Did you check out the weekend long celebration at the newly reopened Oakland Museum of Art last weekend? Open for 31 hours straight, honoring California’s place as the 31st state in our union, activities were planned round the clock from Saturday morning till Sunday night, and while I can’t say we made it to the 4am rooftop tour, we did put in a pretty good showing on Saturday night…
The first thing you noticed as you approached the museum was the bold new logo, configured out of multi-dimensional retro-cool orange letters…. so much better than the stodgy old uniform brown lettering that used to announce your arrival. This sign alone is indicative of the larger changes incorporated within… more modern gallery spaces, more comfortable seating areas, and more interactive displays.
One example is pictured above right… a box constructed out of glass and a mirror-like surface that appeared and disappeared as one walked around the box, at times you could see through it to the person standing on the other side, at times you could see your own reflection, and if you both stood just right, you could see both, and even multiple images of each.
Another fun interactive station was incorporated below into the People of California exhibit. A wall of portraits of various periods, mediums, and styles included two framed digital screens that displayed visitor generated self-portraits, created on a slick touch screen (think Ipad!) with a wonderful little drawing/painting program allowing the use of various brush sizes and colors. Patrons could save their creations to be later displayed, both on the wall as framed art, and on a secondary screen that allowed other visitors to scroll through all the recorded portraits, viewing the sequence of brush strokes that created each one. This exhibit had a line of people waiting for as long as I was there. Nice job OMCA!
The weekend activities highlighted the the completion of Phase 1 of the renovation plan with the re-opening of two main galleries: Art and History. (Phase 2 is slated for completion in 2012 and will comprise a new Natural Science wing.)
The galleries are certainly more spacious and inviting, but the real changes are more conceptual than structural. While galleries used to be organized chronologically, now objects will be organized thematically, mixing various mediums and periods in order to tell complete “stories.”
Another primary change is to make the galleries more easily transformable. The museum’s collection dates back to the early 1900’s, cobbled together from three older existing museums. “With nearly 2 million objects in its permanent collection, the museum is considered a leading resource for the research and understanding of California’s social, cultural and environmental heritage.” (The reinventing of the Oakland Museum of California by Angela Hill)
With a collection this large, only a small percentage is viewable at any point in time. “One of the key ideas of this whole renovation is to create a situation where we can change things out in a much easier way,” said René de Guzman, the museum’s senior curator of art. (The Oakland Museum Remixes Its Gallery Space by Rachel Swan)
Lori Fogarty, the museum’s executive director, further emphasized the shift… “We’d heard people coming through, saying things like, ‘Oh, I came here in fourth grade, and it’s just the same,'” Fogarty said. “We needed to do something about that, making the gallery spaces more flexible for changing exhibits, bring more programming like lectures and poetry readings directly into the galleries.”
From the scene this past weekend, it looks like their efforts have paid off hugely. The museum was packed!
If you haven’t seen the new museum yet, it’s definitely worth checking out… see their site for hours, directions, current exhibits, and more. Oakland Museum of California