Blackhawk Museum, Danville, California

James Raia

Golf to real estate, the Blackhawk Community represents different things to different people. For automotive enthusiasts, what matters is the Blackhawk Museum. It’s a testament to rare cars, Bentley to Ferrari, Packard to Duesenberg.

But the museum, which opened in 1988 is more than place to gawk at some of the world’s finest cars. Instead, it’s an interactive part of the community. The museum has increasingly popular docent training program. It has also been pro-active with a three-level education program from students.

The museum welcomed its 150,000th student last June. The student programs area divided into grades kindergarten through third, high school and college.

For young students, a docent-led mini-tour and education program, available on Wednesday and Thursday, is provides historically perspective with the theme, “When going for a car ride was a new and exciting adventure.” High school students programs are geared to learning  about automobile’s history and technology.

For college students, the museum tour can be incorporated into auto shop, history, art and design classes.

Through the Blackhawk Museum Guild, a reimbursement bus fund program is available for schools’ student transportation to the museum.

The showcase for the museum, of course, is its vehicles. The museum’s car are displayed in two main galleries and two smaller-room displays and totaling more than 70,000 square feet. More than 80 one-of-a-kind or limited edition cars are permanently displayed, including Duesenberg, the powerful handmade luxury cars made in the United Sates from 1913 to 1937.

But fanciers of nearly every classic manufacturer — Ferrari to Maserati, Porsche to Packard — can find a favorite. Luxury sedans from the early 1900s to sports cars with impressive race pedigrees are presented with detailed histories as well as accompanying video programs.

The museum’s vehicles are all on loan from private collections, with some each year involved in world-renowned car celebrations like the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach.

Like the main showrooms, Blackhawk Museum’s revolving smaller showcase exhibits are coordinated by Jon Hart, the curator and marketing director. Two current exhibits on display through November are dedicated to the automobile in art and homage to the uniqueness of Duesenberg.

The art exhibition includes an extensive collection of more than 200 paintings, sculptures, illustrations, toys, games, and other three-dimensional automotive-themed objects celebrating the history of automobiles under the theme “The Motor Car in Art.”  The goal of the exhibit is to show how art interprets the changing time and cultures influenced by the motoring age.

The Duesenberg exhibit features several of the unique vehicles and their reputation as among the most powerful and luxurious cars ever made.

Beginning in late November and continuing for six weeks, the museum will feature “All Aboard!” a traveling exhibit geared toward European train enthusiasts. The display will feature HO scale European train models as well as separate display of Lionel and Victorian era objects will also be featured.

Next February, as museum begins its 20th anniversary celebration, perhaps its most unique exhibit to date will be a five-month run. “The Original Rat Fink: Ed Big Daddy Roth” will be a tribute to the Southern California design guru who pioneered the use of modification kits to explore bizarre car designs.

Relying on animated characters, including the infamous  “Rat Fink,”  Roth’s weird car designs influenced the 1960’s counterculture and resulted in the global following, particularly among hot rod enthusiasts. The display, two and three-dimensional art works, will pay homage to the designer who died in 2001.

Blackhawk Museum also has a full calendar of hands-on family events and schedule one-day presentations.

“Reminiscence: American Art Dance of Isadora Duncan (1878-1927)” will be held Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. The dance performance by Lois Flood, dancer and director of the Diablo Dance Theater will be a narration of Duncan’s live and commentary on how it’s reflected in the automobiles of the era.

In conjunction with the pending train exhibit, “I Think I Can: Trains” is scheduled Sunday, Nov. 25 from 1-4 p.m. The program, oriented for children 10 and under and their families, is an interactive presentation free with museum admission.

Blackhawk Museum is located at 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville, Calif., 94506. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, and most major holidays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Telephone 925-736-2280. Web site: www.blackhawkmuseum.org.

Article Last Updated: July 23, 2014.

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