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Oakland Museum of California Gifted Native American Photographer Dugan Aguilar’s Personal Archive

Featuring More Than 20,000 Original Negatives, 600 Prints, Proof Sheets, Past Exhibition Flyers, Notes, and Other Personal Items From Aguilar’s 40-Year  Career

A New OMCA Exhibition Celebrating the Indigenous California Artist is Planned for Fall 2024

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Month,  Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) today announces its major new acquisition of Native American photographer Dugan Aguilar’s personal archive, which was gifted to the Museum by Aguilar’s family. Of Mountain Maidu/Pit River/Walker River Paiute heritage, Aguilar was an important figure in the revitalization of Native traditions for more than 40 years. From 1982 until his death in 2018, Aguilar documented a wide spectrum of Indigenous life in California.

Celebrating contemporary Native culture and people, Aguilar’s powerful photographs illuminate the endurance of Indigenous communities which have thrived in the region for thousands of years, presenting a largely untold story of contemporary Native life in California. Through this acquisition, OMCA will work in collaboration with Native partners, including its long-standing partnership with the Museum’s Native Advisory Council, as well as individuals who were photographed by Aguilar. OMCA was identified by a group of Native scholars and community advocates as the preferred institution for preserving and sharing Aguilar’s legacy based on the Museum’s established practice of telling Indigenous stories in collaboration with Native Californian advisors, together with its long history of collecting and exhibiting important California photography.

Many of the themes in Aguilar’s powerful and emotional photographs include ceremonies, conferences, and gatherings; California basket weavers; Native American war veterans; portraits of well-known Native artists, as well as important elders and the children who receive their wisdom; and California landscapes from an Indigenous perspective, such as Yosemite and Sutter Buttes. Depicting a wide range of people and experiences, Aguilar’s photographs put human faces to objects and artworks that are frequently exhibited but rarely connected to the people who make and use them. They provide a starting point for larger conversations around Native activism, the history and renewal of Native traditions, and what all of us can learn from California’s oldest cultures.

In addition to the acquisition, OMCA has received a two-year grant of $164,199 from the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) to help support the cataloging and digitization of these images, providing the public with access digitally for the first time once the process is completed. 

“We’re honored to acquire this astounding collection of photographs and personal ephemera from such an important Indigenous artist,” said OMCA’s Curator of Photography and Visual Culture, Drew Johnson. “Through a deep collaboration with Native partners, we are working  to catalog, image, and soon, provide public access to this collection, through an exhibition, programming, and additional installations in our galleries.”

More information about the acquisition and OMCA’s upcoming exhibition will be available at

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

Press images are available to download here

On View at OMCA 

Angela Davis — Seize the Time
Great Hall
On View until June 11, 2023

Angela Davis — Seize the Time is an exhibition focused on Davis and her image. Organized in partnership with the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, the exhibition provides a compelling and layered narrative of Davis’s journey. Using the Angela Davis Archive in Oakland as both the heart of the exhibition and a source, visitors are given the opportunity to investigate how we remember, preserve, and activate radical Black history, while also allowing us to re-imagine the construction of the image of Davis as an icon of American Black radical resistance, female empowerment, and a threat to the white patriarchal status quo.

Beyond the archive and popular culture references, the exhibition positions Angela Davis as a continuing touchstone for contemporary artists referencing mass incarceration, Black Lives Matter, and economic disenfranchisement. Contemporary artworks assert Davis’s significance as a Black feminist intellectual and engage with her as a historical participant in a larger narrative, not simply as an unmoored image of radical chic. 

Hella Feminist
Great Hall 
On View until January 8, 2023

Feminism. It’s a loaded word; as empowering to some as it is challenging for others. OMCA takes on this complex and timely topic with Hella Feminist, celebrating the lesser-known stories of feminism here in Oakland and the Bay Area. Bringing together historic objects from the Museum’s collection such as posters, pins, and photographs, alongside newly commissioned works by artists, Hella Feminist is rooted in the idea that discrimination against all elements of identity (gender, class, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, education, age, etc.) is interlinked and that no element can be addressed in isolation. The exhibition aims to challenge, provoke, and inspire visitors to reconsider and expand their understanding of feminism and its complicated history.

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace
Gallery of California Natural Sciences
For Children Ages 2 to 5

Little learners can unleash their curiosity and imagination in the newly-created OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace. Located in the Gallery of California Natural Sciences, the playroom is focused on the unique needs of children ages 2 to 5, along with their families and caregivers. Play is critical to every child’s healthy development and the playroom offers something for everyone, from building materials and nature-themed puzzles to hands-on activities that spark creativity, wonder, and joy. Our youngest museum visitors can also discover the animals that make their homes in Oakland’s streams, hills, and backyards. The playroom gives families a fun, safe place to play and to build community with other families. Admission to OMCA is free for kids 12 and under.

The OMCA Native Advisory Council (NAC) was established in 2006 to provide advice on OMCA collections and NAGPRA issues affecting the Museum, help develop temporary and core gallery exhibitions and public programs, and provide advice in other matters relating to Indigenous people of California. Seven Native Californian community leaders have worked in close collaboration with museum staff to propose, vet, and position any Native content the Museum exhibits. The Museum is continually working with Council members to invite the next generation of Native Californians and fill any gaps in tribal representation on the Council. Situated on unceded Ohlone land, OMCA has a long history of collaborating with Native advisors.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multidisciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. The Museum is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. For details and admission, visit

Masks are encouraged for visitors and Oakland Museum of California staff. OMCA asks that anyone on campus be considerate of those in their immediate surroundings as we work together to keep our community safe. Masks are available upon request at the ticketing desk for those who would like one.