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THE 1906 SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE AND FIRES

 

By Culturekiosque Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, 24 May 2006 — More than 250 artifacts and photographs make this show at the Oakland Museum the largest in California dedicated to the centennial of the earthshaking events of 18 April 1906. 

San Francisco Fire
Mission Street: San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906
Photo courtesy of Oakland Museum of California

On view until 13 August 2006,Aftershock! focuses on the earthquake’s impact on the people living in the Bay Area a century ago. The 7.8-magnitude quake cut a swath of destruction from Santa Rosa to San Jose, displacing 200,000 people in San Francisco alone. The quake and three-day fire wiped out three-fifths of the city’s housing, as well as its municipal buildings and landmarks. Overnight, the financial capital of the West was in ruins. Areas founded on swamps and landfill were the hardest hit. An estimated 3,000 people perished in the fire and quake, some in cheap lodgings that collapsed as they slept. Visitors to Aftershock! can experience a simulated earthquake via a "shake-table" under the floor of a re-created Victorian room that rolls and pitches.

The 4,000-square-foot exhibition also documents how San Francisco tried to downplay the severity of the disaster and protect its commercial future. The real estate board met a week after the earthquake and passed a resolution that the phrase "the great earthquake" should no longer be used; it would be known instead as "the great fire." Thousands of men were quickly hired to clear the rubble and begin reconstruction. Rebuilding the city was both a physical and a marketing endeavor.

Lastly,  Aftershock! covers contemporary life in earthquake country, Californians embrace of "quake culture," memories and photographs of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, and current seismologic technology.

 

Aftershock!—Voices from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire
1 April - 13 August 2006 
Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street
Oakland, California 94607
Tel: (1) 510 238 22 00

Book Tip

San Francisco Is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
by Dennis Smith
Paperback 294 pages
Plume (29 August 2006)
ISBN: 0452287596
$15.00

This timely release in paperback by the author of Report From Ground Zero (Viking 2002, Plume 2003) recounts in depth the four days of fires and heroism of the San Francisco firemen and many local citizens, as well as the corruption in government and business before and after the disaster.  



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