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The cover of the spring/summer 2004 Issue of SFSU Magazine


SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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History in Motion

This fall, an estimated 40,000 Bay Area bus riders will take an educational journey through labor history, thanks to the SFSU Labor Archives and Research Center.

An illustration by Oscar Melara featuring people performing a variety of jobs, from bus driver to computer programmer. This sketch will be converted into a panel for a traveling Labor Archives exhibit on SamTrans buses this fall. Illustration by Oscar Melara.

"Our Work Life," a series of murals and accompanying brochures traveling on Sam Trans buses for two months starting on Labor Day, tell the stories of workers in California during the past century. "They are intimate stories that describe how people feel when they are doing their jobs -- their challenges and joys," says Susan Sherwood, acting director of the Labor Archives. She and coworker Catherine Powell conducted extensive background research for the project. They hope riders will come away with increased respect for the jobs people do every day, as well as a boost in the pride they take in their own work. Selected panels will be on display concurrently at both SFSU's and City College's main library.

The traveling display was the brainchild of artistic team Kate Connell (M.A., '97), a reference librarian at City College, and her husband, Oscar Melara, a Sam Trans bus operator. Connell, who joined students at SFSU and City College in interviewing the workers depicted on the panels, says, "Most people who thought that there wasn't much to like about their jobs had changed their minds by the end of the interviews." The stories were often moving. "One person discovered by speaking out loud that he was not a middle man but an advocate."

Connell says. A woman who had been a labor commissioner in Guatemala and is now a nanny decided "your work can't diminish who you are."

Other workers in the exhibit include the first African American MUNI bus driver and an SFSU alum who worked as a child laborer.

Readers are invited to the exhibit's opening reception on Labor Day, Sept. 6, from 1-5 p.m. at San Francisco's Ship Clerks Association ILWU Local 34, 4 Berry Street, next to SBC Park. One of the buses will be on site for visitors to view the complete series of panels inside.

The exhibit was made possible by grants from the Creative Work Fund, Peninsula Community Foundation, Zellerbach Family Fund, and the LEF Foundation.


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Last modified August 12, 2004, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications