The Museum for the People

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Opening during the tumultuous sixties as “the museum for the people,” the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) has from time to time been at the center of political tensions that have become characteristic of the city known as “the home of the Black Panther Party.” The Museum for the People traces OMCA’s roots back to its pre-sixties origins, i.e. the period when its surrounding neighborhoods transitioned from predominantly white to increasingly African American. Three cultural institutions that were founded in the early 1900s merged, relocating to the current site during the sixties, and were met by protests before actually opening the doors of what is now OMCA. Delivering the history through the voices of individuals such as L. Thomas Frye, the Oakland Museum of California’s founding curator of History, and providing various current accounts from recent employees and visitor feedback, the author describes an institution that has remained viable by reaching out to “the people” during various critical times throughout its history.