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Arts & Culture

Museum Of Us Is Changing More Than Its Name As It Reopens

The Museum Of Us, formerly known as the Museum Of Man is shown in this undated photo.
Scott Bennion / Museum of Us
The Museum Of Us, formerly known as the Museum Of Man is shown in this undated photo.

If you think of Balboa Park as a crown, then its museums are the crown’s jewels. Among them is the Museum Of Us, formerly known as the Museum Of Man. After months of being closed, the museum opened its doors to visitors once again on Wednesday.

“It is so wonderful to see this building alive again with people," said James Haddan, the senior director of development and external communications at the museum.

Museum Of Us Is Changing More Than Its Name As It Reopens
Museum Of Us Is Changing More Than Its Name As It Reopens
Listen to this story by John Carroll.

The crowd was light on reopening day, but people we spoke to were thrilled to be there.

“I think it’s super exciting, being able to come see stuff like this. I think Balboa Park itself is such a big part of the community in San Diego, so I think it’s definitely exciting for people who are traveling or even just local San Diegans to come back and enjoy the perks of their community again," said San Diegan Cassie Hauck.

Over the course of the pandemic closure, many museums in the park took the time to do the kind of maintenance it’s difficult to do when a bunch of people are around.

RELATED: Balboa Park’s Museum Of Photographic Arts Reopens Friday With New Exhibits

Here they also took the time to do something else: To think about the issue of pay equity.

"The people that meet the public every day have traditionally been paid much lower than administrative staff," said Haddan.

Some of those people had to be furloughed, but now they’re being hired back, with a big difference.

“We hired them at a starting wage of $20 per hour, so living wage plus for our front-facing staff,” Haddan said.

The pandemic has brought changes large and small to all the museums in Balboa Park. At the Museum Of Us, it has sped up a reckoning the museum has been engaged in over the last several years with its ties to European Colonialism, beginning with the front facade.

Haddan says they worked with Google’s Arts & Culture website to present a more inclusive picture of the facade, which features a number of European colonizers.

“It’s often not shown from the viewpoint of Native Americans, it’s shown from the European viewpoint," he said.

Finally there is the museum’s name change - in the works before the pandemic hit. From "Man" to "Us," the museum said the change better reflects its work towards equity, inclusion and decolonization.

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 to 5; another welcome step on the path to life in the post-pandemic world.