The story of the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is the story of a few remarkable The new De Young Museum people who have given an extraordinary gift to their city. In 1893, newspaper publisher M. H. De Young led a drive for a new museum to house his collection of stuffed birds. When he learned that the labor of seeking out museum pieces for sale was a large factor in the price, he embarked on a lifelong mission of collecting for his museum -- everything from sculptures, polished tree slabs, birds' eggs and, ultimately, his own collection of knives and forks.
The museum was heavily damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but was Curved glass reveals a garden rebuilt and became even more successful.
The original De Young Museum merged with the Museum of the Legion of Honor in 1972 to become The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with each museum having its own collecting philosophy -- no more birds' eggs, but much more art, with the De Young specializing in arts and crafts of the Americas, Africa and Oceania, while the Museum of the Legion of Honor displays art from Europe and Asia.
Another remarkable donor, Harold Wagner left the De Young a legacy of some unique murals from the Teotihuacuan empire; after lengthy negotiations, the museum worked cooperatively with Mexican archaeologists and returned part of the collection for display in Mexico. An entertaining article on this project can be found at: Gallery at the De Young http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/waac/wn/wn08/wn08-3/wn08-301.html
The De Young was again damaged in 1989 in the Loma Prieta earthquake. During the following years, several bond issues supporting its reconstruction were narrowly defeated. Doris Wilsey, another remarkable supporter, organized the bond campaigns, and then led a private fund drive to rebuild the museum, kicked off with a ten million dollar gift from the Wilsey family.
The landscaping around the new De Young Museum is still being completed, while other older buildings in the park are being replaced. Since we parked in the underground garage, we didn't get much of a look at the controversial copper-covered exterior, but from the inside the architecture was lovely, with large gallery spaces arranged in Olmec statues several wings on two floors. Narrow interior windows allow visitors to look down from the upper galleries, along the broad stair to the lower floor corridor, and many small windows give peeks to the outdoors, where a varied landscape makes the most of San Francisco's temperate climate. An outdoor fern garden appears to pass through the building's interior, next to the staircases.
We were most taken by the outstanding display of ancient art from the Americas, especially since we're in the middle of Charles Mann's book *1491,* which describes the elaborate American civilizations that predated the European explorers. The collection of more recent American art was also impressive, and the entire museum The view from the tower was too rich to absorb in a single visit.
We rode the elevator to the observation deck of the tower and enjoyed panoramic views of the city. Because of its hills, San Francisco presents a striking variety of views depending on where you are standing, and the views from the De Young tower were terrific, with the greenery of the park making a lovely contrast with the houses and the distant buildings.
We're very grateful to San Francisco's philanthropists for keeping the De Young Museum and Golden Gate Park a vibrant part of the cultural life of the city.