Revival of Museum on Main

New technology helps bring Pleasanton's past to life

Renovations this summer at the Museum on Main introduced state-of-the-art technology to help guests explore old artifacts and photos at the new permanent exhibit. (Photo by Chuck Deckert)

The renovated Museum on Main reopened last week and the response has been: "Wow!!!"

"The change from the old to the new has been dramatic," executive director Jim DeMersman said. "With the development of new technologies, there are more interactive ways to tell our history and to engage our visitors."

The new permanent exhibit is a collection of three-dimensional objects, images and archives along with several hands-on features. DeMersman had heard many folks say they must visit again -- soon.

"There is so much information that they can't take it all in, in one fell swoop," he explained.

Five iPads contain photos from the thousands in the museum archives, sorted into subject matter such as railroads, floods in the downtown, and religious organizations.

Two Touch Tables have timelines, one on Pleasanton's development, the other on the Alameda County Fair.

"You can blow up the photos and take a closer look at the detail," DeMersman said. "People love spending time on those and exploring."

The permanent exhibit also have five "Touch Buckets," which visitors can reach into and explore. One has raw materials from the times of the Native Americans to hold and examine. Another has old black and white photographs and materials to tint them.

"People have this vision of life 100 years ago that it was black and white because we only look at black and white photographs," DeMersman explained.

Studying the photos and adding colors brings them to life.

Planning for the renovated museum and permanent exhibit began in 2016, he said, with meetings and focus groups to decide what would engage visitors.

"A lot has changed in the last 10 years -- the museum has become more family-oriented," DeMersman noted, which is why visitors enjoy the new technology.

"But we are not giving up the traditional museum aspects," he added. "People still want to see the real objects. We brought more out from our collection that has never been seen before, and it is a nice combination of things."

The museum closed for six weeks while the changes were made.

"It was like a 10-ring circus," DeMersman said with a laugh. "We had contractors, and then we had the exhibit people here installing bases and cases. Everybody met their deadlines and we were able to go."

Museum on Main also has temporary exhibits, which are a draw to old and new patrons. The current exhibit is "Pleasanton at 125," in conjunction with its anniversary. Visitors walk through a hallway showing what was happening in 1894, when the city was founded.

"Jack Benny was born in 1894," DeMersman noted.

"Pleasanton at 125" runs through the end of the year, with a two-week break while Museum on Main does its annual "Ghost Walk Phobias" exhibit.

The museum board, staff and volunteers have worked for the past two years with S2 Exhibit Designs to create the new exhibit, which was primarily funded through the Jean Jones Endowment.

While the exhibits were redone, the city did renovations on the historic building, which was built in 1914 and housed the old Town Hall, the Police Department and Pleasanton's first free library. In 1984, the city offered it to the museum, which was then at the fairgrounds.

Also, two years ago Museum on Main joined the History Relevance project, a national museum organization that believes history teaches critical 21st-century skills and independent thinking, and saved history lays the foundation for the future by explaining the past.

Museum on Main is located at 603 Main St. For more information, visit or call 462-2766.

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Like this comment
Posted by Don Lewis
a resident of Mission Park
on Oct 29, 2019 at 1:10 am

I'm looking forward to seeing the newly renovated Pleasanton Museum on Main, after Jim gave a wonderful presentation to our Rotary Club of Pleasanton at Hap's last week about the new renovations that happened in Museum on Main! We're looking forward to visiting. Thanks so much for your leadership and vision for the Museum that benefits our community and visitors! Congratulations you and your staff for your great work in our community! We're really excited about seeing the history of Pleasanton displayed in the new technology enhanced experience. Well done!

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