Free ‘Museum Day’ Debuts This Saturday

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Planet
Friday September 29, 2006

Local museum enthusiasts—particularly the impoverished, the penurious, or the simply thrifty—have a welcome opportunity this Saturday to visit several local scientific and cultural venues without paying regular admission. 

Museums around the country are participating in a one-day free “Museum Day” program, previously available only to Smithsonian Magazine subscribers. 

Most of the top-tier culture and art museums in the Bay Area are not participants, but there are several good museums in the program within reasonable day-tripping distance of Berkeley. 

These include: the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco; the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley and the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland; the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose; the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas; and the Blackhawk Museum in Danville. 

All are waiving admission on Saturday for those presenting a “Museum Day Admission Card” which you may obtain online from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ museumday/articles/what-is.php 

The Cantor Museum at Stanford is also participating. Admission is regularly free there, but for the day they’re offering some special discounts to Museum Day participants in their bookstore. 

The purpose of most of the museums listed above should be obvious from their names. If you’re not familiar with them, the Museum Day website offers thumbnail descriptions and links to websites. 

The Blackhawk Museum is, for instance, featuring some 90 “historically significant and artistically inspired automobiles from the very earliest to the contemporary.”  

There’s a free tour at 2 p.m. on weekends and a visiting exhibit, “Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian” that looks more interesting in images than it sounds. 

If you want to travel further afield, the Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum on the Mendocino coast is also a participant, along with numerous museums in Southern California, including the Bunny Museum in Pasadena, with “over 21,000 unique bunny items,” plus some live lapins.  

Once you open the website, click on “Download the Museum Day Card.” Print out the form that looks like one of those subscription cards that always fall out of magazines. 

Click on “Participating Venues” and go to “California” to see the list that includes the Bay Area participants. 

The Museum Card gives admission for two people to one participating museum. Print out extra cards if you want to go to more than one place or if your party numbers more than two. 

The card looks like it should be filled out with your contact information, but if you read the fine print, you can decline; present the card, blank, for admission and save yourself from going on more mailing lists. 

Although the card gets you in the door, you have to pay for any inside extras like special exhibits and films. 

Still, if you have time on Saturday, it’s a deal worth taking, and worth thanking the always-free Smithsonian for thinking up.