MOPA's Mission & History
The MOPA Mission
The mission of the Museum of Photographic Arts is to inspire, educate and engage the broadest possible audience through the presentation, collection and preservation of photography, film and video.
The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), founded in 1983, possesses an international reputation of excellence through its presentation of high quality exhibitions, lectures, publications and films. A museum without walls since 1972, MOPA became what it is today when the City of San Diego donated a 7,000-square-foot, custom-designed space in the Casa de Balboa Building in Balboa Park.
MOPA became one of the first museum facilities in the United States exclusively designed to collect and present the finest examples of photographic art, spanning the history of photography from the 19th century to the present day. The museum’s permanent collection offers a rich photographic heritage, both as an expressive medium and a documentary record. The collection’s 7,000-plus images include works by Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Stieglitz and Ruth Bernhard, among 850 other photographers.
After a one-year renovation and expansion that quadrupled MOPA’s size to 32,000 square feet, the museum reopened on March 1, 2000 with additional galleries, the 226-seat Joan & Irwin Jacobs Theater, a classroom, a print-viewing room, augmented archival facilities and support areas. The Edmund L. & Nancy K. Dubois library opened in 2006 with more than 20,000 publications on photography. It established MOPA as having one of the largest photography publication collections in the country and is a one-of-a-kind destination for scholars, researchers and professional photographers.
Annually, MOPA mounts eight to ten major exhibitions that represent the full photographic medium and attracts 120,000 visitors. Since 1986, 17 exhibitions curated by MOPA have traveled to prestigious museums throughout the United States and abroad. Beginning in 1985, MOPA has published 25 catalogs, and its education programs are developed to encourage students of all ages to appreciate the arts and to help teachers integrate the arts into their curriculum. An additional 14,000 children and their teachers benefit from MOPA’s education programs both at the museum and in San Diego area schools, many of which are designated Title I schools. With an active programming schedule spanning classes, workshops, lectures and films, MOPA is committed to its role as a community resource for expanding visual literacy.
The Museum of Photographic Arts is a 501(c)(3) corporation.