Hearst Museum to close temporarily for transformation

The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, will close temporarily beginning this Sunday  (July 1) to make way for a dramatic transformation. The changes will boost collection preservation, museum exhibits and programming options as well as museum accessibility for students, scholars and the public.

Founded in 1901, the Hearst Museum is home to nearly 4 million objects that span almost two million years. It is the largest anthropological collection in the Western United States and the most comprehensive Native Californian collection in the world.

The museum moved in 1931 from its first home in San Francisco to an existing structure on the UC Berkeley campus, then into its current space in Kroeber Hall, on Bancroft Way near College Avenue, in 1959. Its latest transformation will focus on upgrades to the facilities where 1.7 million objects in the museum’s collection are housed – Kroeber Hall and the Regatta Collections Facility in Richmond.

With staff, student and volunteer help, the project will involve an extensive update of the museum’s collection inventory, along with photographing and digitizing much of the collection. The museum will also revamp its existing museum display space in Kroeber Hall.

“It’s all about creating and improving access,” said Hearst Museum Director Mari Lyn Salvador.

When the museum reopens in 2014, visitors will encounter a renovated terrace along Bancroft Way that will include a native Californian basket weavers’ garden and demonstration area, a newly-designed welcome center and museum store, refurbished galleries and a flexible multi-use study center.

“Everything we move will go into a space designed just for that object,” said Salvador.

The redesign also will include a special space in Kroeber Hall for Native American consultations and ceremonies, and collections kept in the Hearst Gymnasium basement will be transferred to Kroeber.

The museum project comes on the heels of a recent expansion of the nearby UC Berkeley School of Law and associated landscaping improvements around the Bancroft Way-College Avenue entrance to campus.

Loans from the collection, acquisitions, research in the collections, and classes usually held in collection areas will be suspended during the Hearst Museum’s 24-month closure.

Fundraising is underway to raise $2.2 million for the museum transformation in Kroeber Hall, and the campus has shown its support for the collections facilities upgrade with $4.2 million in funding.

Updates about the project will be posted periodically on the museum website.