Long-running ‘San Mateo’ comes to an end

The focal point, its oldest exhibit, of Coyote Point Museum is coming down after 30 years on display.

The exhibit, known as “The Place Called San Mateo,” occupied the 8,000-square-foot Redwood Hall. This week, the information that was displayed visually and through text describing the Bay Area’s geographical diversity will be dismantled and given to bidders who purchased portions of the display.

Abi Karlin-Resnick, the museum’s director of advancement, said the auction, which raised $2,800, was to give patrons a chance to take home a piece of the museum and honor the exhibit.

“It played such a major role in people’s experiences here,” she said. “We recognized that. We didn’t want to just deinstall it, but sort of give it a ceremony and acknowledge it.”

Karlin-Resnick said an exhibit lasting for 30 years at any museum is noteworthy.

“They’re not generally designed to last that long,” she said. “It’s quite extraordinary.”

The exhibit, designed in 1975 by Gordon Ashby, took visitors on a virtual walk through representations of six Bay Area ecosystems from redwood forests to the grasslands to the coast, Karlin-Resnick said.

Once the exhibit is taken apart, the room will become a space for patrons, San Mateo residents or groups to rent out for meetings or events.

The space will be temporary, however. The museum staff hopes to complete a remodel of the entire museum in the next three years.

The changes are coming at a time when the museum is trying to draw more visitors. The 30-year-old exhibit wasn’t bringing people back to the museum as often as they should, museum Director Rachel Meyer said.

Meyer was hired in 2007 to turn the museum around by increasing visitors and bringing new exhibits.

In 2006, visits to the environmental museum in Coyote Point Park plummeted to 78,000 per year from its peak of 110,000 in 2000, according to Karlin-Resnick.

In addition to saying goodbye to its oldest exhibit, the museum is preparing for two new outdoor exhibits that highlight the sounds of San Francisco Bay.

Karlin-Resnick said that exhibit, which will include structures that amplify sounds, will be ready for the public in the next few weeks.

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