The culture of a people or civilization is common best seen through the art that they produce through the years. There are many civilizations that have disappeared over the ages, yet we still know much about the likes of the Mayans and the Inca because of the folk art that they left behind. With our world expanding at an incredible rate, it seems inevitable that more of these small civilizations will be swallowed whole over time. Rather than allowing their history vanish with them, the Mingei International Museum in San Diego makes sure that history will live on forever.
The museum was founded in 1974 by Martha Longenecker, a professor of art at San Diego State University. The idea of the museum came to where during her studies in Japan, where she saw firsthand the work of the Mingei Association of Japan. She took what she learned there, as well as the Mingei, which means “art of the people,” and brought her idea to the West. The end result was the official opening of the Mingei International Museum in 1978.
The original museum was located in the University Town Center, with a display of toys and dolls of the world the first major exhibit shown to the general public. In order to be able to expand, the museum eventually made its way to the House of Charm in Balboa Park, where it shares a space with the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of Art. That was not the end of the expansion, though, as a second building was opened in downtown Escondido in 2003, although public access to that building ended in 2010.
All told, the museum has showcased more than 140 different exhibits over the past 30 years, all under the watchful supervision of Martha Longenecker. The museum holds more than 17,500 objects from 141 different countries, with some dating back as far as 3 centuries BCE. As you can imagine, all kinds of different peoples and civilizations are represented among those pieces, with the history of many of them preserved solely through this collection.
Moose at Mingei Photo: miheco
The Mingei International Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on Monday’s and national holidays. The admission fee is a very affordable $8, with free entry to museum members and children under the age of 6. There is a lot of stuff to see and history to embrace during your visit, so plan on getting there early and staying late.