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On 10th Street in Oakland, CA, near Lake Merritt, this museum is devoted to California and anything remotely related. It has some obvious sections, such as a large room with collections of memorabilia from the Beat generation, the sixties, etc., and collections of Victorian stuff, and natural history exhibits on the various ecosystems of the state. But there are things that will surprise you. In that Victorian section there's a completely restored fire engine, an exuberant piece of bronze and red-painted steel that reminded me why steampunk exists. Among the areas evoking various eras are the obvious general store and sitting room, of course, but there's also a yuppie's den (someone has a sense of humor!) and three Japanese mannequins in gorgeous kimono, looking like life-size Japanese dolls.

Additionally, there's an art wing that has presented everything from Jacob Lawrence to Charles Schulz, and is currently carrying work by a photorealism painter. We have the largest collection of Dorothea Lange's negatives anywhere. There is also an amazing jade pagoda permanently on display, currently across from an exhibit of mostly Chinese decorated bottles. (Don't laugh. These tiny tiny works of art will completely blow your mind.)

The collectors' store sells original works of fine art, and the museum store is stuffed with neat things and wonderful books, so they're worth a visit as well. And they have a way-cool koi pond. The museum is open 10-5 Wednesday-Saturday, and 12-5 Sunday, with some changes for special exhibits. Like most California museums, it has periodic free days. Prices are reasonable, though. (Note: prices will be up during the Forbidden City exhibit.) Check their website for more information: www.oaklandmuseum.org

As of October 10, 2000, I work there. I was specially hired for the Forbidden City exhibit. Come say "hi!"

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