September 26, 2018

Museum of Natural History to Exhibit Antique Maps of the Pacific Coast Starting October 5

From October 5 through January 2, the John and Peggy Maximus Gallery at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will exhibit antique maps and books from the 17th to 19th centuries in a show titled The Kingdom of California; Mapping the Pacific Coast in the Age of Exploration.

Europeans began exploring the world in search of new influence and trading routes from the 16th to 18th centuries during the “Age of Exploration.” The west coast of North America was literally the edge of the world and one of the last regions to be explored and mapped.

The Kingdom of California offers stories of early mapping of the Pacific Coast told through antique maps on loan from the La Jolla Map and Atlas Museum, the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Rare Book Collection.

A highlight of the exhibit are rare maps depicting California as an island. The cartographic miscalculation was thought to be the result of an erroneous report from a 17th century Spanish expedition adopted and copied by European cartographers. Maps showing California as an island were circulated for over a hundred years.

Of local interest are a series of mid-19th century coastal charts issued by the United States Coast Survey of the Channel Islands, the coastline, and Santa Barbara. The charts were created by George Davidson, a pioneering scientist in charge of a team surveying the long western coastline from Mexico to Puget Sound. His expertise and research into the origin of place names bestowed by early explorers established many of the melodious Spanish names we know today. Present day navigational charts are the descendants of these survey maps that have proved remarkably accurate.

Antique maps hold a special fascination for many people. They condense historical and geographical material into a single document and appeal to our aesthetic sense as well as our intellect. Maximus Gallery Curator Linda Miller shares, “This is an opportunity for visitors to see rare books, maps, and atlases of explorations to the Pacific coast during an earlier age on loan to the Museum for a short time.”

Entry to the fall exhibit The Kingdom of California; Mapping the Pacific Coast in the Age of Exploration is free with paid Museum admission. The Maximus Gallery is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For more information, visit

About the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Powered by Science. Inspired by Nature. Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History inspires a thirst for discovery and a passion for the natural world. The Museum seeks to connect people to nature for the betterment of both, and prides itself on being naturally different. For more information, visit

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