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Park ranger Bob Holloway sits inside one of his earthquake tents. The tent contains a period sewing machine, oil lamp, tea kettle and a family portrait in a gold antique frame. Photo by Adrianne BeeInside a Quake Camp

On April 18, 1906, at 5:12 a.m., the ground below San Francisco shook for 65 seconds that would change the life of everyone who lived there. Soon after the earth cracked apart, fires began to rage across the city. Five hundred city blocks were destroyed and more than half of the city's 400,000 residents became refugees.

Graduate student Bob Holloway (B.A., '85) wondered what life was like for those who found shelter inside more than a dozen tent camps in open spaces across the city. The result of his research was "Survivors: Life in an '06 Quake Camp," an exhibit comprising three artifact-filled tents located outdoors in San Francisco's Presidio. A fitting way to commemorate the anniversary of "The Great Quake," the exhibit was Holloway's final project
for his museum studies degree.

His tents included period toys, games, furniture and clothes, as well as plaques, photographs and recorded readings of survivors' letters and journals. "In lots of 1906 accounts you'll see all ethnicities together, the rich and the poor … everybody nursing their wounds together like one big happy family," Holloway says. "But you'll also find that the Chinese were moved to five different camps until they were deemed not offensive and allowed to stay." Inside one tent a lady's hat with a flourish of feathers peeked out of a chest in the corner. Holloway explains that the earthquake occurred a few days after Easter Sunday; many San Franciscans grabbed their newly acquired holiday outfits. "The wealthy people had more finery," he says.

Holloway, a Golden Gate National Recreation Area park ranger, says his exhibit attracted international interest. "Natural disasters that cause suffering like this or [Hurricane] Katrina or the [Indian Ocean] tsunami cross borders. People are interested in the human story."

-- Adrianne Bee


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