Exhibitions

Enjoy the birds and wildlife, plants, geology, and cultural richness that make the California Central Coast unique in the world. The best place to enjoy the outside, inside.

Permanent Exhibitions

Annual Exhibitions

TemporaRY EXHIBITIONS

Online EXHIBITIONS


Birds of Monterey County

Hawk in Museum Collection

Hawk in Museum Collection

Monterey County is one of the top five places in North America for bird watching due to its diverse number of resident and migratory birds. The Museum's Birds of Monterey County exhibition features 291 bird species and 409 life mounted birds. Highlights include a California condor, 117 Rollo Beck life-mounted birds. Also extinct species such as a Passenger Pigeon is on display, one of only about 30 on public display west of the Mississippi. 
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Monarch Gallery

Explore the miraculous and unique annual cycle of western monarch butterflies, which includes a winter migration to California’s Central Coast. Highlights of this exhibition include real specimens, amazing videos, vintage artifacts, a "cabinet of curiosities," and multiple hands-on opportunities--all wrapped in the most up-to-date scientific knowledge and artistic presentation. Visit our monarch webpage to learn how to see the monarchs during winter.
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Biodiversity Gallery

The now extinct Xerces butterfly, cousin to the local endangered Smith Blue butterfly.

The now extinct Xerces butterfly, cousin to the local endangered Smith Blue butterfly.

Our Mediterranean weather, ocean currents, and geological formations result in a great abundance and variety of local animals and plants. The Museum has been showcasing this biodiversity for over 130 years.

Discover the beauty of nature seen up close in authentic dioramas and hands-on interactives. Topics include predators and prey, animal coloration, and the reptiles, amphibians, and mammals native to Monterey County.

Our taxidermy collection was largely collected for scientific study in the late 1800s to early 1900s when lack of good binoculars and viewing scopes made taxidermy specimens an essential element of science. Now they serve as a record of the region's biodiversity.

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California State Symbols

California state prehistoric artifact. Replica is on display.

California state prehistoric artifact. Replica is on display.

On the upstairs mezzanine of the main gallery is an exhibit showcasing California State Symbols. Learn about California's state butterfly (the dogface butterfly), state fossil, state gemstone, state rock, and more.

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Geology

Artist Don Wobber and the jade boulder, Leucothea

Artist Don Wobber and the jade boulder, Leucothea

Entering the Museum's Native Plant Garden you are greeted by a 2400 lb. Jade boulder hoisted from the bottom of the ocean in Big Sur by artist Don Wobber. The Museum's Main Gallery also contains a display on jade, Monterey County geology, paleontology, and mineralogy, with an enclosed booth devoted to fluorescent minerals. The Museum's Geology Page provides additional information on the geology of the Central Coast region.
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Native Plant Garden

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The Museum's Native Plant Garden features three spaces that reflect the area’s important local ecosystems – coastal scrub, chaparral and oak woodland – as well as a butterfly garden and an ethno-botanical area featuring plants that local California Indians used for food and utility. Use our Plant List to find drought resistant native plants for your garden. Kids enjoy digging in the garden fossil pit and bringing home one of its fossils.

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Native Central Coast Baskets

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History's “Asking the Baskets” exhibit showcases rare and historic California Indian baskets from the Central Coast, including two Ohlone baskets and one Salinan basket. In addition, Ohlone and Salinan baskets from the private Nagy collection will be featured.

Along with the historic baskets, the exhibit displays native plants collected and processed by contemporary Ohlone basket weaver Linda Yamane. It also shows a short video of her work, collecting and processing basketry plants for weaving a ceremonial basket. The exhibit includes large-scale models of coiling and twining techniques, and a hands-on station for visitors to weave strands in and out of wooden “basket” spokes.

 

Pacific Grove's Chinese Fishing Village

This exhibition tells the story of the residents of the Point Alones Chinese Fishing Village. The first Chinese to immigrate to America as families, these residents were forced out of their homes in 1906. Having started one of California's largest fishery, the villagers  significantly contributed to California's natural history and economic development. Historic photographs from the Museum's Collection tell their story. Learn more about Pacific Grove's Chinese Fishing Village.

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Environmental Art

Artist Don Wobber and the jade boulder, Leucothea

Artist Don Wobber and the jade boulder, Leucothea

Artist Don Wobber found this jade boulder on the bottom of the ocean off of jade cove in Big Sur. He hoisted the 2400 lb boulder up to the surface using buoys and then floated it along the coast bringing it to shore at a beach. Please note that now Big Sur's Jade Cove is now located in the Monterey Bay National Sanctuary.
 

 

 

The Museum's Spirit Nest was brought into the garden using a crane.

The Museum's Spirit Nest was brought into the garden using a crane.

Big Sur artist Jayson Fann's Spirit Nest created the Museum's Spirit Nest in 2009. It is a cherished feature of the Museum's Native Plant Garden.

 

 

 

 

School Field Trips tend to start and end with Sandy the whale.

School Field Trips tend to start and end with Sandy the whale.

Artist Larry Foster created the beloved Sandy the Gray Whale who welcomes us all to the Museum. Sandy is an actual life-sized model of a female Gray whale.

 

 

 

 

Fun to watch on a windy day

Fun to watch on a windy day

This kinetic wind sculpture located in the Museum's Native Plant Garden was created by artist Lyman Whitaker.

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Paper monarchs visit the Museum

Paper monarchs can now be seen adorning the entryway to the Museum's popular Monarch Gallery. These monarchs are part of a recent project with schools from various cities in the United States and one school from Canada. The paper monarchs came from nearly 20 classrooms in all - from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada to British Columbia. Exhibitions Curator Annie Holdren contacted schools along the monarch butterfly migration path and provided black and white butterflies for students to cut out and color. A number of garden clubs also involved children in the project. Soon, butterflies started arriving in the mail. The butterflies have been hung to mimic the monarch clusters found at the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary. The name of the school, city, and state or province can be found inside the paper butterfly, similar to having tagged monarchs migrate to the area.

Illustrating Nature

Tentacles by Daisy Chung

Tentacles by Daisy Chung

Each year. the Museum partners with the prestigious Science Illustration Program at CSUMB Extended Education to present art in the service of science. View artwork by the program's graduating students, who are sought after by scientific institutions and publications around the world. This six-week exhibition begins the first Friday in May. This exhibition is made possible thanks to support from the Arts Council for Monterey Council.

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Santa Catalina Endangered Birds Art Exhibit

Art work created by Santa Catalina School Art 1 students is currently on display at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History through January. These 35 acrylic paintings feature a number of endangered birds, a topic art teacher Claire Lerner said the students showed a remarkable interest in exploring. Students learned how to stretch their own canvas, viewed the art of James Audubon, and learned traditional painting techniques in the class. A reception to meet the student artists will be held at the Museum on Wednesday, January 20th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Reception details here.


The Wildflower Show

Presented by the Museum and the Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Wildflower Show’s wide representation of wildflower species and varieties make it the largest wildflower show in the Northern and Western Hemispheres. Immerse yourself in a sea of more than 600 species and varieties of Central Coast wildflowers and learn about the diverse native plant habitats of Monterey County during this long weekend of botanical fun.

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Updating the Museum

Whereas the heritage charm of our Museum will never change, the exhibitions need to be updated to reflect the latest scientific information while engaging a broader public. 

Butterfly Pavilion

The Museum is planning a live butterfly Pavilion for its Native Plant Garden. Butterflies in all stages of their life cycle will be housed in a new seasonal butterfly pavilion to be built amid the museum’s native plant gardens.

The Pavilion will operate during the summer months, when the overwintering monarchs are absent from the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary.

Entering the Pavilion is entering a native butterfly ecosystem. See free-flying butterflies interacting with plant life, and emerge with a better understanding of the special environment needed for these remarkable creatures to survive. You will be able to search for tiny eggs among the plants, discover the variation in caterpillars, identify species based on the unique chrysalises they form, and observe adult butterflies flying through the enclosure. Native host and nectar plants will be present to support the butterflies through their life cycle.

Monarch Gallery

The Monarchs Come Home special exhibition grew so popular we created a permanent Monarch Gallery to tell the miraculous story of the monarchs migration to the California Central Coast. 


Online Exhibitions

 

BLUE SEAS & GREEN SEAS
Cool Critters of the California Current
In Words and Pictures

By Ray Troll
With poetic help by Dr. Milton Love,
Robert Pitman & Bob Kiwala

A cold, rich sea has a greenish hue
When it’s warmer it looks much more blue
And so the animals change
Throughout their range
When the colors switch ‘tween the two.

An ocean green is both rich and cold
Where animals thrive in numbers untold
While an ocean’s that’s bluer
Is warm but there’s fewer
Creatures for us to behold.

When serving dinner to some guests Give them the crab called Dungeness Serve it with butter And they shall surely utter “By gosh, this crab is the best!”

When serving dinner to some guests

Give them the crab called Dungeness

Serve it with butter

And they shall surely utter

“By gosh, this crab is the best!”

I got a message from some flounder “Man, you’re just one great big downer” Then the sea stars came out And I started to shout “Wow, this is one weird encounter!”

I got a message from some flounder

“Man, you’re just one great big downer”

Then the sea stars came out

And I started to shout

“Wow, this is one weird encounter!”

In matters concerning the squid It’s hard for me not to kid For when they make ink They can’t even blink For you see, they have no eyelids!

In matters concerning the squid

It’s hard for me not to kid

For when they make ink

They can’t even blink

For you see, they have no eyelids!

Consider the strange Mola Mola Not many fish look much bolda’ For the tail and the head Can be easily misread So remember what I’ve told ya!

Consider the strange Mola Mola

Not many fish look much bolda’

For the tail and the head

Can be easily misread

So remember what I’ve told ya!

The Opah sure makes my heart swoon As it darts about under the moon Oh I like them allot With their wild polka dots And red fins like a crazy cartoon.

The Opah sure makes my heart swoon

As it darts about under the moon

Oh I like them allot

With their wild polka dots

And red fins like a crazy cartoon.

There’s a grumpy old fish called a Cabezon And how that fish does carry on Its head is gigantic But it hardly seems frantic When it opens its big mouth to yawn.

There’s a grumpy old fish called a Cabezon

And how that fish does carry on

Its head is gigantic

But it hardly seems frantic

When it opens its big mouth to yawn.

A dolphin called “Common” just doesn’t seem fair For a creature that likes to vault in the air And as they swim through the sea They really seem to be A creature that’s quite debonair.

A dolphin called “Common” just doesn’t seem fair

For a creature that likes to vault in the air

And as they swim through the sea

They really seem to be

A creature that’s quite debonair.

I sometimes think of glowing sardines Swimming about like old Hollywood scenes With Doc Ricketts and Steinbeck Looking down from the top deck Of the Western Flyer, sailing on in my dreams.

I sometimes think of glowing sardines

Swimming about like old Hollywood scenes

With Doc Ricketts and Steinbeck

Looking down from the top deck

Of the Western Flyer, sailing on in my dreams.

Back in the Monterey cannery days The seine boats enjoyed a great phase They pumped fish galore To the factories ashore Their history is with us always.

Back in the Monterey cannery days

The seine boats enjoyed a great phase

They pumped fish galore

To the factories ashore

Their history is with us always.

Do anchovies think about pizza pies Swimming through waves with tears in their eyes? For I think it’s their fault When I taste all the salt Of their sorrow and longing and sighs.

Do anchovies think about pizza pies

Swimming through waves with tears in their eyes?

For I think it’s their fault

When I taste all the salt

Of their sorrow and longing and sighs.

If Mackerels were holy would they fly in the sky? Amazing us all, “That’s stupendous!” we’d cry Their halos no doubt Would shine all about Causing onlookers to cover their eyes.

If Mackerels were holy would they fly in the sky?

Amazing us all, “That’s stupendous!” we’d cry

Their halos no doubt

Would shine all about

Causing onlookers to cover their eyes.

When approaching a shark that is basking It’s probably well worth the asking If his mouth is wide open He’s only hopin’ For krill and not multi-tasking.

When approaching a shark that is basking

It’s probably well worth the asking

If his mouth is wide open

He’s only hopin’

For krill and not multi-tasking.

When anglers hook a wild Coho They sometimes do cry “Oh no, oh!” For it puts up a fight With all of its might And leaps like it’s at a wild go-go.

When anglers hook a wild Coho

They sometimes do cry “Oh no, oh!”

For it puts up a fight

With all of its might

And leaps like it’s at a wild go-go.

Swordfish chase bait-balls with sabers so sharp And threshers sharks streak up from the dark The baitfish they’re bashing With tails they are thrashing Like a bait-ball bat used by a shark!

Swordfish chase bait-balls with sabers so sharp

And threshers sharks streak up from the dark

The baitfish they’re bashing

With tails they are thrashing

Like a bait-ball bat used by a shark!

Leatherback turtles wearing backpacks Provide data for scientists to track They don’t seem to mind They relax and unwind Gobbling jellies like wiggly little snacks.

Leatherback turtles wearing backpacks

Provide data for scientists to track

They don’t seem to mind

They relax and unwind

Gobbling jellies like wiggly little snacks.

The rhinoceros auklet is an odd bird And is hard to describe in just a few words But suffice it to say It needs no toupee With feathered tufts both long and absurd!

The rhinoceros auklet is an odd bird

And is hard to describe in just a few words

But suffice it to say

It needs no toupee

With feathered tufts both long and absurd!

If I was an elephant seal There’s one thing that would make me squeal If I saw a Great White It would fill me with fright For I wouldn’t want to be a shark meal!

If I was an elephant seal

There’s one thing that would make me squeal

If I saw a Great White

It would fill me with fright

For I wouldn’t want to be a shark meal!

The David Starr Jordan’s a ship That scientists take on a trip To study sea creatures And cool ocean features Oh man I think that’s so hip!

The David Starr Jordan’s a ship

That scientists take on a trip

To study sea creatures

And cool ocean features

Oh man I think that’s so hip!

It’s fun to watch sea turtles As through the water they hurtle They glide here and there Then come up for air Oh the marvelous Loggerhead turtle.

It’s fun to watch sea turtles

As through the water they hurtle

They glide here and there

Then come up for air

Oh the marvelous Loggerhead turtle.

Of plankton I sing words of praise Plants and critters that will always amaze Oh man they’re so tiny In waters most briny I shall love them ‘til the end of my days.

Of plankton I sing words of praise

Plants and critters that will always amaze

Oh man they’re so tiny

In waters most briny

I shall love them ‘til the end of my days.

I am happy and oh so content Thinking of a fish dubbed “magnificent” For a rockfish called Flag Is really my bag Fish nerds must always represent!

I am happy and oh so content

Thinking of a fish dubbed “magnificent”

For a rockfish called Flag

Is really my bag

Fish nerds must always represent!

Sperm whales dive down in the deep To chase a creature using loud sonic bleeps They eat giant squid And I really don’t kid That it kind of gives me the creeps.

Sperm whales dive down in the deep

To chase a creature using loud sonic bleeps

They eat giant squid

And I really don’t kid

That it kind of gives me the creeps.

Jellies just go with the drift And nothing about them seems swift They just cruise along For all their lifelong With tentacles that constantly sift.

Jellies just go with the drift

And nothing about them seems swift

They just cruise along

For all their lifelong

With tentacles that constantly sift.

Lingcod are very big Greenlings With oh so combustible feelings For they really get mad Especially the dad’s If into their nests you are stealing!

Lingcod are very big Greenlings

With oh so combustible feelings

For they really get mad

Especially the dad’s

If into their nests you are stealing!

The Mahi Mahi is the fish for me Rocketing about the deep blue sea Flying fish in the air Had better take care So into the sky they do flee.

The Mahi Mahi is the fish for me

Rocketing about the deep blue sea

Flying fish in the air

Had better take care

So into the sky they do flee.

The largest of whales is the blue And they do as all mammals do They come up for air And give maternal care To their big babies, oh yes it’s so true.

The largest of whales is the blue

And they do as all mammals do

They come up for air

And give maternal care

To their big babies, oh yes it’s so true.

Oh the great California Sea Lion Is so graceful without really trying They swim through the seas With the greatest of ease A very cool critter ain’t no denying!

Oh the great California Sea Lion

Is so graceful without really trying

They swim through the seas

With the greatest of ease

A very cool critter ain’t no denying!

Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna Just might cross the finish line sooner If a Marlin they race They soon might outpace Even the fastest of fast racing schooners.

Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna

Just might cross the finish line sooner

If a Marlin they race

They soon might outpace

Even the fastest of fast racing schooners.

The Black Douglas once cruised the coastal seas And sailed about in the wild ocean breeze As the seabirds took flight In the slow fading light The researchers aboard gained expertise.

The Black Douglas once cruised the coastal seas

And sailed about in the wild ocean breeze

As the seabirds took flight

In the slow fading light

The researchers aboard gained expertise.

Though named for a guy who wore red The Garibaldi is quite orange instead Even their manners are contrary The males’ temper’s a bit scary They don’t seem to be very well bred!

Though named for a guy who wore red

The Garibaldi is quite orange instead

Even their manners are contrary

The males’ temper’s a bit scary

They don’t seem to be very well bred!

Sometimes I dream and pretend That a Sea Bass is a Sheephead’s friend And they’d never need help When they meet in the kelp Because they are such good pals in the end. 

Sometimes I dream and pretend

That a Sea Bass is a Sheephead’s friend

And they’d never need help

When they meet in the kelp

Because they are such good pals in the end. 

Now here’s a most puzzling thing In Canada this salmon’s called “Spring” While some say Chinook But I say just look This salmon is clearly a King!

Now here’s a most puzzling thing

In Canada this salmon’s called “Spring”

While some say Chinook

But I say just look

This salmon is clearly a King!

For the little rockfish called China Nothing could be more divina’ With bright little spots Speckles and dots Could you ever see anything fina’ ?

For the little rockfish called China

Nothing could be more divina’

With bright little spots

Speckles and dots

Could you ever see anything fina’ ?

Sea otters are always searchin’ For the prickly purple sea urchin Then they lay on their backs And eat ‘em like snacks While in the waves they’re a’ lurchin’.

Sea otters are always searchin’

For the prickly purple sea urchin

Then they lay on their backs

And eat ‘em like snacks

While in the waves they’re a’ lurchin’.

The Black-footed Albatross flies with the greatest of ease When riding upon a smooth ocean breeze And while Murrelets fly fast And the Auklets do dash When out exploring the green rolling seas.

The Black-footed Albatross flies with the greatest of ease

When riding upon a smooth ocean breeze

And while Murrelets fly fast

And the Auklets do dash

When out exploring the green rolling seas.

Could you dive deep into the swirling ocean, And tumble about in wild commotion? For on this shore In days of yore Ama pried abalone with great devotion.

Could you dive deep into the swirling ocean,

And tumble about in wild commotion?

For on this shore

In days of yore

Ama pried abalone with great devotion.

Hardhat divers dive down very deep For tasty morsels to harvest and reap As the kelpfish looks in At the divers wide grin A special moment to treasure and keep. 

Hardhat divers dive down very deep

For tasty morsels to harvest and reap

As the kelpfish looks in

At the divers wide grin

A special moment to treasure and keep. 

The red crab’s a crustacean pelagic Their travel to sea is quite magic But they don’t think it’s fine When big turtles dine On their kind, it seems sort of tragic.

The red crab’s a crustacean pelagic

Their travel to sea is quite magic

But they don’t think it’s fine

When big turtles dine

On their kind, it seems sort of tragic.

The leatherback turtles eat jellies To fill their reptilian bellies But I’m thinking, I am: “They’d rather eat ham But there are no mid-ocean delis.”

The leatherback turtles eat jellies

To fill their reptilian bellies

But I’m thinking, I am:

“They’d rather eat ham

But there are no mid-ocean delis.”

An albacore once had a notion, To migrate across the broad ocean, “I’m under the sway Of bright lights in LA,” It said with lots of emotion.

An albacore once had a notion,

To migrate across the broad ocean,

“I’m under the sway

Of bright lights in LA,”

It said with lots of emotion.

Enjoy this content? 
Click here to see NOAA's interactive version, including the science that inspired the artwork.
Click here to view more of the 'Fin Art' of Ray Troll.

The original paintings, limericks, and interaction were originally elements of a Temporary Exhibition at this museum in 2011. Limericks © Ray Troll 2011; artwork © Ray Troll and NOAA 2008; all rights reserved.