Beth Atlas has cheered for the Red and Gold all her life.
So the San Jose native was beyond excited when she began working on a museum project for Levi’s Stadium, which was still under construction at the time. Atlas, who got her master’s degree from San Jose State, began her career with that internship in 2013. Today, she’s the senior manager and curator for the 49ers Museum, which opened in 2014.
Q What led you to this career path?
A I got my master’s of library and information science in 2013, and that’s what kind of gave me the skills to be in this role I am in now. I always enjoyed history. I have always been a 49ers fan. I have always loved sports.
Q And it sounds like your father, Ted Atlas, was also a big sports history buff …
A He wrote a book about Candlestick Park — a pictorial history of the stadium where the 49ers were for decades.
Ownership knew that they wanted to put a museum in the new stadium — a physical home for the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame. They talked with (my father) about Candlestick Park and what points to honor the 49ers’ previous home as they moved into the new venue.
At the time, I was just starting my master’s degree. The museum development team needed interns to come on and start working on the project, and that’s kind of how I got involved.
Q The museum had yet to open — or even be built, really — when you first came into the project. That’s a very different experience than signing on with a pre-existing venue. Was it exciting — or, perhaps, intimidating — to create something brand new?
A It’s definitely both. There were a lot of people working on the museum. We had a design firm, CambridgeSeven, who had done the Patriots Hall of Fame when they opened Gillette (Stadium). A lot of it was them helping us through, but there are still so many things to do to build a place from scratch.
It was the opportunity of a lifetime to help build a museum.
Q What were the elements you felt were really important to include in the museum?
A I’d say, telling the full story of the team, since everyone — 49ers fans, football fans — knows the times in the ‘80s and all the Super Bowls won. Obviously, they were going to be easily covered.
But I wanted to make sure that we went back to the 1940s, when the team started. How did it get started? Who were the big names back then? Who was the Joe Montana of the 1940s? It was Frankie Albert.
The 49ers didn’t make the biggest name for themselves until the ‘80s. But when you look at how many Pro Football Hall of Famers we have inducted who played for the team in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s — it was important to tell their stories and their teammates’.
Q I bet the Niner alum really love this place, coming in and reading about themselves and their former teammates.
A It was a really important time for them in their lives. So, the fact that they are able to relive it and share it with their loved ones is pretty special.
Q One of the coolest things in the building is the Hall of Fame. I love seeing the statues of Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and all the other greats. The one of Dwight Clark making “The Catch” is just awesome.
A The idea behind the Hall of Fame was showing our inductees in their signature pose, so that when someone walks into the Hall of Fame, they are going to know who is standing in front of them without having to look down at their ID plaque.
So, obviously, there was no discussion around Dwight: He has to be in that catch from that famous Sports Illustrated photo.
If You Go
The 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium is open during football season on weekends and for three hours before kickoff on home game days. Tickets, $10-$15, are available in the museum lobby, but if you’re coming on a game day, you’ll need a game ticket, too. Find more details and take a virtual tour at levisstadium.com/museum.
Ted Atlas’ book, “Candlestick Park,” is available from Arcadia Press.
Contributed by local news sources