California has always been a place of great diversity. The story begins with its indigenous people and continues today with the increasing influx of people from all over the world.

This diversity is reflected in the History Collections. Over 1.7 million items represent California's history and cultures from the era before Europeans arrived to the 21st century.

The History Department of the Museum marked its 100 anniversary in 2010, having previously existed as the Oakland Public Museum. Charles P. Wilcomb, the museum's first curator, created a collection to represent what he considered the foundation of California's culture: California's native people and "Yankees" from the Eastern United States. Today the History Department's strongest collections are in photography; California native baskets and other material; California Gold Rush era artifacts; and material that relates to California technology, agriculture, business and labor, domestic life, and significant events such as World War II. Recent acquisitions help us tell the stories of many ethnic and cultural groups, recent immigrants, the counterculture, and gay culture.