It has been called “the biggest little natural history museum in California” packed with interesting regional habitat-centered exhibits and multi-sensory exhibits. You need to see it to believe it,” says museum founder Virginia Perry Souza. Virginia and her mother Rena Perry founded TNHMSM in 1996 in memory of Santa Maria native Sam Perry, a well known local businessman and nature lover. Sam once found an injured hawk, nursed it to health and made it his pet. At first, Virginia and Rena called the non profit a “museum” because that was the future vision; the mission was a public school science enrichment in the beginning. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History director Dennis Power was very encouraging and gave the Birds in Our Backyard curriculum to the Santa Maria group for modification and classroom use. Teachers Georgia Schrager and Caroline Woods were responsible for the good work that was very popular for several years in both Orcutt and Santa Maria schools. In 1999, board member Bill Orndorff suggested the abandoned Hart Home at 412 South McClelland would be a good location for the museum to begin establishing a collection. Toru Miyoshi, then a Santa Maria City Councilman, recommended the City put in a bathroom and heater and Museum volunteers were grateful for those “luxuries”! The current regional collection is impressive with collaborations from the Royal B.C. Museum in Canada, Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, Morro Bay Museum of Natural History and
Monterey Aquarium. The Natural History Museum, Santa Maria, operates with 100% volunteers; therefore, 100% of your donation goes right into exhibits and programs!