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De Young Museum © WolfmanSF/Wikipedia
De Young Museum © WolfmanSF/Wikipedia

A Guide To The De Young Museum, San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 29 September 2016
The de Young Museum is one of two fine arts museums located in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The museum is known for painting a picture of art and culture on a global scale, displaying thousands of artifacts and artworks from around the world. Read on for more about why you should visit and what to expect.

The de Young has been open to the San Francisco community since 1895, when it opened as part of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Founded by and named after newspaperman M. H. de Young, the museum originally spread over 140,000 square feet, housed in the fair’s Fine Arts Building, a building with Egyptian revival architectural influences. The building suffered severe damages in the 1906 earthquake, closing for over a year. The building was redesigned with Spanish Plateresque architecture and construction was completed in 1919. Two years later, a central section and tower were added, in 1925, a west wing was added, and by the mid-1900s the museum’s original structures were demolished. After experiencing damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the building was restructured once again, expanding to 292,000 square feet with seismic retrofitting, expansive gardens, and a variety of environmentally conscious features. Today, some of the original building’s features still remain, including the Pool of Enchantment, palm trees around the landscape, and the sphinx sculptures.

The museum’s permanent collections are vast and varied. The American collection features thousands of works from 1670 through today and is ranked among the top ten collections in the country covering the entire history of non-indigenous American art. The international contemporary collection showcases works in a variety of media, from traditional media to installations, conceptual works, video, and photography. The textiles and costumes collection features over 13,000 pieces from around the world, comprised of costumes, accessories, textiles, fabrics, and more, spanning 2,500 years of history from 125 countries. Finally, the Africa, Pacific, and Americas collection features over 1,400 works from Africa, over 3,000 Oceanic works, and over 2,000 works of significance to the history and anthropology of the Americas. Other topical exhibits are hosted onsite seasonally.

A variety of other features await visitors to the de Young, as well. Be sure to pass through the Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden, enjoy sweeping views of the city from the 144-foot observation tower, eat a meal at the de Young Café, and browse through souvenirs at the two-story museum store.