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.
Birds of Monterey County
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.
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.
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.
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 regions biodiversity.
California State Symbols
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.
Native Plant Garden
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Panama Pacific International Exposition
This temporary exhibition commemorates the centennial of the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), held in San Francisco to honor the opening of the Panama Canal. Monterey County sent several exhibits to the PPIE, and celebrated with a special day at the fair as well as a pageant.
The county's exhibits promoted products from land and sea. Within the California Building, Monterey billed itself as "The Mission County." Relics included a chair made from branches of a tree under which Junipero Serra gave his first sermon in Monterey. View this very chair, along with marine specimens that made their way to the museum after the fair had ended. Other objects on view include materials promoting Monterey abalone and sardines, seafood products launched at the PPIE.
Watch the "Events" calendar for PPIE-related lectures and an excursion to San Francisco. Next on the schedule:
At 3 pm on Saturday, June 20, the Museum will host Tim Thomas, historian, former curator for the Monterey Maritime and History Museum, and guest curator for this PPIE exhibit He will present a lecture, “A visit to ‘Jewel City’: How the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition saved the California abalone industry and made Monterey ‘the Sardine Capitol of the World.’” .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Museum is planning to update its current Education Room. This room's bathroom will be upgraded to be ADA accessible so that one need not go to the main Museum building for an ADA accessible bathroom. In addition, this renovation will involve removing an existing closet, allowing for a more diverse range of activities. Classes of 30 could then be seated for educational programs. The renovations will reinforce the heritage character of the Museum and provide visual access to teachers to view the specimens and artifacts of the Museum's Education Collection.
Collections Research Room
The Collections Research Room would store and display the Museum’s collection of vintage, rare, and antique natural history books. An archivist’s desk would be situated in the room, as would a work station allowing researchers to access the Museum’s online database of collections and request a book, photograph, or object for study. The environmental condition of the room would be updated to conservation standards. The room's door would be changed to a glass door to expose research activities to all visitors.