The Bob Mizer Foundation's acquisition of 920 Larkin St. in downtown San Francisco last year was just the beginning of the next chapter in the organization's history. Now, the Foundation is moving its operations to its new location, moving into the building one room at a time.
"We've been working in a small room on the third floor of the building for a few months now," says Dennis Bell, the Foundation's president and CEO, adding that several volunteers helped clear the room of items stored there by Bob Mainardi and Trent Dunphy, owners of The Magazine, the business that has occupied the building for nearly three decades. "There's someone here almost every day, archiving slides, cataloging materials, or moving items in. There's still a lot of work to be done, but to see this one room already in regular use -- it's a surreal feeling."
Most days, Bell or at least one volunteer can be found sorting slides at a light table positioned in the center of the room. Bell has kept volunteers busy for several years with this same task -- a monumental one, given the volume of Mizer's works. The archival materials needed to make this particular project a reality was funded by a Kickstarter project in 2016, much like the current one for the new Physique Pictorial is happening right this moment.
"Bob had his own filing system for his slides, so that's made our job somewhat easier, but we have to remember that our collection of nearly two million photographic images has some missing pieces," says Keith Foote, vice president and chief operations officer for the Foundation. "Piecing together those slides that remain in our possession is a huge undertaking, but one that we do several days out of each week, and with the help of talented volunteer archivists."
While archivists remain busy filing slides, another volunteer has been hard at work cataloging books in the Foundation's small but growing library.
The books have come to the Foundation from a variety of donors, including Mainardi and Dunphy themselves, part of The Magazine Archives Collection. The topics of the books range from academic studies of erotica and photography to politics and porn (such as 1970's "The Illustrated Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography") to books from Foundation partner Taschen Publishing, including Dian Hanson's "Big Penis Book," "Bob's World," and, most recently, "AMG: 1,000 Model Directory," a hefty, two-volume tome that chronicles some of the Athletic Model Guild's most sought-after beefcake models.
Also, an enormous number of vintage periodicals are available for research. From 1930s physical culture magazines, to 1940s bodybuilding magazines, 1950s physique magazines, 1960s nudist mags, 1970s hardcore, and 1990s monthly erotic mags, any model can be researched.
The Foundation continues to seek donations to its library from generous book lovers. Like Mizer's original slides, negatives, photos and films, the Foundation library is currently open to students, researchers, and scholars upon appointment.
A second room holds more boxes of slides and other materials waiting to be accessioned and processed, while three desktop computers are dedicated to the organization of digital files. Bell and other volunteers regularly make the trek from El Cerrito, where the Foundation's materials are currently housed, across the bay to downtown San Francisco, where the Foundation will complete its move and emerge as an exhibition space and research facility open to the public.
In addition to moving into a third-floor room at 920 Larkin St., the building that will eventually become the Foundation's new home has seen small but significant changes in recent months. A red awning emblazoned with the Foundation's logo greets guests at The Magazine; Bell has hosted multiple events at the location since Mainardi and Dunphy gifted the building to the Foundation as well. Those events include monthly film screenings and a book release party for Taschen's "1,000 Model Directory" last November.
"We're steadily making that transition that we've been waiting so long for, and the response from our supporters and the community has been really positive," Bell says. "It's a great feeling to finally see everything coming together."