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Museum Grand Openings

Whether they number 30,000 or 3 million, museums are always looking for new ways to display their artwork and artifacts and trying to find the best ways to tell the stories of the cultures they represent. These museums are doing that through renovated exhibits, expanded galleries and new buildings.

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Yorba Linda, California

It’s challenging to fairly portray a presidency associated with Watergate and the Vietnam War, but the newly renovated Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, strives to tell the whole story of Nixon’s presidency — scandal and success alike.

The center reopened in October after being closed for a year during a $15 million renovation and expansion. The project included a new 18,000-square-foot wing as well as new interactive exhibits. Visitors can pose with a life-size Nixon in front of a Great Wall of China backdrop; sit behind a replica of the historic Wilson Desk in the to-scale Oval Office; and lift the receivers of several 1960s-era telephones to hear recordings of Nixon speaking with astronauts and politicians, world leaders and family members. Work also included digitizing archives to make them more available.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

Berkeley, California

The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley needs more room to display its collection. After all, it has some 3.8 million pieces. Two projects will help the museum do just that: a new gallery and new collection storage facilities.

Crews are renovating a 5,200-square-foot gallery on the south end of Kroeber Hall that will rotate objects from the permanent collection throughout the year. One corner of the gallery will feature a 700-square-foot multipurpose Learning Center where groups can explore items from the museum’s vast collections, participate in workshops and attend lectures. The project also includes a new patio at Kroeber Hall’s south-side entrance.

Two collection storage facilities house the museum’s osteological collection, global textile collections, basket collection and others.

National Museum of African American History and Culture


The latest addition to the National Mall in Washington is a cultural institution, a work of architectural art and a smash hit. The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September and drew more than 730,000 visitors in the 14 weeks it was open last year.

To visit, guests must have timed-entry passes, which have been selling out months in advance, but the effort to get one is well worth it. The building’s exterior is covered in a gleaming, bronze-colored architectural scrim. Inside, the Smithsonian Institution museum features nearly 37,000 artifacts, documents and photos that explore African-American life, history and culture. Exhibits include “Slavery,” “Segregation,” “Civil Rights,” “American South,” “American West,” “Education,” “Family,” “Military,” “Music,” “Literature” and “Photography.” Some of the most stunning pieces include Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and a dress sewn by Rosa Parks.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco

The expansion project took three years, but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) reopened in May 2016 with 170,000 square feet of new and renovated indoor and outdoor galleries. The architecture firm Snøhetta designed the striking white expansion, which includes 10 new stories that sit seamlessly atop the original Mario Botta-designed building.

The project tripled SFMOMA’s previous gallery space, allowing the museum to display more of its collection of 33,000 modern and contemporary works of art. The museum reopened with 19 special exhibitions, including a selection of 260 postwar and contemporary works from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. SFMOMA includes free public access to nearly 45,000 square feet of galleries on the ground floor as well as permanently free admission to all visitors 18 and younger.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is the only presidential museum in the nation that isn’t in the same location as the presidential library. President Ford wanted the museum to be in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but preferred his archives to be housed in Ann Arbor, where he attended the University of Michigan.

The museum reopened in June after an eight-month, $13-million renovation that included the new 8,000-square-foot DeVos Learning Center, where students and other groups learn about character and civic engagement through the lens of Ford’s life. New interactive exhibits feature interactive displays with more video, audio and touch screens. One exhibit uses lighting and special effects to re-create the typhoon that threatened the USS Monterey aircraft carrier on which Ford served in World War II.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.