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Print Public – Marksearch

Commons Archive
Commons Archive,
a participatory memory bank housed at Oakland Public Library’s Golden Gate Branch, reveals the changing community’s layered history. As authors of their local history, neighbors contribute as well as annotate archive materials, adding their stories and images to this evolving collection. With over 2,000 weekly visitors, the Golden Gate Library serves North Oakland, South Berkeley and Emeryville. The Golden Gate Branch is a historic Carnegie Library; 2018 marks its centennial.

marksearch will collect neighbors’ photos, ephemera and memories, building the foundation for this ongoing permanent archive. Neighbors can share their histories at the library and other gathering sites. The archive will include material from the Oakland History Room, The African American Museum and Library of Oakland, and The Emeryville Historical Society. Stay tuned for community-led workshops and installations at the library revealing the archive’s hidden stories in surprising ways.

Commons Archive builds on Communities’ Crossing, a two-year interdisciplinary exploration of the connections of urban design and oral history. Developed in collaboration with urbanist Anisha Gade, dancers from The Oakland Improv Collective, neighborhood groups, community organizations and small businesses, Communities’ Crossing included neighbor-led walking tours, sidewalk performances at the library and farmers’ market, and a short video.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from The Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund that also is supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

This activity is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.


Related Reviews
– In Oakland, Lessons About Public Space From a Neighborhood in Transition
– The Art of Change: Exploring Neighborhoods in Transition

About the Oakland Public Library, Golden Gate Branch
Since its construction in 1918, the Golden Gate branch has mirrored and embraced its surrounding community. In 1982, the East Bay Negro Historical Society, a group initiated by Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay, was invited into the Golden Gate Branch, making it the first Oakland city library with a predominantly African American focused collection.   Since 1946 the Lasartemays had been collecting oral histories and artifacts about the lives of Bay Area African Americans.  In 1994 this collection became the foundation for the current African American Museum and Library of Oakland.

About Artist
The marksearch team (Sue Mark + Bruce Douglas) focuses on place-based cultural preservation and social memory. Their performance-based projects explore intersections of lost history and cultural complexities. As conversation artists, they engage people in collaborative expressions of local stories to expose and deepen multifaceted bonds between people and their environment. Their participant-driven projects craft a much-needed conversational commons.

Since 2000, marksearch has collaborated with non-profits, community groups, students, historians, urban planners, and municipalities worldwide, designing interactive projects for empowerment and preservation. marksearch explorations have been presented throughout the US and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Portugal and Spain with support from California Humanities, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright Commission, Oakland’s OPEN Proposals, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, San Francisco Art Commission, and Trust for Mutual Understanding. In 2016 marksearch received an NEA fellowship to research cultural preservation strategies in Japan.