Renovating the Natural Sciences Gallery at the Oakland Museum of California
By Olivia Jackson
B.S. Engineering- Product Design, Minor in Computer Science, 2011
One of my favorite books growing up was The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Koningsburg, in which a brother and sister run away from home and live in a museum, sleeping amongst Michelangelo statues and antique beds. As a child, I secretly wanted to stay after hours at a museum, and have been fascinated ever since by what goes on behind the scenes. Working at the Oakland Museum of California this summer has allowed me to reconnect with this childhood fantasy—my “office” is a cavernous room of habitat dioramas, stuffed owls and desert underbrush that peek over at me while I work at the computer. The museum is housed in a modern building right on Lake Merritt in Oakland, with impressive views of the lake from sculpture gardens on the museum’s roof. I am grateful for the part of my BART commute in which I emerge at the Lake Merritt Station to a side of the bay that at least ten degrees warmer and a smidge friendlier than San Francisco (where I grew up and am now living).
I have spent the summer working as part of an interdisciplinary team on the renovation of the Natural Sciences Gallery. A large part of the new gallery is focused on Oakland—the complex relationship between people and their environment, diversity of habitat even in an urban setting, and how it has all changed over time. Throughout the summer, I have gotten to work on multiple projects ranging from mapping sea level rise in the Bay Area, creating an interactive map of past Oakland habitats, profiling people who clean up Lake Merritt, and mapping a year of albatross flight over the Pacific.
I have learned a lot about both the complex natural history of California as well as the complex process of exhibit creation. It has been incredible to see how a group of people from a variety of backgrounds--natural science, education, art, fabrication, design--come together to produce a cohesive gallery. I am learning a lot about what it means to communicate science to a diverse audience and to get people excited about understanding the environment around them, and am very much looking forward to the opening next summer.
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »