Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
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-A Brief History
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Founded: The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History celebrated 100 years of serving the Santa Barbara community in January 2016. The Museum was founded in 1916 by William Leon Dawson as the “Museum of Comparative Oology.” In 1922, thanks to Caroline Hazard and Mrs. Rowland 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 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 approximately 20,000 K-12 students annually. The Museum is a center of the community. We maintain a diversity of programs to serve community needs and provide our facilities and grounds as a gathering place for a wide array of community groups and events.
Exhibits: Mission Canyon Campus:
  • Eight halls of permanent exhibits, totaling 15,800 s.f.
  • Two halls for changing exhibits (Luria & Maximus), totaling 2,700 s.f.
  • Five outdoor exhibits: Blue Whale skeleton; Nature Trail; “Sukinanik’oy” ethnobotanical garden; Butterfly Pavilion, and The Museum Backyard.

Sea Center:

  • 3,000 s.f. exhibit space, some of it flexible for temporary exhibit use.
Other Public Program Facilities:
Collections: More than 3.5 million artifacts and specimens in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, vertebrate and invertebrate biology, geology and paleontology, art, library, and archives. The collections are an archive of changes in nature and culture over time that preserves our natural and cultural legacy and constitutes an indispensable tool for natural history research. The collections are used by 14 Museum scientists and colleagues from around the world.
Research: The research conducted advances our understanding of the natural world and the human place within it. While focused mostly on local and regional questions, the research is conducted within a worldwide perspective and is of global interest. Results are disseminated locally and internationally through articles in peer-reviewed journals, books, papers presented at conferences, and presentations to general audiences.
Education: The Museum maintains a diverse set of educational programs for all age levels from pre-school children through adults and senior citizens. The high impact of the educational programs derives from the involvement of the Museum’s scientists and the power of hands-on nature experiences. The educational programs aim at generating a broad based understanding of nature and ecological systems, and producing scientifically literate citizens who are competitive in a globalized world.


  • 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]

Bobbie Kinnear,

Elisabeth Fowler,
Immediate Past Chair

Terrence Valeski,
Vice Chair Audit

Tracy Kanowsky,
Vice Chair Governance

Christopher Knowlton,
Vice Chair Finance

Chris Blau,
Vice Chair Development

Larry Barels,
At Large

Vince Caballero
Carolyn Chandler
Frank W. Davis
Venesa Faciane
Larry Friesen, Ph.D.
Elaine Gibson
Emily Jones
Dennis Power, Ph.D.,
    Vice Chair Audit
Paul M. Relis
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






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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