Santa Maria Natural History Museum reopens, bringing students, adults closer to natural world | Santa Maria Valley Business Spotlight | Lifestyles


For greater than 20 years, the Santa Maria Natural History Museum has introduced the sights and sounds of our area’s natural magnificence closer to youngsters and adults.

Museum co-founder Virginia Souza talks to Molly Schiff, director of group and member engagement concerning the mission of the museum, and up to date upgrades made to the ability and their plans for extra.

Find out extra concerning the museum and take a digital tour of the ability, situated at 412 S. McClelland St. in Santa Maria, on their web site,

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For greater than 20 years, the Santa Maria Natural History Museum has introduced the sights and sounds of our area’s natural magnificence closer to youngsters and adults who haven’t got the identical immersive relationship with nature as earlier generations. 

Virginia Souza, board secretary and museum founder, began the museum along with her mom to honor her father, who was born in 1921 and grew up when Santa Maria was a a lot smaller, extra rural city stuffed with farms and open fields.

As a toddler, her father would go down to the creek to catch toads and even had a hawk as a pet. His relationship with nature and the panorama of the world is completely different than the one which youngsters have at present.  

So, in 1996, the Natural History Museum was based, however it did not have a house but and was primarily centered on in-class demonstrations of native animals and bugs for elementary college college students. 

A scarcity of a everlasting location didn’t diminish the fervour and drive of the founders and volunteers.

“The mission has at all times been to provide an expertise with our regional wildlife accessible to all who want to expertise it. So, we wished the whole lot to be free from the second that we opened our doorways,” Souza stated.

And in October 1999, the museum discovered a everlasting house when the doorways opened on the historic Hart Home, which was inbuilt 1877 and moved to its present location at 412 S. McClelland St. in Santa Maria in 1973. 

With a brand new location, the museum began receiving donations from the general public and was in a position to amass fairly a show of animals, with an ocean exhibit being one of many few bought shows. 

“We are actually lucky to have this excellent assortment, and all of it has been introduced in by those who stay in our space, for probably the most half,” Souza stated. 

Virginia Souza, Santa Maria Natural History Museum founder and board secretary. 

But, it is not simply the reveals that supply instructional alternatives; your entire property has been designed to show the native wonders of the Central Coast. The native backyard offers folks the chance to calm down with nature: “You can sit within the backyard and see the hummingbirds and different birds and bugs which can be inhabiting the backyard and skim a e book,” Souza identified. 

The home windows show art work from native artists and college students; there’s a small free library out entrance; and shows of whales and dolphins provide the probability to calm down and find out about nature earlier than you even stroll by way of the door. And as a result of folks weren’t in a position to stroll by way of the door due to the coronavirus pandemic for greater than a 12 months, the museum has been upgrading its instructional handouts, brochures, web site and even developed a 5-minute “digital tour” that provides folks a take a look at the inside shows. 

One addition that Souza highlighted was a nature journal developed for teenagers who had been restricted to studying from house throughout college closures, permitting youngsters to discover their backyards and neighborhoods to uncover the often-overlooked nature that’s throughout them. The e book additionally inspired college students to take into consideration their emotions and be aware how they had been dealing with the unprecedented modifications created by a world pandemic. 

But, Souza made it clear that the museum is glad to be open once more: “We had our grand reopening on Oct. 3, and a beautiful crowd got here, so it was an important day.” 

Bees, goats and different barnyard animals had been readily available to give attendees the prospect to work together with stay shows, and the museum was in a position to debut some upgrades to the grounds and preview much more. 

The museum used cash from a $53,000 California Resource Enhancement Fund grant to create a Channel Islands backyard, and is beginning plans for bettering its estuary and steelhead trout reveals, whereas additionally upgrading the whale and dolphin reveals outdoors.

Souza stated the exhausting work of the largely all-volunteer workers makes it doable and talked about what she loves about being concerned with the museum.

“My favourite half is simply my very own studying. I’m always studying from the volunteers that we now have and the general public that comes by way of the door after which after I see the enjoyment on the face of the youngsters which have by no means been up shut, trigger we actually give an up-close expertise.”

While studying and buying information is a good factor, Souza made it clear that their instructional efforts have a bigger objective: “I believe that when persons are in closer contact with nature, they perceive the significance of preserving it.”

Learn extra concerning the museum by visiting See how the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce helps companies thrive, and see different profiles and data on extra Santa Maria companies at

The Santa Maria Times has partnered with the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce to spotlight native companies in Santa Maria and in Orcutt which have constructed their enterprise futures right here.

In an effort to present the affect that these companies have on lives and communities within the Santa Maria Valley, we publish two enterprise profiles a month, and one highlight video through which a digital ambassador from the Chamber sits down and talks with a neighborhood enterprise about why they made the selection to open right here.