I grew up watching cowboy movies and tales of the old Wild West on weekend television with my dad. I can't help but think of those old black and white movies whenever I think of San Francisco or California in general. Whenever I think of visiting San Francisco there is a part of me that visualizes the San Francisco of old, long before the earthquake of 1906, or not so long before actually.
If you share my vision of a Wild West San Francisco or just wonder what it would have been like to walk down the streets of old, then perhaps one of these museums will help give you a taste of the good ole west without the outhouses (the one thing I never really could wrap my mind around). Even if you can handle a world without indoor plumbing, the idea of enjoying the greatest of the past while still experiencing the comforts of modern existence is quite appealing to me.
That being said, the first Museum on my list is an outdoor museum known as The Gold Rush Trail. To walk The Gold Rush Trail is literally to follow in the footsteps of history. Even though it isn't a museum that is filled with relics of the past, if you close your eyes and listen intently perhaps you can hear the ghosts of yesterday as they tell you the story of how this fair city began and what it has become today.
The next point of interest is The Society of California Pioneers. The society offers not only a museum but a library as well that are both open to the public and feature programs that focus on California. If you need snapshots of the vibrant history of California as well as San Francisco this is a good place to begin your search. If you don't find what you are looking for in the museum check out the library and see if they have something that will quench your thirst for historical knowledge.
The Museum of the City of San Francisco is next on my list of places that offer a glimpse into the past of this phenomenal city. If you haven't found what you are looking for on your first two stops, then perhaps this museum will provide the answers, or simply the moment in time, that you are seeking. This is by far my favorite for learning about the history of San Francisco specifically. With exhibits dedicated to events such as the Gold Rush, the earthquake of 1906, and the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, there is no doubt that you are getting the history of this city, not the state, and not the country. I think there is a lot to be said about history and how it always seems to have such a profound effect upon the future. If you are able to visit this museum I would certainly recommend it above most others in the area for an authentically San Francisco ambiance at the very least.
The history of any city is a vital ingredient in what makes that city the success or failure that it has become. Not only do the events in a cities history have a significant impact on the future of a city, but also the people of a city. It is the people of any city that recover, rebuild, and remain or pack up and leave. Isn't it incredible that we have the opportunity to learn about these great people?