The first inkling I had that this museum was going to be different was a sign near the entrance that read, "Don't Lick the Paintings." You many not be able to lick them, but the museum tour is a highly participatory, hands-on experience. "An elementary school teacher must have designed this, I told my husband, Lou, as we explored the Gallery of California Art. The works are divided into categories — California land, people and creativity — similar to elementary school themes.
The Gallery of California Natural Sciences won't open until next year. But until then, there are plenty of exhibitions to see. "Contemporary Coda," a look at "current perspectives on the Spanish conquest of California," and "Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest," featuring art from the missions of New Spain, run through May 29; "Sneek Peek: Michael C. McMillen — Train of Thought," a 40-year retrospective of the multimedia artist's work, appears until Aug. 14.
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, (510) 238-2200,