The Oakland Museum of CA’s latest exhibit,” Above and Below: Stories from our Changing Bay”, opened on August 31 (exhibit closes February 23, 2014.) This show presents the most extensive artifacts, photos and illustrations of San Francisco Bay ever seen in the Bay area. The exhibit areas are divided into separate sections defining the “Above” ground and “Below” ground segments of the air, land and water into visual displays.
There are between 18 and 48 islands in the Bay. Images and maps of these islands and Island names are artfully displayed.
One can choose to walk either left or right as one enters the special gallery. If you walk to the right, you begin your exploration with life “Below the Bay”. The Bay is actually not a “bay” by definition (an inlet of the sea or other body of water usually smaller than a gulf).The Bay is an estuary (a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater). Forty percent of the surface of California – sixty-one thousand square miles – drains into the San Francisco Bay. Within this section of the exhibit you will see cannonballs found on the surface ground of the Bay that were used for target practice during world war. And then, trace the bay life under water surfaces. Learn about how climate change affects the rising sea level.
The Gold Rush Legacy is also displayed. During the Gold Rush, miners used mercury to separate gold from water and gravel 80 million pounds of mercury were released into the Bay. This mercury does not decompose over time and is still dangerous to people who eat seafood from the Bay.
There is also a section called “Above”. It is located to the right side of the gallery as you enter. Here you can see illustrations of immigrant and ethnic histories and landscape evolutions in the Bay Area. Industrial salt ponds initially created by Bay marshes were converted to salt pond systems by the Leslie Salt Company in the early 1900s. 20,000 acres of salt ponds were transferred from the Leslie Salt Co. to federal ownership when the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established.
Human and wildlife survival are a recurring theme in this exhibit. The early history and lifestyles of the immigrants are illustrated by displays of meals, homes and temporary homes such as Angel Island. In the 1870’s Chinese immigrants harvested millions of pounds of shrimp from the Bay every year to dry and sell in China. Many “wooden ducks” used during the days of hunting duck for consumption are on exhibit as well. Due to the declining number of wild birds, duck hunting was outlawed in 1917.
Don’t forget to check out the photo exhibit by Peter Stackpole which documents the making of the first Bay Bridge in 1936.