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SLIS News

Alumna Has Californians "Singing the Golden State"

Posted Jul. 23, 2012
Visitors to California will be “Singing the Golden State” in popular songs of bygone days, thanks to the efforts of a graduate of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS).

SLIS alumna Patricia Keats, M.L.I.S ’79, was instrumental in bringing the “Singing the Golden State” exhibit to life at The Society of California Pioneers.

Keats, originally from Park Ridge, Ill., received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University in medieval and renaissance history and went on to the University of Chicago to complete her master’s degree in medieval art history. Currently she holds the position of Director of Library and Archives for The Society of California Pioneers, a museum and library located in downtown San Francisco.

Patricia Keats“The Society of California Pioneers was established in 1850, by individuals arriving in California before 1850 who wanted to preserve and promote the history of the state,” Keats said. “Originally the organization also served as a benevolent society aiding members who needed help financially and providing a place for them to gather while in California since many were here without their families. The Society continued to thrive under the leadership of several generations who are direct descendants of the early founders. We feature ongoing exhibitions that focus on the history of California.”

“Singing the Golden State” celebrates California through popular songs of an earlier era as they live on in sheet music, period recordings, and other musical memorabilia. All of it relates to some aspect of the state’s history. The exhibition brings together pieces from two collections that provide a comprehensive view of early California sheet music.

“I’ve known the curator, James M. Keller, for many years, and we often talk about music since he’s the arts and music editor for the Santa Fe newspaper and program annotator for the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic,” Keats said. “He was telling me about his sheet music collection, especially his California collection, and I had just cataloged our collection of sheet music. Our collection, The Frederick Sherman Music collection, was given to us in the 1940s by the son of the founder of Sherman Clay, a music and piano store that was founded in the 1870s in San Francisco. We thought it would be wonderful to do an exhibition some time. After about three years of planning it has come to be.”

Keats worked with Keller to pull items from the society’s collection, which included sheet music, photographs, and artifacts such as musical instruments, postcards and playbills, and she kept track of the items he brought and sent for the exhibit. She also helped with research for the exhibition and worked with a publicist to get the exhibit information out to local media sources.

“Both collections of music are untapped resources for research. As a librarian I believe this is very important,” Keats said. “Our Frederick Sherman Collection has been here for many years and was virtually unused. I’ve been here since 2000 and have been trying since I arrived to make the collections at the society accessible and available to researchers. The music is also a wonderful way to involve people in history; it’s historically interesting, but also interesting visually and musically as well. Many local schools no longer have music programs, so it fills a gap in their curriculum as well.”

The exhibition at The Society of California Pioneers will run through Dec. 7, 2012. The main floor includes cases of instruments, piano rolls, ephemera and photographs. The first floor also covers musical topics such as the Gold Rush, the state song, the earthquake of 1906 and sports fairs and festivals. The second floor offers a musical tour of the state, featuring songs from the many different areas of California.

Keats said that if she could give any advice to students pursuing a career in the library and information science field it would be not to worry about matching your degree to what type of library you will be working in.

“If you love working with people, books and collections, any type of library will be interesting for you,” she said. “I find that researchers are all very much the same no matter what field they are in. Working with the researchers and helping them to use the collections is the most satisfying part of my job. Also, doing internships and volunteering is the best way to get to know what you want to do, and where you want to work. Often, a job will come out of that. It has for me over the years.”

For more information about the exhibit or The Society of California Pioneers visit http://www.californiapioneers.org/singing_the_golden_state.html.


By Nicole Gennarelli