Push to preserve 1906 earthquake photos before they fade away

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - With the anniversary of San Francisco's 1906 earthquake this Saturday, memories of the aftermath of the earthquake captured in photos, are literally fading away.

The collection of photographic negatives – many of which have never been seen before - are now being held in refrigerated vaults deep inside the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

The images, taken by a man named Arnold Genthe, are fading and in jeopardy of being lost forever.

San Francisco's fine arts museums have launched a campaign to preserve the images.

"When you look at the photographs you can see how they struggled in the immediate aftermath," said James Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in San Francisco.

"You see the tent cities that went up, see how people were cooking and lining up for provisions." Ganz says the Genthe collection is endangered. He says the city's fine arts museums have launched a campaign to raise at least $40,000 to help preserve the negatives.

Associate conservator Victoria Binder says the process to preserve the negatives is time consuming and expensive.

Binder says the first step in slowing down the deterioration of the negatives is to place them in freezer storage.

The second step is to digitize the 158 photographs. Binder says once digitized they can be enlarged in high resolution, capturing more details from that April day.

Ganz says if the photographic negatives can be saved he hopes they can one day be put on exhibition.