The Great History Freeze of 2015

Aug 23, 2015

2fd69de8ce084a092f18bd9ab1427623_originalIt’s our history.

Do we care enough to preserve it?

Though the Pasadena Museum of History has worked diligently to properly and continually preserve the prints and negatives in its archives, maintaining a healthy environment—so they’ll be available to future generations—is in jeopardy.

In 2012, a grant allowed PMH to conduct a preservation study. One of the conclusions was that the Museum is not equipped for long term preservation of these irreplaceable items. The older photographs are deteriorating, off-gassing, and if changes aren’t made, they will be completely ruined in less than two decades.


This image is from the Helen Lukens Gaut Collection of negatives. Here is the image as scanned circa 2000. PMH (HLG-66);

The image above is from the Helen Lukens Gaut Collection of negatives. Here is the image as scanned circa 2000. PMH (HLG-66). Above, right, is the same image’s negative in its current deteriorated state as discovered in April 2014.


“The mission of the Museum is to promote an appreciation of the history, art, cultures, and science relevant to Pasadena and its surrounding communities,” says Director of Collections Laura Verlaque. “But in order to promote, we must preserve.”

Despite being temperature controlled, the humidity within the PMH archives fluctuates and humidity is “particularly detrimental” to negatives. And, incredibly, the Pasadena Museum of History has over one million prints and negatives that it is actively trying to preserve.




PMH volunteer Petrea Burchard:

When we conducted our preservation study, it was determined that digitizing the entire collection would be monumentally expensive and time consuming; not to mention, even if the image is digitally stored, the negative will still decay and off-gas—and this gas is dangerous for the other artifacts and for the archivists working to preserve them. And we can preserve them. With freezers.




Freezing the photographs “renders them chemically stable and they’re inert, and we’re preserving them,” Verlaque explains.

Each freezer unit with storage units, and with inventory and re-housing costs $2,450. One freezer has been donated already and PMH is looking to all of us to help secure monies for a second. Ultimately, PMH would like to obtain up to 10 freezers, but the nonprofit is taking this step by step.


Donated: Freezer No. 1

Donated: Freezer No. 1


If the “Great History Freeze” Kickstarter compaign produces a total of $4,900, then a third freezer will be purchased and all donating supporters will be invited to a “super cool” ice cream party at the museum.

Just as a reminder, Kickstarter campaigns are only funded if the minimum goal is reached. When Hometown Pasadena visited the campaign page to donate, there were 22 backers pledging a total of $1,580. PMH has 25 more days to raise the balance of $870. We’re hoping that those of us who love Pasadena and the surrounding communities will click here right now and donate—don’t even finish reading this post.

We envision our thousands of readers donating $10, $20, and $50; then before we know it, PMH would be able to buy three new freezers. That’s only 12 people donating $20 a day for the next 25 days.

History enthusiasts and Hometown Pasadena readers have enjoyed dozens of historical photos thanks to Julie Stires’ articles in History Buff going back to her first piece “When Garfield Promenade Was Cabrillo Place” back in March 2013. Included in that article is a picture of the Janes Family Home at 308 E. Colorado St., circa 1895 (courtesy of PMH, Janes Collection)…



Following are more examples from the marvelous and invaluable photographic archives of the Museum…

Below: Eva Fenyes with “Fairy,” one of her many Chihuahua dogs. (Photograph by Albert Hiller, Pasadena, California. Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History, PHS16-23) From “The Smart Set” by Julie Stires, July 26, 2015.



East Colorado Street looking west from Raymond Avenue in the 1890s. The building on the right, closest to the viewer, is the Wetherby & Kayser block where Dr. Adalbert Fenyes had his medical offices for over 25 years. (Photograph by Jarvis studios. Courtesy PMH Archives, S41-23) From “The Offices of Adalbert Fenyes, M. D.” by Julie Stires:



Stire’s article “75 South Grand Avenue: 1896-1949,” shows pictures of many of the Fenyes’ household workers. Below: “Barnett our Coachman & Daisy” (January 1897).



D. W. Griffith on location at Fenyes Mansion in March 1912. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP.40.2 p.143 B) From “Mrs. Fenyes and the Movies (Part 1 of 4): Los Angeles” by Sheryl Peters.



If these few images of Pasadena’s history and the people who lived here delight you and inspire a desire to see more, find Julie Stires’ articles here

…and please contribute to the cause by joining the Great History Freeze campaign at Kickstarter.

For more information, visit

Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut Ave., Pasadena 91103. Tel.: 1.626.577.1660. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission to exhibits: $7. Fenyes Mansion tours (offered Friday-Sunday at 12:15 p.m.): $15.


Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at Friendship Baptist Church, Pasadena, February 28, 1960. Image from the collection of mid-century photographer J. Allen Hawkins. PMH (JAH19072)



Theodore Lukens on San Jacinto Peak. PMH (HLG-123)



The Great History Freeze Campaign




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