The Best Museums in San Jose, California

Photo of Josh Wright
9 February 2017

From ancient peoples and modern American history to technology and modern art, the diverse museums of San Jose are some of California’s most fascinating. Founded in 1777, the city has since born witness to waves of immigration, the California Gold Rush, the emergence of Silicon Valley, and a blossoming cultural scene. The museums on this list record these events and offer a great day out for all the family.

Mummy at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum | © Cosette Paneque/Flickr

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

The collection of over 4000 Ancient Egyptian artifacts that is housed here is the largest of its kind on the West Coast. It was assembled by the mystical Rosicrucian Order between 1915 and 1927, and includes four authentic human mummies (and some animal ones), sarcophagi, busts of pharaohs, and a scale replica of a rock tomb based on one explored during an expedition to Beni Hasan. The entrance to the museum is flanked by replica statues, and the building itself incorporates pillars and hieroglyphics. A research library, planetarium, and detailed information on the history of Ancient Egypt can also be found here.Address & telephone number: 1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA, +1 408-947-3635

Japanese American Museum of San Jose

Located in the heart of the city’s Japantown district, this museum details the history of Japanese-Americans during the early- to mid-20th century, from the first-generation immigrants (Issei) through to their internment during World War II and their treatment thereafter. Japanese-Americans’ way of life, culture, art, music, and sports are all explored through informative exhibits, guided tours, and artifacts. Particular focus is given to the impact of the war on these peoples, with visitors being able to view recreations of internment camp facilities.

Address & telephone number: 535 N 5th St, San Jose, CA, +1 408-294-3138

New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum

Map View
New Almaden Quicksilver Museum, San Jose
Courtesy the Tech Museum of Innovation
Another side of the California Gold Rush is explored here. The spotlight is shone on the local area’s history of cinnabar mining, an ore from which mercury (or quicksilver) can be extracted, an element prized in its day for its use in processing silver. Found in an 1854 mansion that was used as the official residence of the mine superintendents, the museum features exhibits of mining equipment, a diorama of a mine shaft, period displays, and information on the miners from Cornwall, China, and Mexico who came to the region to work in the mines.

The Tech Museum of Innovation

San Jose is known as the capital of Silicon Valley, and thus there is no more apt a place for a museum dedicated to promoting the development of technology and showcasing its history. The Tech caters to all ages, having within its walls a host of interactive exhibits including an earthquake simulator, a build-your-own rollercoaster facility, a ‘Body Metrics’ exhibit with wearable tech, and an area where both adults and children alike can become ‘cyber detectives’ to track down cyber criminals and learn about Internet safety. The museum also runs classes – as well workshops on 3D printing, coding and circuitry – collaborates with educational institutions in the area, and shows movies in the only IMAX dome theater in North California.

Address & telephone number: 201 S Market St, San Jose, CA, +1 408-294-8324

San Jose Museum of Art

The focus here is on modern and contemporary art, particularly that which originates from or whose subject matter is California. Glasswork, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, and textile pieces are all on display, and compose a permanent collection of around 2,500 artworks. In addition to the temporary exhibits, there are installations created by Dale Chihuily, sculptures by Robert Arneson, and the photography of Jack Fulton. The museum’s aim is to “foster awareness of artists’ broad contribution to society” and highlight “the vitality of the creative process.”

Address & telephone number: 110 S Market St, San Jose, CA, +1 408-271-6840
By Josh Wright

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