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San Francisco's de Young Museum


I never thought to find out who or what the giant Matisse-like cutouts were on the high lobby walls, I was so taken with the 2 ladies exploring them. I’d come to see the Judy Dater photography show but also to have a good look at the building.


This was my summer of no-car-Clipper-Card adventuring and this day my movement through the City diverged from my usual path at the Ferry Building. I’d done my homework, knew the #5R Fulton bus would get me across town to Golden Gate Park after just a couple of blocks walk up Market Street and it did, . . .

. . . passing City Hall (above) on the way, my grandmother’s workplace for decades. On arrival at the museum a kind soul selling tickets asked if, by any chance, I’d come by public transportation and a little thrilled, I bought my senior ticket with an additional $2 off.

In 1974 I returned to the San Francisco Peninsula with husband and 3 year old son after 9 years away, mostly in Europe, Puerto Rico and Canada. Before long I made my way to the de Young Museum, 25 miles from Redwood City, and volunteered my limited talents to Gene Munsch, conservator of decorative arts. Once a week I made the trip and did whatever he decided I should do and loved every minute. I polished silver, cleaned whatever needed cleaning, dusted the frames of old masters. And saw the artwork, including the just arrived Rockefeller Collection of American Art, taking my time before the public was allowed in and discovered George Catlin, still a favorite.


The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake had its way with the old de Young building and while it wasn’t destroyed, it made it difficult for the city to get insurance, or so it was said, so the decision was made that it would be torn down and replaced by a new de Young. I wonder about such decisions, whether there isn’t a measure of empire building. Or maybe I was just overly fond of the old building.


Judy Dater is a Bay Area photographer whose work I’d seen from time to time over the years. We’re approximate contemporaries and this day as I slow-walked through her exhibition I enjoyed memories of times and places we shared, some I'd seen before and others I hadn't.  Afterward I had lunch, a good one, in the museum cafe, then took the elevator up the tower.





Views from the tower, above to the front, below the
ground floor roof and  Japanese Tea Garden beyond


The day I visited was a typical foggy San Francisco summer day and not at all conducive to photos, in particular of the spectacular views from the tower, great though they were in person. It’s always fascinating to see things we think we know well from an entirely different perspective, and while I haven’t quite decided whether I like this museum building as a whole, I do know I love the views. I urge anyone in the least interested to Google “de Young Museum” for a look at sunny day pictures, the building from a variety of angles and views from the 360° windows of the tower, including the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge looking north.


Visit the de Young Museum website for more information.



Next week, adjacent to the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden.



More PortMoresby stories here.




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