Our collections are the very heart of the Museum. The meticulous preservation of biological, ethnographic, and historic artifacts allows for the creation of educational and informative exhibits. More importantly, these items act as windows into the past and are preserved for the Santa Cruz community for generations to come. As the Museum is housed in an historic Carnegie Library building (circa 1915), our size accommodates only a small percentage of our collections on display at a given time.  However, our collection currently contains over 16,000 specimens and artifacts!

Many pieces of the Museum’s collection may be accessed for scholarly study upon request.  Artists are always welcome to study and draw specimens on display to the public (general admission fees apply).

The founding collection of the Museum, consisting of shells and other marine life collected at the turn of the 20th century by lighthouse keeper Laura Hecox, are currently on display in the Museum gallery.

Interested in donating items to our collection or funds to support its preservation? Contact us for more information.

Read our Collections Close-Up blog HERE.

Explore the collections of our founder Laura Hecox HERE.

Collection Contents

Types of Objects

Approx. #

% Exhibited

Natural History
    Fossils 1,500 9.5%
    Shells 4,000 3%
    Minerals 700 4%
    Animals 1,100 9%
    Insects 2,000 6%
Ethnography 3,750 3%
History 3,100 7%
Fine Arts 500 2%
Surfing Museum 150 26%
TOTAL 16,800 4%