SFO Museum

The latest from the SFO Museum

If you miss your flight at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) blame it on the curators of the SFO Museum.

At any one time, there are perhaps 20 top-notch exhibitions on view throughout the terminals, spanning everything from vintage radios and Victorian wallpaper to all manner of aviation history.

And each exhibit will make you want to stop and stay a while.

One of the newest exhibitions, Recollections… From the Unkown Museum, on display through March 2024 in Terminal 2, offers selections and creations culled from a quirky collection of vintage pop culture artifacts.

A well-known ‘secret’ museum in Mill Valley, CA since the mid-1970s and now artist Mickey McGowan’s private collection, the Unknown Museum is filled with a mass amount of objects dating from the 1940s to the 1980s. The museum is an “exploration into America’s brain” and a “complete immersion in conceptual art and American consumerism.”

Among other things.

 Recollections… from the Unknown Museum at SFO Airport is a sampling of the many fantastic art and object installations on display at various locations of the museum from the mid-1970s through the present.

“My original intent was to rescue these items, to provide them with a rest home for the remainder of their days,” museum curator and archivist Mickey McGowan said back in 1988.

Thank goodness he did.

Here are some snaps from the exhibit, courtesy of SFO Museum, and Mickey McGowan.

From the SFO Museum: Matchbooks & Air Sickness Bags

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has more than 150,000 objects related to the history of commercial aviation and to the airline industry.

As part of its 52 Objects series this year, they’ve pulled out this matchbook showing the route map for Continental Airlines.

Squeezing as much as possible onto a promotional item is nothing new. A while back we found this air sickness bag in the SFO Museum database which could be used for scoring a gin rummy game and/or turning in your film for processing.

Some of SFO Museum’s #52 Objects

As far as we know, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is one of just two airports in the country that has an onsite museum program accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. (Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the other one.)

Pretty much everything the SFO Museum displays in the terminals from its own collection or from a collection on loan is top-notch. But there are plenty of objects that never, or rarely, go on display. And lots of objects you might miss if you’re just passing through.

That’s why we’re delighted that for 2023, the SFO Museum is highlighting one “notable, unusual, interesting, or just plain fun” item from the collection each week.

Here’s what’s shown up so far.

Airline playing cards on National Playing Card Collection Day

Courtesy SFO Museum

October 17 is National Playing Card Collection Day and we know that many travelers have fond memories of the free decks of playing cards some airlines would hand out to passengers.

We found these images of some of those decks in the marvelous, searchable online collection of the SFO Museum at San Fransisco International Airport (SFO).

Do you have a deck of cards from an airline in your collection? Please share a photo and your memories of getting that souvenir.

Western Airlines playing cards – 1970s

Airline aprons. The kind you wear.

We’re big fans of the treasures in the collection of the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

And of the museum’s searchable online database.

This tweet, about the museum’s collection of more than 100 flight attendant smocks and aprons sent the Stuck at the Airport fashion reporter down a very deep rabbit hole checking out the fashions.

We love this 1980s-era apron from Japan Airlines

And this one from Western Airlines. Also from the 1980s.

And check out this Delta Air Lines apron from 1973.