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Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay

August 31, 2013–February 23, 2014

Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay unveils the quirky stories of how people and nature together have shaped the San Francisco Bay Area over the last 6,000 years. The first major exhibition to be presented with all three of OMCA’s transformed galleries of California Art, History, and Natural Sciences open to the public, the exhibition highlights historic and contemporary place-based stories about the Bay, and engages viewers in discussions about the Bay’s future. Through an extensive use of media featuring oral histories, community voices, and interactives, the exhibition explores how human engineering and natural forces have come together over time to shape and reshape the land and water around the San Francisco Bay, and how sea-level rise, wetlands restoration, invasive species, and climate change are central topics in determining the future of the Bay.

Above and Below Events

It’s all about the Bay at OMCA, with events throughout the run of the exhibition. A robust schedule of programs and events related to the exhibition Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay is taking place throughout the fall, and there’s something for everyone, including:

Second & fourth Fridays
6:30–7:30 pm
In-gallery discussion during Friday Nights @ OMCA with different topics and guest speakers
Bay Brunches at the Museum
Select Saturdays and Sundays through February 23, 2014
Including a special menu with local ingredients, table service, mimosas and bloody marys, local artisanal salts, and live music
Geek Out! Lecture Series
Saturday, September 21, 2–3:30 pm
Saturday, November 16, 2–3:30 pm
Saturday, February 1, 2–3:30 pm
Explore urgent and exciting issues with guest lecturers ranging from authors to filmmakers, artists to scientists
Family Drop-in Bridge Building Workshop
Sunday, September 8, 12–3 pm
Sunday, September 22, 12–3 pm
Learn about the engineering of bridges, and build your own out of toothpicks and gumdrops
Talk at the Lafayette Library
Thursday, October 3, 6:30–7:30 pm
Join OMCA at the Lafayette Library to discuss the Museum’s newest exhibition


Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay 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 on the historic San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The exhibition and related oral histories, school curriculum, and on-line resources help satisfy mitigation obligations required to comply with state and federal environmental laws. 

The exhibition also received generous support from the Oakland Museum Women’s Board.

    CalTrans   Bay Area Toll Authority    Oakland Museum Women's Board

Media Partners:     KPIX   Oakland Tribune

Photography by Doug Adesko. Courtesy of the artist.
Clamshell dredges like this one scoop out material from the Bay's bottom. Much of that material is deposited on the floor of the Bay, depicted in a simulated flyover projected in the exhibition Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay. Photo: Shaun Roberts. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
This submarine propellor was made in Oakland in the 1940s. During World War II, the U.S. Navy installed a seven-mile-long net across the Golden Gate to keep out enemy submarines. Image courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
The Below section of the Gallery focuses on the ways humans have shaped and shifted the Bay, including this illuminated display case, featuring bottles displaying the various contaminants found in the waters of the San Francisco Bay. Photo: Shaun Roberts. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
Visitors take an aerial tour of the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay Area, with a video projection commissioned by the Museum for its current exhibition, Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay and created by the Center for Land Use Interpretation. The shore around the bay has been altered by humans and nature alike, and viewing it from above can consider the Bay's history and our relationship to our environment. Photo: Shaun Roberts. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
A photograph from Bill Owens' Suburbia series illustrates the changes brought by the new Bay Bridge when it was completed in the 1930s; a digital map showing the change in population density throughout the Bay Area further illuminates how the ease of automobile travel enabled development. Image courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
In the 'Baylands' section of the Gallery, visitors can view a number of artifacts from the town of Drawbridge, a now defunct duck-hunting settlement on the shores of the South Bay, in an interactive 'hunting shack'.  People came from all over during the turn of the 20th century to exploit the natural resources of this area, which was later abandoned and today is one of the only ghost towns in the Bay Area. Photo: Shaun Roberts. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.
In the Military section of the gallery, the impact of major military development and expansion is demonstrated through historic objects and interactive media. A model of the USS Oakland, built at Hunters Point in San Francisco during World War II, rests in front of signs directing soldiers and recruits stationed on Angel Island and the Oakland Army Base. On the right is a photomural of Nike missiles, which were embedded in the mountaintop of Angel Island during the cold war, poised to defend the Bay against
Visitors get up close and personal with a large panoramic floor map, searching for familiar places and landmarks. Geo-Stations on the exhibit floor feature 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. Photo: Shaun Roberts. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.