In my quest to catalog a portion of the San Diego Museum of Man’s photograph collection, I have stumbled across an amazing assortment of original glass plate negatives from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. These images are some of the first ever taken of Balboa Park and illustrate the changing culture in San Diego at that time. Many of these images include the California Building (currently home to the Museum of Man), the Cabrillo Bridge, and the New Mexico Building (currently the Balboa Park Club).

One photographer who captured historic Balboa Park was Lee Passmore, a Canadian who came to San Diego in 1908. Passmore snapped hundreds of photographs from all over San Diego, including the 1915 Exposition in Balboa Park. You can read more about Lee Passmore’s life and work here. Glass plate negatives from other photographers, such as Roland Reed and M. Otto Schellenberg, also make up part of this collection of historic Balboa Park images.

Glass plate negatives were first created by photographers in the 1850s by coating a piece of glass with collodion. Because glass plate negatives are made with real glass, photograph collections in this medium can be very heavy and very susceptible to cracking and breaking. Get more information about handling and storing glass plate negatives here.

Rosa Longacre, Project Archivist