OAKLAND, Calif. - At the Oakland Museum Of California, Friday was opening day, or rather re-opening day.
"Magnificent. It's a great museum," said Ed Trujillo of Martinez.
For the first time in 15 months, the doors to the popular museum swung open, but only to its members through the weekend. Next weekend only, the general public can come in for free.
Museum director Lori Fogarty says its nice to see actual people inside again.
"It felt like the first day of school. I went out of my home with a lunchbox and say, ‘Okay. We are back,’" she said.
Some new exhibits are on display such as the depression-era portraits from famous photographer Dorothea Lange.
"I was excited to come and see all the changes. It is such a wonderful place to hang out. I can't say that was the case before," said Peggy Graybill of Oakland.
The museum has done some remodeling. It's opened up its green space and planted a native California garden.
But for many of the 2,000 people expected over the weekend, the museum represents more than its exhibits. It's an East Bay cultural touchstone that wasn't available during the COVID lockdown.
"We took the bus here. It's our first bus ride in a year and a half. So it's being able to walk in. They're back and it is better," says Anne Symonds.
Before the pandemic, the museum drew about 400,000 visitors a year, making it the largest cultural institution in the East Bay.
But for the time being, the museum will be open at half capacity out of COVID health concerns. Visitors should book tickets online. Arrival times are staggered.
The museum plans to return to its pre-COVID schedule of Wednesday through Sunday beginning in August.