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Our current exhibit, Building Bridges, Not Walls: Berkeley, America's First Sanctuary City, explores Berkeley’s humanitarian spirit and internationalism. Berkeley became the first sanctuary city in the United States at the end of the City Council Meeting of November 7, 1971, when Resolution #44,784 was signed, providing sanctuary for Naval seamen of the USS Coral Sea who were opposed to the Vietnam War. The exhibit also explores nine more City resolutions passed since that time in areas such as sanctuary for Central American refugees (1985), acceptance of Arab immigrants (1991), a Hate Free Zone (2001), opposition to the Patriot Act (2002), reaffirming Berkeley as a City of Refuge (2007), and finally last February, when Berkeley became a sanctuary city for cannabis.

A major portion of the exhibit is selections from “Building Bridges, Not Walls: Immigrants, Diversity and Internationalism,” curated last year by Berkeley Historical Society member Harvey Smith, originally for the San Francisco Public Library and the Canessa Gallery. It celebrates San Francisco Bay Area immigrants and children of immigrants and the roles they played in the building of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges and the region’s internationalist outlook culminating in the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. Additionally, the exhibit celebrates the diverse workforce that built the new western span of the Bay Bridge. It includes works by local artists, photographers and poets that explore both the history and the contemporary relevance of the themes of immigrants, diversity and internationalism. 

In addition to changing exhibits, the History Center now features a permanent illustrated Timeline of Berkeley History giving an overview of major periods and events in the evolution of the city.

Hours (during exhibits): Thursday–Saturday, 1–4 pm.

Exhibit closing day: Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Admission free, donations welcome.

Wheelchair accessible. (If you arrive by wheelchair, please phone us so we can open the door at the top of the ramp.)

Berkeley Historical Society and Berkeley History Center

1931 Center Street, Berkeley 
Telephone: 510-848-0181

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1190, Berkeley, CA 94701


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For past exhibits and events, see our Web Archive.

Image: 1971 poster, coinciding with Berkeley's first Sanctuary City resolution, by Doug Lawler / East Bay Media


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