also hit up our social media. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. So, if you post a comment there, we'll also see it. And if we remember, we will share [00:48:00] it live. And, of course, by that I mean recorded on the podcast. Arnold, do we have anybody who wrote us?

Arnold: We do. And I would even encourage you to write in, even if it's just a complaint about our math.

Nicole: Cause we're human beings with feelings.

Arnold: As we've mentioned, we reran the Morrison Planetarium Projector podcast a couple weeks ago. And say Morrison Planetarium Projector podcast three times fast. It doesn't slip across the tongue very easily. Our good friend Paul Judge wrote on, I believe, on Facebook about his memories of the place. And he said, quote, “the family would get our seats early so we could listen to the classical music and ponder the 360-degree silhouette of the city.” That was around the planetarium ceiling. “And standing in the middle of the auditorium, the insect-like, like [00:49:00] projector suggested the perfect sci-fi companion prop, as in, this alien looking machine is about to present you the known universe.” End quote. Thank you so much, Paul.

Nicole: I love Paul Judge memories Also, this might be the right time for me to say that I'm a super nerd about space. Like, I don't understand it. Don't understand it at all. Tried to take an astronomy class and it was like, so much math. I'm never gonna make it. I had to drop it immediately. But I freaking love space. Anything NASA puts out. The, all the images of the universe that have been coming out. Like I'm very into it. But anyways, I digress. Perhaps we should talk less about my space interests and talk to you about the benefits of membership and donating.

Arnold: And I'm gonna go back to something one of our special guests told us on a podcast not too long ago. The biggest perk about becoming a member of the Western Neighborhoods Project [00:50:00] is the feeling of family you get within our history community here. There's just so many good people that you get to talk to. We have the, the boards on outsidelands.org where people talk about their memories of different things. People get together at our events and talk about things. And it's really a lovely community. So, become a member and become a part of that community. But also, you get our quarterly membership magazine. You get discounts on events. Some other perks. And you support all this great work like this podcast, like OpenSFHistory, the photo archive, and the Cliff House collection, which we bought for a ridiculous amount of money last year and now have to care and try to figure out how to exhibit again. So, become a member. If that's too much, just donate money to us. We have big membership and donate buttons on the top of every webpage on our two websites, outsidelands.org and [00:51:00] OpenSFHistory.org.

Nicole: Yeah, every little bit does count. I know it sounds like a tagline, but $5 is $5. That's amazing. And so now you know why you should support us. Let's tell you some of the cool things that we're up to in announcements. So Arnold, what's going on May 4th? May the fourth be with you?

Arnold: Yeah, Star Wars Day. We got our first free Zoom event happening for, in quite a while.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: I think it was last year since our last one. And we'll be getting a special presentation from Susan Anderson, who is the history curator and program manager of the California African American Museum. And she's gonna be talking about Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio. This is gonna be a great program. You don't wanna miss it. It's also a free program, so we'd be, you can sign up for it for free. But, if you're so inclined, maybe make a little small donation [00:52:00] at the time you sign up for it. You need to sign up to get the Zoom link. So, hope to see you all there.

Nicole: Yes, please do make a donation. Susan agreed to do this for free for us, cause she's a good person. So, any donations that come through, we'll be sending directly to her for her time and expertise. So, thank you for helping us pay our content experts. We appreciate you. And hey, have you heard about our birthday party? WNP…

Arnold: Say what now?

Nicole: Say what now! WNP turns 24 this year. Which is actually kind of an unremarkable birthday.

Arnold: And we did get that number right.

Nicole: We did. We're definitely 24. And we're throwing a really big birthday bash on Tuesday, May 16th at 6:00 PM at our very favorite place in the Richmond, the Four Star Theater on Clement Street. Now this is a fundraiser for us, and believe me, I know it, we just all got through tax season. And I have been [00:53:00] informed it's a terrible time to hold a fundraiser. But here we are. And we will be having our big gala at the end of the year. But, you know, we heard you folks wanted to be able to support us in a very special way at a lower ticket price. So here you are. Tickets are $75. I know that sounds a lot. But you're gonna get beer or bubbly, snacks and treats. We're gonna have special giveaways. And our big thing of the night is going to be a live podcast interview with famed photographer Michael Jang. And we are producing a special limited edition Michael Jang poster specifically for this event. It's at gonna be at sale, for sale there. And you can't get it afterwards unless, for some reason, we make it available afterwards. But limited quantities. So again, you can, you can come party with us and celebrate with one of the most incredible contemporary photographers of our time.

Arnold: And we do have another [00:54:00] event. This one is actually happening at the Internet Archive. Amazing. You should go to this event just to get inside that place.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: It's a book party for Richard Brandi's book, Garden Neighborhoods of San Francisco. It was originally scheduled previously. There was an illness. It got rescheduled to Thursday, May 25th at 6:00 PM. So, if you have a chance to join in that fun, please do. Or, and/or I should say, you can come join Richard leading a history walk of one of those garden neighborhoods. That's happening Saturday, May 13th, and it's a tour of the Forest Hill extension area. WNP members can join that walk for the measly sum of $10 and it costs non-WNP members $20 to come. It is almost sold out. And if you wanna save yourself $10 on that event, become a member first. And then, you get discounts all these other events that are gonna be happening throughout this [00:55:00] year coming up.

Nicole: Yeah, as our dear friend Margaret Osterman likes to say WNP does more events than organizations double their size. You know, one's with four employees. So, you can, yeah, please get your tickets. We're on Eventbrite. You can go to our events page on the website. It's really easy. We make it really easy for you to sign up. And if you have any problems, you can just email Chelsea. Email Chelsea. Okay, here we are. Arnold, it's time for a preview for next week.

Arnold: And this is a preview that's been weeks in the making. We actually had planned to do it before. It got pushed back for a bit, but it's actually gonna happen now. I hope so.

Nicole: Working on it.

Arnold: But in any event, our podcast on the Blackthorn Tavern is finally happening. Mostly because the Blackthorn Tavern is very excited for this to happen. So…

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Yeah. See you and appreciate you [00:56:00] Huffy, and we're gonna make this happen next week.

Nicole: This, Huffy messages me on Instagram very politely all the time. It's like, is it happening? And I'm like, no, not this week Huffy. But it's happening now. So, here we go. I will come into the Blackthorn Tavern the Saturday we drop it, so I can cheers you Huffy. Anyways, until next time, I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I'm Arnold Woods.

Nicole: And this has been another episode of Outside Lands San Francisco. Thanks for being with us history friends.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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