SPOTLIGHT: Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Tend the Garden
The P.G. Museum of Natural History inspires discovery all over, including its own backyard.
By Agata Pope ̨da
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has been operating since 1883. It’s one of the oldest natural history museums in the U.S.; in 1935, the American Association of Museums called it “the best of its size” in the states.
The museum houses one of the oldest collections of the Central California Coast’s flora, fauna and related artifacts, serving as a living field guide of native plants, animals and geology. It is full of stories. Those range from the past—including an army of loving caretakers, starting with Mary E.B. Norton (1832-1917, one of the founders and the first fairy godmother of the museum)—to present times, when the current leadership is looking for new ways to engage with the community and to effortlessly shine for another
140 years. Its mission is “to inspire discovery, wonder and stewardship of our natural world.”
According to Director of Collections and Exhibits Chris Green, most of that inspiration and community engagement actually happens outside the museum. The 2022 Monterey County Gives! campaign provided the non-profit with funds for more community
outreach. Since Mohammed doesn’t come to the mountain, the mountain is happy to come to Mohammed—as well as to Mary in Del Rey Oaks or Angela in Salinas.
The museum started setting up a tent or table in various schools. Now, they are becoming more ambitious. “We have a fully electric van, our mobile museum,” Green shares. “We can go further, all over the county.”
This year for MCGives!, the museum is turning back to its physical footprint, and chose a garden expansion as its Big Idea. The plan is to transform the garden into an upgraded and interactive outdoor learning space. New features will include an amphitheater,
an enhanced fossil discovery areas, spaces for community art and murals, a new cultural exhibit, an enhanced native plant garden, as well as an ethnobotany section that will benefit both human visitors and native pollinators, including Pacific Grove’s famous mon
The museum is working on its upcoming list of rotating exhibits. One is a jade exhibit of works by marine biologist Don Wobber that will open in late 2024 or early 2025.