Magazine article Sunset

Museums and Malls Can Go Together

Magazine article Sunset

Museums and Malls Can Go Together

Article excerpt

Anthropology in Danville, California; exhibits for children in Colorado Springs

MUSEUM AND shopping mall: the two seem worlds apart. One strives to engage our critical faculties, the other to trigger blind impulses. Yet in many Western cities and suburbs, museums and malls are literally finding common ground. The result is a symbiotic relationship in which shoppers who might not make the effort to visit a museum elsewhere are drawn into "mall museums," while museumgoers are likely to patronize neighboring retail establishments.

The West's newest and largest mall museum recently opened in tony Blackhawk Plaza near Danville, 30 miles east of San Francisco. The University of California at Berkeley Museum, run by the nonprofit Behring-Hofmann Educational Institute, is the product of an unusual arrangement between Black-hawk developer Ken Behring and the university. The museum has raised the eyebrows of some skeptics, but whether its founding was motivated by philanthropy or the appeal of having a tax-free attraction at the mall, it provides an engaging forum for collections that previously had been gathering dust in campus storage rooms.

More than 300 artifacts from cultures spanning history and the globe, on loan from the university's Lowie Museum of Anthropology, are displayed in cleverly designed exhibits. In an area titled "Ceremony," for example, a shifting spotlight reveals each of the Eskimo and African carved masks in a large, dark case; beside it, a videotape shows traditional Eskimo dances. …

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