Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
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-A Brief History
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Founded: In January 2016, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History celebrated 100 years of serving the Santa Barbara community. The Museum was founded in 1916 by William Leon Dawson as the Museum of Comparative Oology. In 1922, thanks to Miss Caroline Hazard and Mrs. Rowland Gibson Hazard, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History opened its doors at the current campus. In 1987, the Museum added the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf as an off-campus facility focused specifically on our regional coastal and ocean environment.
Locations: ONE organizaton, TWO campuses

Mission Canyon Campus: 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
A cluster of Spanish Revival-style buildings comprising 87,000 s.f. of space, set on 17 acres of riparian oak woodland along Mission Creek.

Sea Center: 211 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
A modern 6,000 s.f. building located on historic Stearns Wharf, built on wharf space leased from the City of Santa Barbara.
Service Area:

The Museum serves the southern and central coast of California, including the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura. Museum and Sea Center visitors are comprised of local and regional residents and national and international tourists. In addition, the two facilities serve 20,000 K-12 students annually and 65,000 students off-site through its Nature Collection lending library.

The Museum is a center for community. We maintain a diversity of programs to serve community needs and provide facilities and grounds as a gathering place for a wide array of community groups and events.

  • Governance: Board of Trustees, currently 19 members
  • Staffing: 50 full-time staff; 46 part-time/temporary staff; nearly 1,000 volunteers.
  • Members: about 5,900
Exhibits: Mission Canyon Campus:
  • Eight exhibit halls (15,800 sq .ft.): Mammal Hall, Dennis M. Power Bird Hall, Woodhouse Hall of Gems & Minerals, Marine Hall, Chumash Indian Hall, Cartwright Hall of Plant & Insect Interactions, Geology & Paleontology Hall, and the Alice Tweed Tuohy Astronomy Center featuring Gladwin Planetarium & E. L. Wiegand Space Lab
  • Two halls for changing exhibits (2,700 sq. ft.):
    Luria Hall presenting Curiosity Lab and the John & Peggy Maximus Gallery
  • Five outdoor exhibits: “Chad” the Blue Whale skeleton, Caroline Hazard Mission Creek Nature Trail, “Sukinanik’oy” Ethnobotanical Garden, The Museum Backyard & Nature Club House, and Butterfly Pavilion

Sea Center:

  • Exhibit space, some of it flexible for temporary exhibit use (3,000 sq. ft.):
    Shark Cove, Intertidal Wonders, Jellies & Friends, Wet Deck, and Marine Mammal Mezzanine

Other Public Program Facilities:

We preserve extensive natural history collections of approximately 3.5 million objects used for research by a staff of 12 curators as well as visiting scientists from around the world. These invaluable and irreplaceable collections embody the natural heritage of our region. They are in part the results of research by Museum scientists and in turn serve as a vast research archive for ongoing investigations.

Our researchers are active in disciplines ranging from anthropology to zoology. Every year, they discover and describe new life forms (species), investigate past and current changes in our natural environment, and assist in projects of environmental conservation and restoration. They also study changes in human society and cultures in our region over thousands of years and their changing relationships with the environment. Often, this work is pursued in collaboration with other scientific,  governmental organizations, or private sector agencies.

The expertise of the Museum’s scientific staff underpins and supports all of our educational efforts; curators themselves take an active part in an array of educational programs.

Education: Education has always been central to the Museum’s mission. Our diverse array of education programs for adults, children, teens, families, teachers, docents, and volunteers are designed to foster understanding and appreciation of our rich natural and cultural heritage, promote scientific literacy, and inspire a passion for learning. The Museum is a critical portal for science education, particularly for young children, and an important element in the educational infrastructure of our region


  • Total annual attendance in 2015 both the Museum and Sea Center: 212,000
  • School attendance at both campuses in 2015: Over 20,000 students participated in more than 36,000 science education programs
Members: 6,200+ members
Hours/Fees: Both the Museum and Sea Center are open daily from 10:00 AM–5:00 PM (except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

The Museum is closed to the general public on the last Saturday of June for the annual Santa Barbara Wine Festival™.
  • Museum Admission: Members are free; non-members $12/adult (18–64), $8/senior (65+); $8/teen (13–17); $7/child (2–12); children under 2 years are free. Summer admission (usually mid May through mid September) may differ. Free Family Sundays are on on the third Sunday of January, February, March, April, September, October, November, and December. No free days in May, June, July and August.
  • Sea Center Admission: Members free; non-members $8.50/adult (18–64), $7.50/senior (65+); $7.50/teen (13–17); $6/child (2–12); children under 2 years are free.
Governance: Board of Trustees, three-year terms, once renewable.   [More about our Trustees]

Christopher Knowlton,

Bobbie Kinnear,
Immediate Past Chair

Terrence Valeski,
Vice Chair Audit

Christopher Knowlton,
Vice Chair Finance

Chris Blau,
Vice Chair Development

Larry Barels,
At Large

Dennis Allen
Vince Caballero
Carolyn Chandler
Frank W. Davis
Venesa Faciane
Larry Friesen, Ph.D.
Elaine Gibson
Emily Jones
Salvatore "Tory" Milazzo
Dennis Power, Ph.D.,
    Vice Chair Audit
Paul M. Relis
Wayne Rosing
Paul J. Russell
Terry Valeski
Brad Willis
Steve Woodward

David H. Anderson
Stephen M. Hicks
Palmer G. Jackson, Jr.
Joan T. Seaver Kurze, Ph.D.
Alexander M. Power
F. Brian Rapp
Janet Sands
Brooke E. Sawyer, Jr.
Virginia Sloan

Luke J. Swetland, M.A., M.I.L.S.






50 full-time staff; 46 part-time, temporary staff.
More than 800 volunteers

Funding: The Museum is a private, nonprofit organization that relies on a variety of funding sources which enable us to share our collections, exhibits, and education program with thousands of visitors, school children, and scientists each year.

2013 operating budget: $5.3 million

Annual Reports
  • Operating revenues: ca. 42% income from endowment
  • 29% earned revenues (gate, membership dues, fees)
  • 29% contributed revenues (gifts, grants)



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