The Beat Museum

Without your help the Beat Museum might just disappear...

The Beat Museum faces an impending seismic retrofit of our building.

Please help us survive the retrofit and reopen afterward by making a donation:

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For now, we're still open!
~10am to 7pm every day.

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What's happening?
The building we've called home for the last 12 years will soon be undergoing a City-mandated seismic retrofit, which will force the Beat Museum to close for about 6 months. Read more »
Are you closed now?
No. At this time we remain open. We haven't been given a date when construction will begin on the interior of our space. It could be anywhere from a few months to a year. As soon as we know, we'll post updates here, on Facebook and Twitter, and via our mailing list.
How long will you be closed once construction begins?
We've been told that the retrofit will take about 6 months. However, as with many construction projects, it could realistically take longer.
How will this affect the future of the Beat Museum?
Our first priority is to be able to reopen after construction. We also stand to lose 20-25% of our available square-footage. If we can raise ample funding, we can reclaim some of that lost space by remodeling. Ideally, we would also like to add a café.

To hear more about our plans for the future, listen to this episode of the North Beach Now podcast »

More details:

Under the City's Mandatory Soft Story Program, all wood frame buildings 3 stories or more, constructed before 1978 (ours was built in 1910), must undergo seismic strengthening. Essentially, this means installation of steel girders and bracing within the current Beat Museum space, to support the upper floors in the event of an earthquake.

Soft story bracing modelModel showing soft-story bracing

While the cost and management of the retrofit work itself is the responsibility of our landlord, the Chinatown Community Development Center, the Beat Museum still faces considerable expenses, not the least of which are related to our having to close down for 6 months (or more) without a revenue stream.

We need to find a way to pay for our share of tenant improvements to our space. Also, we're told we will lose 20-25% of our existing exhibit space after the seismic retrofit. This is an unfortunate development; however, if we’re able to raise sufficient funds, we can overcome this obstacle with some remodeling of our own, to maximize our usage of the space.

We are not currently in a financial position to make these changes.

There is only one Beat Museum. If this one closes, I doubt there will ever be another one.

So that means it's crunch time for us here in North Beach. We have a finite period of time to gather major financial support, or everything goes away.

And we need your help to do it.

I'm asking all members of the Beat community, friends and supporters in North Beach, and the people of the City of San Francisco to help us find a way to keep serving our communities.

The Beat Museum is the only place in the world available to the general public to learn about the Beat Generation, and why their message is still so important in today's world.

Other museums periodically have a 3 month Beat Generation or counterculture exhibition. Most are pretty great. There are weekend or week-long festivals and conferences in various places around the world. We know many of the people who run these events, and we support their endeavors. The Beat Museum is open 7 days a week, 362 days a year, and available to the general public for an extremely nominal fee. There is no other place in the world that does this.

All of us at the Beat Museum believe there is nothing better than turning a group of young people on to the understanding that the Beat Generation (and their spiritual children, the people referred to as hippies) changed all of our lives. We love explaining why the values of tolerance, compassion, and authenticity are important to a 17 or 20-year-old. Young people today overwhelmingly take the ideas of the Beat Generation for granted—for them, these perspectives are normal in today's world. Racial equality, gender equality, GLBT rights, and a care for the environment—these are no-brainers for most 20-year-olds.

We want to keep this spirit alive here in San Francisco, so young people will know they're not alone in wanting to make the world a better place.

Why haven't we already raised the money?

It’s not for lack of trying! Running a not-for-profit arts organization in the fast changing, money-driven city of San Francisco is no easy task. We’re more than willing to fight for it, but the truth is, we’ve already been fighting for it for quite a while.

We’ve been paying attention to other organizations’ fundraising efforts (some of them highly successful) and we’ve noticed a common element: Unless your situation is dire, unless you’re threatened with imminent closure soon if you can’t raise a certain amount of money, it’s hard to convince people to take your need seriously.

...unless your situation is dire, unless you’re threatened with imminent closure soon if you can’t raise a certain amount of money, it’s hard to convince people to take your need seriously.

Though we've had to set aside time and resources to prepare for this upcoming construction, our mission remains the same—to tell the story of the Beat Generation. This year, we've hosted dozens of events, free and open to the public, and we've just added a full schedule of readings, performances, and other happenings through the autumn and into the winter. From the day we opened, our priority has been making The Beat Museum a meeting place for the San Francisco arts community, and a venue for creative people to share their work. This is especially important now, as so many of San Francisco's art and literary spaces have closed, or have been threatened with closure.

We're proud to showcase The Beat Scene: The Photography of Burt Glinn, our latest exhibit, which opened on July 19th, and we have more exhibitions currently in the works, including Dharma Brothers, featuring the correspondence of Gary Snyder and John Montgomery.

The Beat Museum has done more to keep the spirit of my mother and father alive than anything else.
John Allen Cassady
John Cassady and Jerry CiminoJohn Cassady and Jerry Cimino

Every day the last 15 years people have told us how great The Beat Museum is, how much it means to them personally and how the work we do is so very important. This has never been more true than the last few years during these troubled times. Today the comment we hear most often is, “Thank you for keeping this spirit alive.”

Perhaps the greatest compliment we’ve ever been paid comes from John Allen Cassady, my good friend who was with me at the beginning, when we traveled the country in 2004 and 2005 in The Beat Museum on Wheels, before we brought it to San Francisco in 2006. John is Carolyn and Neal Cassady's son, named for his father’s two best friends, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Letters of Support:

Our landlord wants us to stay:

...we intend to enter into a new, long term lease that will assure the rejuvenated Museum a stable home.
Chinatown Community Development Center

...and so do our neighbors:

If The Beat Museum were somewhere else, we would be doing everything we could to bring them here, next to City Lights Books where it all began. But they are already here now and they want to stay. North Beach and the City as a whole have everything to gain by keeping this cherished museum here on Broadway.
Oliver Mar
President, Top of Broadway CBD

Please help us continue telling the story of the Beat Generation.

Please donate today!

NOTE: In the event we have to close, if you have items currently on loan to us, in the museum collections, displays, or elsewhere, don't worry—we keep extensive records of all items on loan, and your property will be returned to you. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

The Beat Museum storefront