A few weeks ago, I visited the Prelinger Library after my friend sent me this article from Wired’s MapLab: Rarely Seen Maps From San Francisco’s Quirkiest Hidden Library. What a treat! It was like a speakeasy, but in library form because I found the code on their website and when we approached the building I used the code. They answered and I indicated my interest in visiting the library and they buzzed us into the building. We took the elevator up to the second floor, down a barren hallway and into a room full of historical content.
With limited opening hours (only on Wednesdays), it felt even more exclusive, but very accessible if you just seek it out. I was greeted by Rick Prelinger and Megan Prelinger, and they even gave me a short tour of what the library had to offer.
It’s a small library, but lots of interesting things to look at, especially for a map lover like myself. I started in the books section, looking at all the books related to geography, cartography, maps, and then proceeded to my favorite section – actual MAPS! I moved over to this section of the library and chose the box labeled “Europe”. I think I could sit there for hours just browsing through the boxes and boxes of maps they’ve amassed. What’s most interesting is that the maps come from so many different time periods. I loved all the vintage maps, and seeing maps from places no longer – like Yugoslavia, but also seeing maps that didn’t have locations and places that we know today.
There were flight schedules for Europe, train schedules for Europe, maps of countries, maps of cities, and even old subway maps. I felt like I sat there for hours unfolding each of the maps and taking tons of photos, but realized by the time we left that I had only gone through ONE of several boxes for Europe. Looking forward to my next visit there – perhaps I’ll be able to make it through more than one box of maps!
I highly recommend a visit! Rick Prelinger and Megan Prelinger are very friendly and answered all of my questions, and they’ve put together a great collection. The adventure inspires me to organize my own collection of maps!
Wednesdays, 1 p.m. – 8 p.m
301 8th Street
(corner of Folsom Street)
San Francisco, CA
Here are LOTS of photos from my visit – enjoy!!
Let me know if you have any questions!