Museum of Photographic Arts

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1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
|
Open:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday – Sunday)
Closed Monday
Located in San Diego's Balboa Park, the Museum of Photographic Arts features a permanent collection, rotating exhibits, and educational programs for all ages.
Museum of Photographic Arts
Collect, Preserve & More
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Collect, Preserve & Presents Works of Photography, Film & Video

Art objects, including photographs, represent cultural values and culture. Located among the picturesque gardens of San Diego's Balboa Park, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) collects, preserves, and presents expressive works of photography, film, and video. Its mission is to not only engage with the broadest possible audience but to educate and inspire them.

In addition to a permanent collection of over 7,000 images spanning two centuries, MOPA also features a series of temporary exhibits centered around a unifying theme. The museum hosts film screenings in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater. Another unique educational feature of the Museum of Photographic Arts is the Dubois Library that allows visitors to peruse over 20,000 photography-related items.

During your visit, you can take a break and relax in the café. Whether you are looking for a souvenir for yourself or a gift for a photography enthusiast, the gift shop offers cameras, books on photography, and postcards and posters, as well as apparel and accessories. There are also restrooms available for your convenience.

Discount tickets are available via the Go San Diego Card. This card will gain you access to most museums in Balboa Park and throughout San Diego and it will even get you into the San Diego Zoo and allow free access to over 55 attractions and activities around San Diego. You can get an additional discount on the Go San Diego Card if you purchase it via our website.

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What to Expect

After you enter the museum via the El Prado Entrance, you will find yourself in the Copley Atrium. Here you will find the information booth, where you can find out more about the museum.

Beyond the atrium is the Downing Reception Area. From this point, you can turn left and follow Las Patronas Theater Ramp to the Jacobs Theater, or you can continue on to the exhibits. There may be a photographic exhibit on display along the ramp.

The museum features five individual galleries, plus the Murray and Elaine Galinson Installation Space. Among the galleries’ you will find pieces belonging to the current exhibition as well as the museum's permanent collection.

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What to See

The permanent collection features work by over 850 photographers. These include some of the most prominent figures in 19th- and 20th-century photography, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Clarence White, and Francis Frith. The pieces represent a representative sample of different techniques and styles across various genres of photography, although there is a particular emphasis on photojournalism, social documentary, and mid-20th century photography from Soviet Russia.

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Learn With MOPA
MOPA offer classes, workshops, and resources on their website for people of all ages to grow their understanding of photography and film.

However, not all pieces from the permanent collection are on display at any one time. Every year, the museum also prominently features one or more temporary exhibits. There is always a common theme that unites all the photographs in a particular exhibition.

Sometimes they are all works by the same photographer, or else they are all from the same country. The photographs in the exhibition may all come from a certain time period or feature a particular type of subject matter. Past exhibitions have included the following portraits by Bern Schwartz, contemporary photography from Australia, and "Hidden Worlds," featuring historical and contemporary photographs of objects invisible to the naked eye.

Educational Programs & More

The Museum of Photographic Arts features educational programs for all age levels, including youth, adults, and senior citizens. MOPA has held a juried exhibition featuring photographs by young people in the community every year since 2006. Weekly camps for grade schoolers take place during the summer months in which children have the option to learn about photography, animation, or special effects.

Adults and seniors can take advantage of art talks and photography courses. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater features film festivals and other special screening events featuring pieces of cinema that are compelling and unique. In partnership with the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, MOPA presents Memories at the Museum, a program of special tours for people with dementia and an accompanying family member that happens quarterly.

For those seeking more information or conducting independent research, the Edmund L. and Nancy K. Dubois Library features an extensive collection of educational items related to photography. In addition to books, these include exhibition catalogs, magazines, monographs, and encyclopedias. If you need assistance, staff members are available to help whenever the library is open.

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What Else You Should Know

When planning a visit to the Museum of Photographic Arts, keep the following information in mind.

  • The museum welcomes large groups of 8 to 30 participants during certain days and times. Self-guided tours are available for free, but there is a fee for facilitated tours. One adult chaperon is required for every 15 youths.
  • Schools and teachers wishing to bring a group of students to the museum may qualify for a scholarship to fund tour fees, transportation, etc.
  • Accommodations for visitors with disabilities include an electronic low vision magnifier, American Sign Language interpreted tours, and accessible parking and facilities. Contact the museum in advance to arrange accommodations. ASL interpreters must be requested at least three weeks in advance.
  • The library is only open by appointment, and only on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • During peak hours or special events, parking near the museum may be limited. Additional parking lots are available throughout Balboa Park. Between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., a free tram service is available between various points throughout the park.

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