Thursday 19th September
Kim and I made an early start this morning, chasing up a few last minute archive images to share with the group. I really think that I could live in the photo archive here. There are so many beautiful and intriguing images.
I also came across a blueprint for the library. The blueprint details the changes that were implemented after the major fire that the building endured in the 1980’s, which caused huge amounts of damage not just to the book collection, but architectural damage too. The fire gave the city an unexpected opportunity to rebuild, extend and modernise the library. Many of these changes are detailed within this image.
Day three of workshop delivery meant that I finally got to hear some completed stories, and what a treat it was. They are all so very different. My favourite story today came from Sandra. Sandra works for one of the Los Angeles Public Library branches, and has graciously given her time this week, travelling across to the City branch before starting her shift. Her story details the Jazz music scene in LA, how it has changed over the years, who she has seen perform and how she hopes to pass on her love of Jazz to her two nieces. The part that stands out the most in her story is when she talks of seeing Miles Davis a few weeks before his death. She talks about how excited she was to be there, to have front row seats, only to find that all she would see of Miles, through his entire set was his ‘butt’. She then says that she later found out that he often performed with is back to the audience. It’s such a beautiful story of music and family, that also touches on more serious elements of racial segregation and how the industry has, over time, changed.
Whilst recording the individual stories, the remaining workshop participants were busy looking through the archive images that Kim and I had dug out of the archive the day before. I really love this aspect of the project delivery. Seeing peoples response to images, the stories really seem to come alive for the participants and for myself too.
Both Mary and Kyle brought in family photographs, and they were met with equal interest from the group. It really did demonstrate that archive photographs and family photographs do capture the same level of intrigue.
Opening of the doors
One other thing that I should mention was watching this mornings ‘opening of the doors’. Kyle suggested that I watch the influx of the public when the library opens it’s doors at 10am. I was a bit baffled at first when she said this, I couldn’t really see why it would be worth mentioning. In actual fact it really was a sight worth seeing. The number of people who enter the building is pretty jaw dropping. After the financial crash, library staff noticed that the library itself has become a safe haven for many poor and homeless people, and whilst cut backs were put in place and opening hours were reduced the library still seems to have remained at the heart of the community for varying reasons. Although very sad, I found this quite heart-warming, that a place of education and learning could hold this level of appeal for so many.
The Bradbury Building, Angels Flight, G&B and Grand Central Market.
After a morning of story capturing, I wanted to take some time out to see some sites. I’d heard that the Bradbury Building was worth a look and in walking distance of the library. I’d also been told by Vi (workshop participant) that I needed to visit Grand Central Market, and her favourite coffee house G&B for a proper cup of tea. With the two buildings situated within the Bunker Hill area of Down Town Los Angeles I set out from the library on a mission.
Built in 1893 by mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury and designed by local draughtsman George Wyman, the building’s internal architecture was influenced by the 1887 science fiction book Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, which described a utopian society in 2000.
From the outside the building it is very unassuming, but once you enter it really is like no other building of it’s age. It felt more like being in a giant greenhouse, instead of being within the heart of the giant redbrick building that you enter. I was hoping that I might be able to convince the security staff to let me look around, but I only managed to get as far as the first floor. The building is occupied today by LAPD’s Internal Affairs, who not surprisingly, don’t appreciate tourists poking around.
The security guard was very eager to share with me his stories and photos which detailed events that have been held within the building including Blade Runners 30 anniversary party, that was held in the building last year. Blade Runner isn’t the only movie to feature the Bradbury Building as a film location, it pops up quite regularly. Other movies include The Artist, Pay it Forwards, Wolf, Disclosure, Lethal Weapon, and the list goes on. It’s hardly surprising that this building is a draw for film directors, it’s distinctive architecture really sets it apart from all others. Having said that, directly opposite the entrance is the entrance to the Million Dollar picture house. Now closed, like so many of the picture houses here, it is now really only available as a film location.
Next up was my visit to G&B, within Grand Central Market for a much needed cup of tea. The weather today was in the early 30’s. Before my visit I hadn’t really considered the weather playing a factor in how much I could do and see. But I really do feel that it slowed my down today.
G&B’s coffee house is a thin strip of a bar looking out of Grand Central Market on to South Hill Street opposite the Angels Flight Railway. It’s a really great location, with staff who take the time to chat to you and ask you about your day. It felt welcoming and far less impersonal than the chain coffee bars I’d been venturing into on my way to the library. It’s this notion of chain stores and cafés that I had really expected from Down Town LA, but when you really start exploring the city it’s actually far less homogenised than I’d expected.
The element that I’m loving the most about my trip are the suggestions of places to visit by the people that I’m meeting and working alongside. I really didn’t want to stay in a hotel and visit purely tourist locations. I wanted to feel like a local, working within the city. Today I really felt I’d achieved that.
Enjoyed this post? Start at Day 1 of Sally’s adventures taking Memory Box to Los Angeles. Or you can carry on reading.