My Visit to Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)


I read in the museum’s “Inside Out” magazine that the OMCA trains the staff to follow the GOLD standard of service – GOLD standing for Going the extra mile, having an Outgoing personality, Learning what the museum offers, and Delivering a welcoming experience.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is in fact true, not just in the service offered by the staff, but in the content, in the painstakingly created interactive exhibits, in showing the works of art in a brand new way, and in blending art, history, and natural sciences to give a seamless learning experience.  The OMCA’s collections comprising of more than 1.8 million objects include historical artifacts, ethnographic objects, natural specimens, seminal art works, and photographs.  OMCA recently reopened after a massive transformation of almost every aspect of its 300,000 square-foot space.

My visit with some wonderfully inquisitive friends, began at the Blue Oak café with a menu that featured delightfully delicious items such as a chickpea salad sandwich made with mashed chickpeas and sundried tomatoes, cold soba noodles with seared tuna and cilantro and ginger lime dressing, and golden beet salad with cheddar and pumpkin and pomegranate seeds that was as delectable as it was artfully presented.  Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Claudia Leung is totally enthusiastic and dedicated to serving the museum’s growing community of members and warmly welcomed us.  We then toured the 26,400 square foot gardens.  Who would have thought that there is a masterfully created oasis with beautiful landscaping, striking sculptures, and a quiet Koi Pond in which a heron has made its home, right in the heart of Oakland?  Cedars and redwoods provide shade and the plants and flowers include azaleas, camellias, Australian bottle brush, olive trees and more.  The view from the garden terraces of boats sailing at Lake Merritt is breathtaking.  But it was also the sculptures which got me and my friends excited. My favorite was  “Viola Frey’s 1994 sculpture, American Nude Series (Woman with Elbow on Raised Knee)” and the sunny yellow peace sign made out of steel by Cuban born artist Tony Labat seemed just perfect in the spot overlooking Lake Merritt.  The Koi Pond, surrounded by dodar trees, was filled with Koi and water lilies and other California native plants and offered an opportunity for absolutely quiet, reflective moments.

My friends and I then headed for our pre-scheduled docent tour of the Art Gallery.  The art collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive exhibits of California art in the world, dates back to 1916 and features over 70,000 works of art, many of them from the early 1800s.  This is an amazingly living, breathing space filled with interactive exhibits and ideas fueled by visitors’ energy and actions.  The diverse works include different media side by side, with some exhibits offering viewers opportunities for reflection and thought-provoking discoveries. The Gallery of California Natural Sciences will reopen to the public after a 3-year multi-million dollar renovation and transformation, on May 31, 2013 and is presumed to be brilliantly put together by a team of designers, scientists, artists, and community members and depicts the state’s diversity of climate, geology, habitats, ecosystems, and wildlife.  The gallery has over 100,000 research specimens.  Through interactive media, it also explains environmental conflicts around the contemporary conservation projects.   The 30,000 square foot Gallery of California’s History provides a platform to bring to life the state’s rich history.  Millions of individuals through successive waves of immigration with a range of contributions through different periods in history, have shaped California and breathed life into this diverse, rich, creative, imaginative, innovative state.  There is nothing static in this gallery, where the story of California is told through evolving, mutilayered, and interactive exhibits.

This museum is a hidden gem which preserves and shares the richness of California’s art, history, and its biodiversity and scientific innovations in a style that is novel, engaging, interactive, interesting, and seamless.   See www.museumca.org for more membership, and more information on special events and exhibits.

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