In 1978, a group of Fresno civic leaders began to explore the possibility of creating a regional museum for the San Joaquin Valley. From 1981-1985, these members of the community raised more than $5.5 million to open the Met in the historic downtown site of the Fresno Bee building. The Museum opened its doors to the community on April 8, 1984.
Since that time, the Museum has educated, enriched and entertained more than 2 million people with its programs in art, history and science. Striking a fine balance between its signature exhibitions and traveling exhibitions, the Met serves an extremely diverse family audience. Recent large traveling exhibitions include: A T. rex Named SUE, Masterworks from the Albertina, Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of the Sublime, Variations on a Theme: American Prints from Pop Art to Minimalism — A Selection from the Anderson Graphic Arts Collection and Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body.
Recent signature exhibits in the smaller galleries include: Dawn of the Yellow Earth: Treasures from the Meiyintang Collection, Steve Roden: Transmissions From Space, Art Nouveau Glass & Pottery, Beauty of Phenomena and Winslow Homer: The Illustrator, His Wood Engravings, 1857-1888.
In 1995, the Museum became the first organization outside the Bay Area to win Northern California’s “Award for Excellence” in non-profit management from Chevron and The Management Center of San Francisco. In 1995, the Met also received a Central California Excellence in Business Award in the non-profit category as presented by The Fresno Bee. The Museum has also been named the Best Museum each year since 1999 by the readers the Fresno Bee.
In August 2005, the Met began an extensive interior renovation; the first of its kind since the Museum’s opening. The renovation, slated for completion in 2008, has closed the doors of the historic Fresno Bee Building, yet allowed the Met the unique opportunity to broaden its impact on the community through new outreach programs, offsite exhibitions, and the temporary relocation of the Reeves ASK Science Center. The renovation project offers the rare occasion for the Met to bring the Museum to the people of the Central Valley rather than serving as a destination point.