How Visitors Changed Our Museum



Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA connects collections and programs across disciplines, advancing an integrated, multilayered understanding of this ever-evolving state. With more than 1.8 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

How We Visitors Changed Our Museum – The Book

In 2010, the Oakland Museum published “How We Visitors Changed Our Museum: Transforming the Gallery of California Art at the Oakland Museum of California.”  The book tells the full story of the renovation and reinstallation of the gallery with gorgeous photos and essays by Lori Fogarty, Barbara Henry, Rene de Guzman, and more.  If you’re interested, we highly suggest your purchase the book, available here.

Starting Conditions

Excerpted from Lori Fogarty, Executive Director’s, foreword to the book:

When I first began here, we couldn’t capture the right word for what we were doing – except that they all began with “re.”  Remodel?  Not quite right – sounds like the kitchen.  Renovation? Suited more for an old farmhouse.  Reinstallation? Who knows what that means.  Reinvention? Well, only if we’re tossing our history aside.

As we moved further into the process, however, I began to see that this project involved much more than the physical change of expanding galleries, enhancing the infrastructure, and improving our visitor amenties.  This project touches every aspect of the Museum – from the way we work together as a staff, with our visitors, with our community – an ultimately the vision of this institution.  We are transforming.  And, as the dictionary so aptly notes, this means changing our composition and structure; our outward appearance; and most fundamentally, our character and constitution.

The first broad goal of the project was articulated in the 2002 bond that provided the initial funding for the Museum’s capital renovation.  The residents and taxpayers of the City of Oakland voted by more than 75% to support: “a major expansion, reinstallation, and renovation of the History Gallery, Art Gallery, and Natural Sciences Gallery to reflect the changing faces and environment of California and to include new information, interactive technologies, and multicultural, multilingual presentations.

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  • Thank you for sharing your experiences on the web,this is so inspiring! Our museum is in it’s start-up process with an anticipating opening date of September 2012. Our exhibit team is putting a lot of effort in reaching out to the community and stakeholder groups in an attempt to tell an up-to-date and balanced story. What I like best in your video is that this process is never-ending, like an open dialogue. That we cannot sit back and relax, thinking that the job is done now. Visitors will always change and so do we. I think that is one of the beauties and challenges of the work we do. All my best and thanks again for sharing!

  • Looking forward to sharing this with colleagues and museum studies grad students. Nice work.