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Oakland Museum opens major exhibition on life around San Francisco Bay

/ 04:26 AM September 04, 2013

Oakland Museum Associate Director Kelly Koski (far left) explaining to visitors the historical facts about the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which was built in 1936. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Rose Paquette

OAKLAND, California—“Above and Below: Stories from Our Changing Bay,” the Oakland Museum of California’s first-ever major exhibition exploring how residents and visitors to the San Francisco Bay have shaped and been shaped by it over the last 6,000 years, opened on August 31.

The special exhibition will run until February 23, 2014. The San Francisco Bay is an estuary, a mixed-zone where cold, salty water from the Pacific Ocean meets warm river water filled with abundant marine life.

Louise Pubois, OMCA senior curator of history, said, “So many things happen around the Bay—the way we think, the relationship of people with nature especially, and how we preserve the environment.”


Oral histories, community voices and interactive displays delve into how human engineering and natural forces have come together over time to shape and re-shape the land and water around the Bay.

The exhibit also shows how sea-level rise, wetlands restoration, commerce and transportation, changing populations, invasive species and climate change are central topics in determining the future of the Bay.

“We are thrilled to be presenting this major exhibition on the historic occasion of the opening of the New East Bay Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge,” OCMA Director Lori Fogarty said in a statement.

Exhibition Highlights:

–   Evocative gallery environment revealing objects, projections and artifacts about life underneath and above the Bay.

–   Dramatic high-resolution film taking visitors on a sweeping journey 500 feet above the edge of the Bay.

–   A “fly-through” of the bottom surface of the Bay.

–   Science stations where visitors can monitor the health of the Bay, its water, sediments, plants and animals.


–   Oral histories and original film footage documenting the construction of the San FRancisco-Oakland bay Bridge opening day festivities in 1936, and the work it took to keep the bridge running over the course of the 20th century.

–   ‘Crossing the Bay’ Loaded Lounge, featuring film taken from the point of view of visitors crossing by ferry, bridge, and BART, and inviting visitors to contribute their own stories.

–   Panoramic-floor map with right Geo-Stations featuring quirky historic and contemporary place-based stories from around the Bay, such as the folk sculptures of the Emeryville mud flats, and the buried ships hidden under downtown San Francisco.

–   Exploration of the mysterious and isolated islands of the Bay, including poignant   stories of immigrants detained at Angel Island.

–   A 22-foot high, 3D projection of the reconstructed Emeryville Shellmound- an original burial ground of the native Muwekema Ohlone Tribe- and artifacts recovered from the mound, interpreted by living descendants of the mound builders.

–   “Bay Futures Lounge” where visitors can discuss current and controversial issues pertaining to the Bay, including sea-level rise, wetlands restoration, invasive species and climate change, and make choices about the future of the Bay.

–   Stunning aerial, panoramic photographs of the Bay’s colorful salt ponds, which are becoming one of the world’s top experiments in habitat restortion.

–   A working salt pond restoration tank.

–   Drawbridge hunting ‘shack,’ featuring interactive doors and windows that reveal stories about the history of this now ghost town in the marshes of the South Bay.

–   Large-scale digital photo matrix showcasing the change of the Bay’s edge over time through contemporary imagery and historical maps.

–    Overview of the history of the Bay’s vast military presence, from World War II to the Cold War, featuring an original Nike missile launch station from Angel Island, and images exploring the complex legacy of these military sites today.

The OMCA charges $15 per adult during regular days while kids get free entrance.

Koski added that the Gallery of California Arts, the Gallery of California History and the Gallery of Natural Sciences—are all completely new and renovated—with some $63-million spent in major capital campaign.

The exhibit is supported by the California Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Bay Area Toll Authority and the California Transportation Commission to complete the seismic safety project o the historic San Francisco-Oakland Bridge.

Likewise, the exhibit has received generous support from the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, Matson Navigation Company, Barclay and Sharon Simpson, and Stephen and Susan Chamberlin. Media partners include Bay Area News Group, KPIX and East Bay Express.

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TAGS: displays, Environment, geography, history, Kelly Koski, land use, Museum, Oakland Museum, San Francisco Bay, settlements
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