West on Market Street is the World of Economics in the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 101 Market St. The lobby level is given over to an exhibit space explaining the economy, with hands-on games where the visitor can act out the decision-making roles of a business operator, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board or President of the United States.
The World of Oil--In the Chevron office at 555 Market St., the exhibit explains the handling of oil from discovery to the gas pump with working models, moving displays and oil field equipment.
The Museum of Modern Mythology--This quaint museum is devoted to advertising characters who have a personality of their own in roles in modern mythology.
The collection is an offshoot of the emerging field of semiontics, the study of symbolism. But big words don't detract from this fun-filled celebration of the characters who have developed a life apart from their advertising creators.
Tony the Tiger shares space with the Jolly Green Giant, and the Man With the Hammer stands next to the Michelin Man. Almost 3,000 pieces--dolls, toys, lunch boxes and advertising-related products--are arrayed as icons of modern culture.
The museum is at 693 Mission St., open Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., except holidays. Admission is $2 for adults, 50 cents for kids 5 through 17 and free for youngsters under 5.
Nearby, on 5th Street between Market and Mission streets, is the Old Mint, justly called one of the finest examples of Federal classical revival architecture in the West. A walk through the restored rooms, by the collection of gold bars and deep into the vault area is a good way to slip into the feeling of the past.
Tattoo Art Museum--This extraordinary little museum represents a 35-year collection, grouping both American and foreign tattoos. The tattoo has religious significance in some tribal societies. And the exhibit area holds old advertising "come ons," the body cast used in the movie "Tattoo" and instruments from the time when no sailor would be without an anchor and a flag.
As a bonus, you may be able to watch a tattoo in progress--or have one for your own--in the tattoo parlor on site. The museum is a flight up at 30 7th St., open noon to 6 p.m. daily. Donation requested.
Civic Center: Edward J. Sharkey Museum. This military museum is maintained by the American Legion Memorial Commission to display war trophies. The collection centers on World War I weapons. A cannon and caisson, hand weapons and parts of uniforms recall bitter fights in faraway places.
In the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Ave., the museum is open on Wednesdays and, on request (to the staff in neighboring Room 101), Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., except holidays. Free.
Nearby is Pioneer Hall of the Society of California pioneers at 456 McAllister St., with its library and museum of California history before 1859.
The city library is another half block east at Larkin and McAllister streets, third floor. Rotating exhibits in the San Francisco History Room and Archives bring San Francisco's past in view again.
Boxing Museum--Recalling the heyday of boxing in the city, this museum was born out of the enthusiasm of boxing writer Eddie Miller and dedicated boxing fan volunteers.
The mementos of battles--such as the 1910 fight to the finish where the last boxer able to stand won--between Michigan Wildcat Wolgast and Battling Nelson are collected here. Posters, equipment, robes and action photos bring to life a time when boxing champions strolled the streets of San Francisco. It's in the Civic Auditorium at Larkin and Grove streets, open weekends noon to 5 p.m., except holidays. Free.
North Beach, Chinatown: The trick in walking to the four museums in the North Beach-Chinatown area is to go downhill. A cable car ride on the Mason or Hyde line takes you to the uphill site of the collection of cable cars in the Cable Car Museum at Washington and Mason streets.
It's downhill from there to the North Beach Museum of Italian Pioneer History in the Eureka Savings & Loan office on Stockton Street a few doors south of Columbus Street.
Southeast and downhill on Columbus Street, just past the City Lights bookstore, takes you to Alder Street, really just an alley between Columbus and Grant streets. There the Chinese Historical Society's museum is devoted to Chinese settlement in adjacent Chinatown and the contribution made by Chinese to California's early history. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.
A more modern view of the Chinese input into San Francisco's culture is offered at the Chinese Cultural Center on the third floor of the Holiday Inn on Kearny Street, opposite and connected by a pedestrian bridge to historic Portsmouth Square, the birthplace of the city in the days when the bay extended to Montgomery Street. Center hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.