The Natural History Museum of Santa Maria (formerly the Samuel J. Perry Natural History Museum) is a non-profit organization, which was founded in September, 1996 through an endowment made in memory of Samuel J. Perry. At that time, it began with only a dream and a website, in actual fact. The dream was to provide science/natural history enrichment for the public schools, with “live” hands-on experiences for the kids.
The first few years included the development and implementation of science enrichment kits that were made available free of charge for use in local schools. This program was a great success.
At the same time, the Museum began accumulating a collection of regional artifacts and specimens. In 1999, the City of Santa Maria and the Museum came to a mutually beneficial agreement that allowed for the re-opening of the historic Hart Home on McClelland Street and the simultaneous establishment of a permanent home for the Museum. After all the hard work to make the Museum’s move a reality, it must have been an exciting moment when the doors of the Museum opened that October to its first display – a single, yet very prominent T-Rex Skull that had been purchased from an anthropologist in Los Angeles!
When local collectors saw the potential of the Museum, many donated their collections (including local famed collector, Ralph Bishop). By 2000, new plans included the design and development of exhibits that would help increase awareness and understanding of the natural history of the Santa Maria Valley, through time – to the present day flora and fauna. The NHMSM, built upon faith and incredible dedication over the years, now has an outstanding and ever-growing collection.
In keeping with the Museum’s ongoing mission to inspire and educate through discovery and appreciation of the natural world, the variety of programs and events offered over the years have always focused on local habitat. Public installations, traveling exhibits, historic home tours, hands-on displays, special presentations, school tours and celebratory events are but a sampling of what has been provided to the community.
Open to the public and free of charge, the Museum documents nearly 5,000 visits a year by young and old alike. Currently dependent upon member dues, visitor donations, sponsorships, donor gifts, fund-raising drives, grants and the generosity of volunteers, the impetus since 2010 has been to establish sustainable funding to support the hire of an Executive Director, who can help guide the Museum into the future.
It is Our Mission to inspire and educate our community through regional collections and to promote the discovery and appreciation of the natural world.
(Note: As the owner of the Hart building, the City of Santa Maria has subsidized the Museum’s rent and electrical expenses, since 1999.
The Museum has been responsible for the upkeep of the building.)