Faces of San Diego

November 03, 2000 – March 18, 2001

With the use of personal photographs, Faces of San Diego 2000 seeks to connect the personal history of San Diegans to our community, our nation and ultimately our world by including images of our ancestors from nearly every continent on earth. Drawn from the 1860s through 1999, this exhibit includes photographs of our lives, our livelihood and our lively pursuits. Responding with great enthusiasm, thousands of San Diegans have culled through their old photo albums and found images that they felt represented their family, their life, and their origins. As Colleen M. O’Connor, the founder of this project, has written, “the purpose of Faces of San Diego 2000 is to bring history alive, to preserve photographs, and to motivate San Diegans to rescue their family history.”

This is the final venue for Faces of San Diego 2000 and represents some of the best images from previous exhibits at Mesa College, San Diego Courts in Chula Vista and El Cajon, and a contest in the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Historical Society’s exhibit includes over 280 images, some from our own collection, but most from donations of local citizens. It is this personal involvement in preserving history that creates a greater and more diverse group of resources for expanding San Diego’s history. Every picture does indeed tell a story. An exhibition such as this shows us how we connect with our community and our world and gives us clues about the various movements of history that brought us to this corner of the world.

The exhibition documents the diversity of our San Diego community. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious and always moving, these photos speak to all of us about where we came from, who we are, and, perhaps, where we might be going. Some of the shots include Boy Scouts, a man in a seaweed skirt, a family brass band, Oscar’s Drive-in carhops, a 1910 girls basketball team, young Koreans at a birthday party and a Navy man on a camel in Egypt. Geographically, the images range from China and the Philippines to the Ozarks and Balboa Park, and represent ancestors of San Diego residents from nearly every inhabitable continent.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently funded the national program Faces of America, an outgrowth of the Faces of San Diego 2000 project in which several colleges throughout the United States will call on their students and staff to gather photographs for exhibitions. Dr. O’Connor and the Society’s Curator of Photographs, Greg Williams, who curated this exhibit, will serve on the national project’s advisory board.