History of the Treasure Island Museum
The Treasure Island Museum, founded by the Navy in 1975, occupied the lobby of one of the original airport buildings constructed in 1937-38. This Streamline Moderne “Administration Building” (Building One) has served through the years as the administrative center for the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), a terminal and ticketing office for Pan American Airways, and headquarters for the Twelfth Naval District. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Navy/Marine Corps Museum (the "Navy museum") opened to the public on October 3, 1975 with exhibits representing the Navy and Marine Corps in the early 1800's to the present. Over time, the museum’s collecting and exhibiting areas evolved to include the U.S. Coast Guard as well as non-military themes: the GGIE, the Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena Island, and related subjects. As its scope expanded, the name of the museum was changed to the Treasure Island Museum.
A mural high on the museum’s back wall, designed by photo-realist Lowell Nesbitt, measuring 251 feet long and 26 feet high and commissioned for the opening of the museum, represents scenes in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific since 1813. Six original GGIE sculptures representing the fair’s optimistic “Pacific” theme flank Building One’s central entrance. The mural and statues remain in place today.
The current Treasure Island Museum began in 1976 as a "friend of the museum" nonprofit under the name "Navy/Marine Corps Museum Association", It raised funds to support museum activities, including the purchase of the original jeweled gold key created for the GGIE’s opening ceremonies, the restoration of the six “Pacific Unity” sculptures currently located at the front of Building One, and the re-creation of the GGIE's original exterior illumination of the building.
The Navy museum went out of existence in 1997 as part of the base closure of Naval Station Treasure Island. The collection was placed in storage. In 2011, most of it was transferred to the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), the agency of the City of San Francisco tasked with governance of Treasure Island. The collection is available to the Treasure Island Museum for exhibition and research purposes.
The nonprofit association remained in existence. In 2008 it began operating a new Treasure Island Museum in Building One, in space provided by TIDA. In 2018 it adopted the corporate name Treasure Island Museum.
Currently the museum is focused on funding, designing and building a 3500 - 4000 square foot museum in space committed by TIDA on the ground floor of Building One. In the meantime, it plans and mount exhibits, manages a growing collection, and organizes lectures, events, and tours.