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Gallery of
California History

“Coming to California” is the Gallery of California History’s overarching theme, emphasizing the profound impact of the many people who have made this state their home. The story begins with Indigenous peoples and continues through to today with the increasing influx of people from all over the world. Trace the ways Californians have forged relationships with each other, the environment, and the world through 2,200 artifacts, works of art, photographs, and more. 


Taking Native Lands and Lives

Learn about the genocide of Native peoples in the early era of California’s statehood and the impact it continues to have on contemporary California.

Black Power

Uncover the history of the Black Power movements and explore the creative ways Black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government.

The Black Power fist is a symbol of pride and solidarity with oppressed peoples of the world. Oakland’s Black community has a long history of working for equal rights. Each generation has built upon the work of the last.

Sent Away

Come hear first hand accounts of Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their California homes and incarcerated during during WWII.

History Now— Not Just Here to Play: Athlete Activism

African American sports activism in the US dates back to the early twentieth century. Despite the repercussions they experience, athletes continue to use their voices and platform to express discontent about injustice and racism in our society. While some see sports as apolitical and encourage athletes to “shut up and play,” recent athletes have taken their activism to another level by developing resources for community members who are most impacted by racism and discrimination.

History is happening every day and we all help shape it. A 350-square-foot section of the Gallery of California History, History Now features timely, rotating installations emphasizing current events in an interactive space that invites visitor commentary and feedback through thought-provoking prompts and powerful historical objects from OMCA’s collection.

Before the Other People Came

Explore seven different geographic regions of California as contemporary Native People describe the histories of their ancestors, their relationships to the land and each other, and the innovative practices that they crafted to live in each dynamic natural environment.

Hollywood: Coming for Dreams

Visit the “Hollywood” section of the gallery to design costumes, make your own animated cartoon, and create film sound effects in the “Foley” Studio. At the top of every hour, catch The Curse of Quon Gwon produced, directed, written, and starred Marion E. Wong in the History Gallery Theater. This is the earliest known film produced by an Asian American filmmaker, and also the earliest known American film written and directed by a woman. Filmed between 1916 and 1917, most of the scenes are set in Oakland, California where Wong lived. 

In January 2024, NAGPRA regulations were revised to require consultation with and consent from affiliated Tribes before organizations can display human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. As part of our long-standing and ongoing partnership, OMCA’s administration and our Native Advisory Council have reviewed the objects from Native American cultures that are on view in the galleries. These everyday items help to tell the important story of Native California life and history, and have been determined as permissible to share with the public. OMCA is committed to our continued collaboration with and work for Native communities, and will respect requests for display changes.