The Inner Lives of Shells

June 10 – August 20, 2023

Seashells hold secrets from an underwater world. These tiny treasures connect us with the vast ocean and the hidden creatures that live within them. Humans have long been captivated by their diverse colors and intricate forms, but our actions also threaten their future.

The Curious World of Seaweed

Winter 2024

This extraordinary exhibition features captivating color “portraits” of seaweed, inspired by Josie Iselin’s book of the same name. The exhibition shares surprising stories highlighting Indigenous peoples’ and women’s connections to seaweed and examines its vital role as the base of the food chain.

The Art of Nature

Spring 2024

Explore the beauty and fine details of the world around us in this annual special exhibit featuring works from local artists in a variety of mediums, all sure to inspire curiosity and deepen connections with science and nature.


Ohlone Basket

First Peoples of California

Explore the many ways Native Californians have survived and thrived in our region through their knowledge and use of the natural landscape. The exhibit features displays of artifacts, hands-on activities, and a large mural depicting daily life. Visit our virtual exhibit where text, video, slideshows, and learning extensions bring the Museum’s physical exhibit to life.

Santa Cruz Naturalist

Get your hands wet as you examine local marine life in our intertidal touch pool and learn about the Museum’s beginnings with lighthouse keeper Laura Hecox more than 100 years ago. Through hands-on explorations with real specimens in our nature lab, visitors of all ages will discover the wonder of our region’s natural history and recognize the naturalist within themselves.

From the Shoreline to the Summit

From the ocean to the redwoods, explore this exhibit to learn about the wealth of habitats in Santa Cruz County. Our taxidermy gives you an up-close view of native animals and their adaptations. Enjoy live animal encounters with our observation beehive and California king snake. View our virtual guide.

Santa Cruz Geology and Fossils

Discover the geology of Santa Cruz through displays on common rock types, minerals and the lime industry. From mastodons to microfossils, our region is home to fascinating fossils of all kinds. Use our online guide to the fossils of Santa Cruz County and see what fossils you can find in our garden.

Monarch on yarrow flowers

Garden Learning Center

Take a stroll through the grounds of the Museum within Tyrrell Park and you will discover an array of habitats and plants that are native to the Central California Coast. These demonstration gardens support a wealth of insects and birds, and have also been a favorite location for spotting fungi in the winter months. Use our garden guide to explore what’s in bloom.

Remembering Castle Beach

Stroll back in time as you explore the history of Seabright Beach, once called Castle Beach, in this special exhibit. Discover how the nearby coastline has changed over time and what it may come to look like in the future. Learn more.