Review: Oakland Museum of California

By Graham Urquhart

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If you are visiting California, whether from overseas, another part of America or even if you are a California resident yourself, one must see attraction is the Oakland Museum of California.

With over 1.8 million objects designed to connect and integrate the art, history and natural science of California (as well as near enough anything else you’d want to know) the museum is dedicated to telling the state’s “extraordinary story”.

Following the amalgamation of three museums Oakland was opened in 1969 as a museum “for the people”. Set within stunning grounds, the museum fully utilises indoor and outdoor space.
A modern three story concrete building, with a floor each for the Art, History and Natural Sciences galleries, is fully complemented by terraced roof gardens, patios and lawns – perfect for a taking well earned break after touring the many displays and exhibits featured inside.

From an Art perspective the Museum showcases over 70,000 Californian Art and design pieces dating back to the mid 1800s featuring artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Granville Redmond and Wayne Thiebaud.

As part of the Museums upgrading and renovation works two new exhibit halls were opened in 2010. The Gallery of California Art and the Gallery of California History both feature thousands of artefacts and artwork, perfectly representing and portraying California’s rich artistic heritage and culture.

The cultural heritage of California is beautifully captured by the Museums historical exhibits. Ranging from the Native Californian basket collection, to the California Gold Rush the exhibits feature a number of collections showcasing the regions diversity and cultural foundations.

A number of the materials on show outline the development and growth of Californian technology, agriculture, business and domestic life – including a full replica of Steve Jobs’ garage, the birthplace of computing giant Apple.

No museum gives a clearer and more informative history of the Golden State, whether you are a first time visitor or a long standing resident.

Currently shut for renovation, but reopening next Summer, the Natural Science collection at Oakland is billed to promote California as one of the world’s top biological hotspots. Featuring a broad range of over 100,000 research specimens the gallery is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of the state’s biological diversity.

Popular past exhibitions at the Museum have included a look at the history of Animation featuring breath-taking artwork from behind the scenes at Pixar. Returning due to popular demand is the 1968 exhibit, featuring an unforgettable look at one of the most pivotal years in modern history, from Vietnam to Martin Luther King and Black Power to the Feminist movement.

Following a two year and $62 million renovation, the Museum is now bigger and better than ever after reopening in 2010. Launching with a 31 hour long celebration of free events and activities, new innovative exhibitions and interactive displays have impressed visitors ever since.

For anyone taking holidays to California, the Oakland Museum comes highly recommended, ever more so after its renovation. Easily accessible by Subway from San Francisco the many exhibits on show offer a myriad of interesting artefacts and displays for visitors of all ages.

The author, Graham Urquhart, is a travel enthusiast and writer for Riviera Travel – a UK escorted tours specialist.

About Bloice Davison

Bloice C. Davison, III blogs, travels occasionally, and takes pictures. He has experience in the telecommunications, banking, retailing and outside sales businesses. He is a former fly-fishing guide and fly-fishing instructor for the Orvis Company. He served as an Aircraft Maintenance Specialist in the United States Air Force. A 1988 graduate of Virginia Tech, he also has a BS in statistics from the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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