Chartered by the State of California in September of 1977, the Museum began formal operations in 1981 housed in temporary quarters at the California Museum of Science and Industry (currently the California Science Center). The current facility in Exposition Park was built with State and private funds for $5 million. Designed by African American architects, Jack Haywood and the late Vince Proby, the Museum facility opened its doors to the public during the Olympic Games of July 1984. CAAM is currently in its 28th anniversary of being housed in its own facility.
The Museum occupies a 44,000 square feet facility that includes 3 full-size exhibition galleries, a theater gallery, a 14,000 square foot glass ceiling Courtyard, a conference center / multi-purpose room, a research library, administrative offices, exhibit design department, registrar accession room and humidity controlled vault for art and artifact storage.
In September 2001, following years of deterioration and risk to the collection, the California African American Museum temporarily closed its exhibition facilities for major infrastructure renovations. Valued at approximately $4.1 million with construction oversight by architect firm Gruen & Associates, improvements included remote monitoring HVAC system, CCTV security system, dry-pipe fire suppression system, hardwood floor installation, a new roof and skylights, automatic sliding doors for the main entrance and galleries to comply with the American with Disabilities Act and an automated light dimmer system. The Museum reopened in March 2003 to great celebration and fanfare. Exterior improvements in 2003 also included landscaping upgrades, improved and visible signage installed both outside and in the building.
Since 2003 there has been additional major improvements in 2011 to the CCTV security camera system, a new multi-paned glass sign was designed by Gruen & Associates and installed on the south lawn in 2006 and 2 different phases of landscaping have been installed with the second phase completed in 2008, greatly enhancing the exterior of the building and CAAM plaza.
A more long-term Expansion Study has been developed with bond funds made available in previous fiscal years. The Expansion Study led by the architectural firm of Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., with design by Huff & Gooden Architects, LLC, and mission/vision planning by LORD Cultural Resources Planning & Management. The preliminary concept scope was reviewed and budget estimates were completed early 2005. This study includes modifying CAAM's orientation in the park in light of the larger master plan begun by the California Science Center, as well as expansion of CAAM to three stories to accommodate future and current art storage needs, education programming and classroom space, museum store and cafe, lecture/theater performance space and doubling the size of gallery space for history and art exhibitions. The 100% Design Development phase as part of Preliminary Plans was completed in June 2011. CAAM is very proud to have the design of a beautiful new building in place and ready for the next phase of Working Drawings.