Viewpoints: Why not a major museum in railyard?

08/16/2014 12:00 AM

08/15/2014 11:50 PM

It would appear that the downtown Sacramento railyard is again up for grabs, but only for another sports venue, which would take up a lot of land for very limited use by a select group of people.

What if we could use that land for a better purpose? What if money were available from outside city coffers and without strings that make the city beholden to well-meaning billionaires? What if we were able to build something that would make Sacramento a destination city for out-of-town visitors, not just locals?

A West Coast branch of the Smithsonian Institution would do just that, bringing in people from all over the United States. The railyard is a perfect venue. If federal funding were available, the museum would benefit families, students and scholars, as well as tourists. Employment would be full time and steady, and the city would not be subject to the whims of a better offer from another city.

The railyard boasts historical buildings, availability of long-distance and local public transportation, room for parking and proximity to hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions, including the Crocker Art Museum, Old Sacramento and the planned Kings arena. It presents an ideal opportunity for Sacramento to step up to be a world-class city and prove we are more than a sports town.

The Smithsonian has more than 137 million items, but only a tiny percentage of these are on display to a public that has to travel to Washington, D.C., to see them. Opening a West Coast Smithsonian would mean more of the nation’s treasures would be available to many more people.

The Smithsonian could also create special rail cars to showcase exhibits as they travel from Washington, possibly making stops in Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Denver before reaching Sacramento. When exhibits close here, those same rail cars could then take a different route – Phoenix, Dallas, etc. – so the public can see the treasures on their way back to Washington.

This is an exciting opportunity that requires vision, courage and leadership. With the right people on board, this dream could come true.

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