Molecular and Cell Biology 90A, Section 1

Museums of the Bay Area (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor G. Steven Martin
Thursday 4:00-5:00, 301 Barker Hall, Class number: 16742

A museum, it has been said, is the memory of mankind: museums are places where one can appreciate the highest achievements of our own and other cultures. Yet despite the rewards of museum going, it’s almost a truism that few city-dwellers visit the museums in their own hometown. The goal of this seminar is to introduce students to the rich museum resources of the Bay Area and what can be learned from them. Museums we might visit include, in the East Bay, the Berkeley Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, and, in San Francisco, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Asian Art Museum. Topics for discussion could be based on what can be learned from their collections, for example about Dutch art in the golden age, the spread of Buddhism in Asia, Mesoamerican cultures, American Abstract Expressionism, or the fate of Native Americans in California. We might also want to discuss the architecture of the museums we have visited or their approaches to exhibition design and public engagement, and how these affect the learning experience.

Instructor Bio

I am a Professor Emeritus of Cell and Developmental Biology, and formerly served as Dean of Biological Sciences for the College of Letters and Science. For many years I carried out research on the molecular biology of cancer. But I have always been an avid museum-goer, and view my recent retirement as an opportunity to share my enthusiasm. Feel free to contact me ( for more information.

Faculty web site: Faculty web-site:


We will alternate on-campus discussions with five or six museum visits over the course of the semester. Museum visits will take place on Saturdays, generally leaving in the late morning and returning mid afternoon. Students who enroll in this seminar will need to commit to participating in these visits, and will be expected to help lead one of the discussions by making a short presentation on an upcoming or completed visit. Although this seminar is sponsored by the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the discussion topics will be unrelated to molecular or cell biology, and students from all disciplines are welcome. All of the costs of museum visits will be covered. <br>