The collection holds hundreds of thousands of photographs, film footage and hundreds of hours of video. You will find pictures of sailors taking a sighting or going aloft. Ordinary sailors and captains snapped pictures of everything from cod boats fishing to whaling in the Pacific. You can see shipboard families with babies, cats and dogs. Professional photographers and filmmakers captured the daily hustle and bustle of a major American port with the moving cargo or arrivals and departures of ships. They photographed and filmed everything from transpacific crossings to yacht racing.
How may I access and use the collection? Access to the collection is available by appointment only; please see our Collections FAQ for more information.
The photograph collection is one of the richest resources of the park's archival holdings and supports many uses within the park as well as for the outside researcher. Both professional photographers and maritime enthusiasts captured images illustrating all aspects of maritime life. The collection is comprised of over 400,000 still images and over 78,000 original negatives. In addition to caring for its own collection, the park has been designated as the Pacific West Region Nitrate Film Repository, caring for over one thousand photographs from other regional parks.
The photograph collection has everything from 19th century mammoth plate albumen prints to small snapshots. A major part of the collection is original negatives including cumbersome glass plate, flammable nitrate film or modern instamatic film negatives. Many are compiled into photograph albums.
You will find anything from professional commercial films to family home movies on 35mm, 16mm, 8mm and super 8mm film in color or black-and-white with sound or silt. Filmmakers and families captured major operations of shipping lines to amateur hydroplane racing int he Sacramento Delta. All tell a story in motion of the changes to shipping and sailing on the Bay and Pacific Coast.
Notable film and video collections include:
Alfred T. Palmer Motion Picture Films (SAFR 18024, P88-086) with over 150,000 feet documenting the major west coast shipping lines such as American President Lines and Matson
Burton Doolittle Motion Picture of Vigilant (Schooner, 5m), 1936 (SAFR 8096, P91-007) shot on board the 5-masted schooner Vigilant's 1936 Seattle to Hawaii voyage
Munsen Family Photographs and Motion Pictures (SAFR 18589, P89-091) 8mm films of a California family's post-war amateur hydroplane boat races
Scott Newhall Motion Picture, undated (SAFR 19493, P78-451) Eppleton Hall paddle wheel tug
Dollar Family Motion Picture Film and Color Transparencies, 1937 (SAFR 20939, P06-017) 8mm film of the Robert Stanley Dollar family
Captain Ottmar Friz Motion Picture Films (SAFR 22071, P97-001) 16mm film of the steamers on which the Captain served
The Men Who Sailed the Liberty Ships (SAFR 21661, P97-008) videotape interviews of World War II merchant mariners conducted by filmmaker Maria Brooks; three interviews can be heard in the Smithsonian Museum of American History's exhibit On the Water.