San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley has partnered with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to document the history of the museum on the occasion of its 75th anniversary in 2010. Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast devoted to exhibiting and collecting work by both modern masters and younger, less-established artists.

Fifty-four interviews with directors past and present, curators, board members, collectors, dealers, artists, and museum staff document the museum’s history, with an emphasis on three pivotal questions:

  • How has the museum reached out to the community as it has grown and as San Francisco and the world have changed since 1935?
  • How did the collection develop over the last 75 years?
  • How has the museum defined its priorities for collecting and presenting new work?

Major developments at SFMOMA have involved a collaboration of individuals who have varied relationships to the museum, the art world, and the community. These interviews provide wide-ranging perspectives on the push and pull that results in the growth of an institution, and in the shaping of its identity and mission in a changing world.

Project interviewers (2006-2009)

Richard Cándida Smith, Jess Rigelhaupt, Elizabeth Castle, and Lisa Rubens 

Project funding

The SFMOMA Oral History Project was a collaboration of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Generous support has been provided by the Koret Foundation. Additional support was provided by Elaine McKeon, Dan Volkmann, The Graue Family Foundation, and Martha and Bruce Atwater.

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Related resources

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Smithsonian Archives of American Art Oral History Collection

The Museum of Modern Art Oral Histories

The Getty Research Institute