2020 Annual Report

July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Children are marveling at an animal skull.

Founded in 1905

Connecting people with nature and science to inspire stewardship of the natural world

Poppies are blooming in front of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History on a sunny day.

Directors' Message

Dear Friends of the Museum,

We are proud to share our 2020 Annual Report, covering July 2019 through June 2020, and hope you enjoy these photos from before the pandemic. This year has been one of changes, challenges, and tremendous learning. With a new Executive Director in September, this year was an opportunity to revisit and redefine our values. By mid-year we saw increasing visitation, sponsorship, and participation, setting us up for a record year and affirming that our community shared our values.

Of course, this year has been unlike any other. As the challenges posed by COVID-19 mounted, our guiding principles of prioritizing long-term viability, serving emerging community needs, and supporting staff, helped to map a path forward. Our strong financial practices kept our team whole, our staff worked to adapt, and our community came together in many ways, enabling us to continue to provide programs that serve Santa Cruz County, carrying our 115-year legacy onward.

J.M. Brown, President, Board of Directors

Felicia B. Van Stolk, Executive Director

A woman studies educational placards inside the museum.

Science Education

Museum educators worked with local teachers to enhance science education and environmental literacy as part of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s Science Initiative and Teacher Leadership Institute, resulting in refined Museum programs and robust science lesson sequences.

A young girl raises her hand in class to ask the docent a question.

"We have an education blueprint that recognizes that our school system cannot achieve [environmental literacy] on its own solely in the classroom. We must partner with community-based environmental educators to bring their unique expertise and inspiring programs to every student, and Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History has been one of those key partners."

~ Amity Sandage, Environmental Literacy Coordinator, Santa Cruz County Office of Education, SCMNH 2020 Laura Hecox Naturalist Award recipient

A group of school children study flora on the river walk.

4516: K-12 students and their parents served by Museum nature-based school programs.

172: hours youth spent outdoors through Museum school programs.

304: students attending field trips with scholarships for transportation and program fees.

9: standards-aligned science lessons shared through the County Office of Education's Distance Learning dashboard to support students through the end of the disrupted school year.

Educational Assistant Ellen leads children on a field trip.


The staff refreshed the Museum galleries, working with community partners to include new stories and enhance permanent and temporary exhibits.

Staff painted and updated galleries, and new carpet was installed. . The First Peoples of California exhibit labels were re-written with input from the Amah Mustun Tribal Band. The temporary exhibit Mushrooms, Keys to the Kingdom Fungi was enhanced by specimens from the UCSC Norris Center for Natural History and the Fungus Federation. Visitors shook and stomped to learn about seismology from the Sense of Scale exhibit  commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, with items from the UCSC Seismology lab.

In Our Galleries and Online

Temporary exhibits welcomed new audiences and engaged visitors with dynamic hands-on investigation stations.

The Summer Art Series featured local nature photraphers, each with a unique perspective and conservation message.

By state order, the Museum closed two weeks before the opening of The Art of Nature, our annual exhibit of science illustration. The artwork was instead displayed in a virtual exhibit with accompanying online programs reaching over 2,000 people by June.

The Art of Nature digital exhibit included videos and virtual events featuring exhibit artists.

Community & Outreach

Free Events

Monthly First Friday events and seasonal open houses were enriched by partner organizations and hands-on learning, with themes such as natural disasters, herpetology, and A Trip to the Moon.

Three children sit around a table in the museum.

Mobile Museum

The Museum connected with 1,204 people through 23 outreach events across the county.

A man examines an exhibit at our mobile museum while two others look on.

Connecting With Youth

The Museum partnered with community centers to provide after school enrichment activities, reaching 262 students.

Two children look into the sky with binoculars.


Increased public engagement with Museum collections is a priority, guiding focus on areas of interest such as herpetology, Fungus Fair memorabilia, and Loma Prieta earthquake artifacts.

A woman shows a group of schoolchildren the herpetology exhibit.

Future Museum Professionals

Student interns received 130 hours of collections management training, with a focus on inventory and digitization working with the Museum's malacology collections.

Digitization and Review

Over 250 of hours of digitization and critical review of the museum’s ethnographic records resulted in updated descriptions of over 300 objects correcting for outdated terminology.

Access and Care

Over 1,700 catalog records were individually transcribed, fundamentally improving access to and care of collections specimens and objects.

By the Numbers

2030 hours served by volunteers.

31596 people engaged through programs, visits, and virtually.

414 museum members.

14 live programs online.

62 "Museum at Your Side" virtual resources.

25 nature-connection videos, reaching 2073.

A group of schoolchildren are lined up, sitting on the stone whale in front of the museum.

Financial Health


A pie graph shows the above revenue data.


A pie graph shows the above expense data. Mushrooms are growing in the shade of ferns.

Board of Directors


A screenshot of a zoom meeting shows a dozen screens with museum personnel making silly faces.

Volunteers, Docents and Interns

A docent shows a little girl the museum tidepool exhibit. Ellen assists volunteers at Saturdays in the Soil. A young man shows a group of women a box of specimens in the museum.

Our Community of Supporters, July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020

Lightkeeper Society Planned Giving Program


$1000 – $4999

$500 – $999

$250 – $499

$100 – $249

With Special Thanks to

Includes in-kind sponsors. Please contact us about any unintended mistakes or omissions: development@santacruzmuseum.org

"Despite a difficult year the Museum continues to thrive and most importantly serve our community - for teachers,students, families and those who needed to be lifted up and learn a wonderful fact about nature. Thisis what the Museum doesso well and we are so proud to be supporters now and into the future." ~ Donna Meyers and Birdie Hunter

Two women examine a specimen in the musem.


Your contribution supports science education and environmental stewardship in our community.

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

1305 East Cliff Drive • Santa Cruz, CA 95062 • (831) 420-6115 • santacruzmuseum.org • Tax ID 94-2427733