Opened in 1998, the California Museum preserves, interprets, and engages the public with the history of California. A private non-profit institution in partnership with the State Archives, the California Museum offers a variety of exhibits and educational programs for residents and visitors alike. The Museum emphasizes the state's diverse history and culture. With the support of former First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Museum celebrates individuals who have made notable contributions to the state with the California Hall of Fame located in the museum. Exhibits also introduce visitors to more unknown figures in state history along with cultural movements, technological innovations, civic engagement, and health. Together, these exhibits explore what it means to be Californian.
You may have heard of the
American dream – but what is the California dream? This is one of the ideas explored
in the California Museum. Opened in 1998, the California Museum is a relatively
young cultural institution that has changed its name and transformed its
mission over the years. First called the Golden State Museum, the California
Museum began as a place to exhibit works from the California State Archives. In
2003, former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, helped reinvent the
museum as the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts, which
emphasized California’s unique artistic and celebrity culture. Today, the
museum is simply known as the California Museum, exploring the state’s diverse
people, cultures, and visions of the California dream. In the words of Woodland
mayor and former museum board member Tom Stallard, the museum is “an
idea-based museum rather than an object-based one.”1
The California Museum achieves
its mission through a number of unique exhibits, programs, and events. Permanent
exhibits explore topics ranging from indigenous history to computer chips to
skateboarding, while short-term exhibits always provide something new for
returning visitors. Guided tours, field trips, and special programs for Girl
Scouts and homeschool students provide a more in-depth look at these exhibits.
Each year, the Museum inducts around a dozen notable residents of the state into
the California Hall of Fame, which was established by Maria Shriver in 2006. While
the California governor and first lady select the final inductees, the public
is welcome to nominate candidates through the Museum’s website.
In the early 2000s, the
Museum opened the “California's Remarkable Women” exhibit, which focuses on the
achievements of women in the state, including former First Lady Maria Shriver,
farm worker activist Dolores Huerta, and astronaut Sally Ride.
The California Museum
addresses darker moments in the state’s history and uses exhibits and programs
to promote peace and acceptance. The oldest exhibit at the Museum, “Uprooted,”
addresses Japanese internment during World War II. In 1999, the Museum created
the Unity Center exhibit in response to a series of local hate crimes. The
Unity Center explores the history and perspectives of civil rights leaders and
diverse residents of the state and “encourages
visitors to find common ground while embracing their own individuality.” Works of art such as the “Constitution Wall” in
the museum courtyard emphasizes the rights and freedoms of Californians as identified
in the state Constitution.