Helene Whitson                                                                      Helene Whitson, President

Special Collections Librarian/Archivist, Emerita                     San Francisco Lyric Chorus                           

J. Paul Leonard Library                                                           Co-Author, San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco State University                                                Chorus Directory

415-338-6217                                                                         1824 Arch Street

hwhitson@sfsu.edu                                                                 Berkeley, CA  94709




Helene Whitson, Special Collections Librarian/Archivist, Emerita member of the San Francisco State University Library Faculty, and Founding Curator of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archives, came to San Francisco State University in 1966 after receiving her B.A. in English (1964) and M.L.S. (1965) from the University of California, Berkeley. 



Ms. Whitson had a variety of positions at the San Francisco State Library: 

Assistant Social Science Librarian,

Assistant Education/Psychology Librarian

Assistant Librarian, Order Department

Interlibrary Loan Librarian

Government Publications Department Head

Special Collections Librarian/Archivist and Founding Curator, San Francisco Bay Area Television Archives.  

She retired in 2004.



She is the author/creator of:

Strike! a chronology, bibliography, and list of archival materials concerning the 1968-1969 strike at San Francisco State College.  Published by ERIC.  1979.  86 p. 

ED 158 735


The California State University and Colleges Trustees Almanac; a biographical directory of the California State University and Colleges Trustees, 1960-1980, including a brief history, chronology, statistical tables, bibliography, and index to minutes of the Trustees meetings, 1960-1980.  Long Beach:  California State University and Colleges Historical Archives Committee.  September 15, 1981.  488 p.  Also on CSU Systemwide Archives website as of 2006: http://archives.csudh.edu/csu /


The San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory.   First edition.   1985.  140+ pages.


The KQED Film Archive Preservation Project:  Parts 1 and 2.  Videotape.  1987.


The San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory.   Second edition.   1988.  380 pages.


Unearthing The Past:  Access To Local Television News.  Videotape.  1989.


The California State University Board of Trustees Almanac, Supplement, 1981-1988.  Long Beach:  California State University Trustees.  1989.  209 p. Also on CSU Systemwide Archives website as of 2006: http://archives.csudh.edu/csu/


The San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory.   Third edition.   1992.  578 pages.


The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University.  Videotape.  1996.


Whitson, Helene and Gerry Yeager, “Arrangement and description,” in  Davidson, Steven, and Gregory Lukow, The administration of television newsfilm and videotape collections:  a curatorial manual.  Los Angeles:  American Film Institute, 1997.    Review of manual:  American Archivist, 62:1, Spring 1999, pp. 193-195.


Whitson, Helene, Valerie Howard, and William L. Whitson, “Celebrating choruses,” Cadenza, a publication of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, vol. 6:2, November 1997, pp. 4-5.


The San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory.  Fourth edition.  1999.  741 p.


Whitson, Helene and Wesley Kyles.  On Strike!  Shut It Down!  A Revolution at San Francisco State:  Elements for Change.  J. Paul Leonard Library.  1999.  60 p.  (Text for centennial exhibit on the strike.)


Whitson, Helene, "Sources of stock and archival footage," in  Handman, Gary P., Video

collection development in multi-type libraries; a handbook.  Second edition.  Westport, Connecticut:  Greenwood Press, 2002, pp. 396-405.


Commanday, Robert, “Singing their hearts out, all 28.5 million,” San Francisco Classical Voice (http://www.sfcv.org/main/main/html), March 5, 2003.  Lead article in this online musical reviewing service mentions the San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory and the San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive.


Whitson, Helene, “Singing Russian liturgy in concert,” Russian Music  Past and Present, Vol. 1:1 (Spring-Summer 2005), 81-82.  Article concerning San Francisco Lyric Chorus Summer, 2004 concert published in the first issue of this magazine.


Whitson, Helene, “Mass in B-flat major (“Harmoniemesse”) by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809),” The Cleveland Orchestra Music Study Groups 2006-07 Listening Guide, Rose T. Breckenridge, comp., pp. 17-18.     Cleveland Orchestra, Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, September 2006.  Rose Breckenridge, The Cleveland Orchestra Music Study Groups Administrator, called and asked to use this description from my San Francisco Lyric Chorus program notes for our April 2005 Haydn-Bruckner concert.


Whitson, Bill and Helene, ‘Concert halls:  the unremarked musical components,’ Bay Choral Music eZine, October Issue, No. 6, October, 2006, pp. 1-3.


Mechem, Kirke, “Biography,” In Composers on composing for choir.  Edited by Tom Wine.  Chicago:  GIA Publications, 2007, pp. 83-85.  Kirke asked Tom Wine to use the biography I had written of him for the San Francisco Lyric Chorus Summer 2003 program, which was devoted to Kirke Mechem’s operas, John Brown and The Newport Rivals.


Whitson, Helene, “Mining for gems,” Singer Network (http://www.singernetwork.org  (Chorus America), Spring 2008-2009.  These are articles Chorus America asked me to write about unknown compositions on unknown recordings.


Editor, California State University Librarians Chapter Newsletter, 1978-1988.


Editor, California Academic and Research Librarians (CARL) Newsletter, 1983.


Editor, Society of California Archivists Newsletter, 1980-1982.



She was active in the:

California State University Librarians Chapter of the California Library Association

Society of American Archivists

Society of California Archivists

Association of Moving Image Archivists

Bay Area Preservation Network (BAPnet)

Bay Area Archivists



She is the Founding Curator of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University (http://www.library.sfsu.edu/about/collections/sfbatv/index.php?over=1, as well as the creator of the San Francisco State University Strike Materials Collection (http://www.library.sfsu.edu/about/collections/strike), items documenting the student demonstrations at San Francisco State, 1968-1969.


She has been a consultant concerning local television news archives, and received federal and state grants for local television newsfilm preservation and for cataloging San Francisco State's collection of historic children's books.


She has given presentations on disaster preparedness in archives and libraries, local television news film preservation, California higher education (especially the history of the California State University system), book and paper preservation, children's literature, and San Francisco State University history. 


She was a member of the state task force that developed the preservation plan for library, archival, museum and historical society materials in California. 


She has experience in diverse aspects and subjects of libraries and archives--social science reference, education/psychology reference, education/psychology tests and testing, interlibrary loan, government publications management, reference and cataloging, children's literature, special collections management, paper conservation/preservation, academic archives, film and video preservation, and organization of local television archives, as well as in information about choruses in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. 



She is the recipient of the:

*Society of California Archivists Sustained Service Award, 1997, for her years of service to that organization

*Governor’s Citation for Life Achievement, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, San Francisco/Northern California Chapter, 1999, for her work in preserving historic Northern California television

*California Heritage Preservation Commission’s 2000 Archivist Award of Excellence, April, 2001, for her leadership in developing the Bay Area Television Archives and her work during the San Francisco State University Centennial.

*At the Chorus America annual conference in Chicago, June 2005, Bill and Helene Whitson received commendations from Vance George, San Francisco Symphony Chorus Conductor and Corty Fengler, Board member of Chorus America, for their work in documenting San Francisco Bay Area choruses and for the San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory.



In retirement, Helene is devoting herself to her lifelong passion—music!  She began piano lessons in 1950 at the age of 9, first studying with a neighbor, and in junior high school, ca. 1955, beginning study with Noel Renaud, a student of Arthur Foote.  Lessons with Mr. Renaud continued through 1962, when she went away to college.  She studied for three years again, ca. 1981-1983, with Laura Ponti, a student of Bernard Abramowitz. She taught herself harpsichord, and learned recorder from her father and on her own.  She had one college year of music appreciation, one semester course in the music of Mozart/Haydn, and one semester course in the music of Beethoven.  She has had no courses in the structure of music, and much of her knowledge of music has come from listening and reading.


Helene began singing during graduate school, when she joined a non-auditioned student chorus at the University of California, Berkeley.  In 1968, she joined the San Francisco Civic Chorale, directed by Winifred Baker, and remained with that chorus until 1989.  In addition, she sang with the Jeanne Walsh Singers, ca. 1980-1989, the Baroque Choral Guild, 1989-1990, the Berkeley Community Chorus, 1989-1993, the San Francisco Choral Society, 1990-2003, and the San Francisco Lyric Chorus, 1995-date.  She is Co-Founder of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus  (http://sflc.org), and is the founder of The Arch Street Irregulars http://www.choralarchive.org/ArchStIrregulars/ , a small ensemble of friends, singers and instrumentalists, who have met regularly since 1970 on Arch Street in Berkeley to study, sight-read, and perform music from medieval to modern.


In addition to study and performance of choral and instrumental music, Helene Whitson is actively involved in the documentation of choral music in the San Francisco Bay Area.  In 1984, she and her sister, Valerie Howard, began gathering information concerning Bay Area choruses, in order to make such information available to singers and others in the area.  The first edition of the San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory, documenting 140 local choruses, was published in 1985.  The second edition, documenting 380 choruses, was published in 1988, and the third, documenting 450 choruses, published in 1992.  The fourth edition was published in 1999 and documents over 500 local choruses.  The Chorus Directory became web-based in 2008.


Helene and her husband, William, also are the founders of the San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive: http://www.choralarchive.org, an organization that documents choral life in the greater Bay Area.  The archive gathers material which documents choral activity, such as flyers, programs, reviews, recordings, scores, etc.  Helene and Bill also have written various articles about aspects of choruses and choral music. 



HW September 2009