Santa Barbara Maritime Museum opened its doors to the public in July 2000 in the Waterfront Center Building, formerly the Naval Reserve Building, with the unique mission to interpret the rich and diverse maritime history of the Santa Barbara Channel. Founded by a group of fishermen, divers, and sailors who are a part of this exciting history, SBMM centered on interactivity and the founders envisioned it as a place where the public could experience maritime culture without leaving the harbor.
Santa Barbara is a coastal community, with a strong, varied maritime history and the Santa Barbara Channel is an important part of our culture that is rich in history and natural resources. SBMM provides hands-on learning opportunities for all ages to delve into that history. Through interactive learning opportunities, SBMM hopes to instill a love and respect for our Santa Barbara Channel, for the people who make their living on its waters, for those who enjoy its recreational activities, and for the abundant marine life that calls these waters home.
The museum has nearly 8,000 square feet of exhibit and office space, as well as docking space for three historic vessels. An additional 5,000 square foot warehouse off-site allows for artifact collection and storage. The 88-seat, high-definition Munger Theater also provides a venue for films, lectures, and panel discussions on all things maritime. SBMM currently has a membership base of nearly 2,400 members. Attendance approaches 45,000 visitors annually.
Creating quality exhibits and educational experiences that celebrate the Santa Barbara Channel and illuminate our rich connections with the sea.
To be the recognized flagship institution for information on the Santa Barbara Channel by showcasing our rich maritime history, presenting inspirational programs, and prompting insightful discussions about the future of our coastal community.
Overview of Operations and Programs
- SBMM plans to open three to four exhibits annually over the next two years, including the upgrading of existing exhibits along with new, temporary or traveling exhibitions and rotating art exhibitions featuring local artists.
- The mission of SBMM’s Education Department is to encourage the curiosity of children through the use of interactive exhibits, experiential learning, and community outreach programs with special emphasis on California’s maritime history.
- The Spirit Program, developed by the Ocean Institute in 1980, is based upon Richard Henry Dana’s book, Two Years Before the Mast.
- SBMM’s Marine Science Education Program dramatically brings the California Physical Science standards to life.
- Family Nights are exciting opportunities for interactive family fun in the Museum’s galleries.
- SBMM’s trained docents and volunteers visit local elementary schools for Science Nights and other events and engage students using interactive nautical and maritime-themed activities.
- Each month, SBMM brings local and visiting lecturers to our community to discuss a wide variety of ocean related topics, including the history of the Channel Islands, the life of female lighthouse keepers along the California Coast, or the abalone fishing industry.
- As part of Semana Nautica, SBMM hosts the annual Kardboard Kayak Races Team Challenge, where teams participate in a battle of wits, design, and courage.
- If exhibits are the body of the Maritime Museum, docents are its voice as they interpret and connect the varied displays to visitors from all over the world.
Top row left to right: Lee Fleisher, John Poucher, Bob Kieding, Fred Rice, Milt Schwartz, Miriam Polne-Fuller, Clyde Kirkpatrick, Steve Hicks
Front row left to right: Barry Schuyler, Nick DiNapoli, Peter Howorth, Tom Fuller, Rusty Fairly, Steve Chaparro. Absent: Barry Berkus and Ed Cassano
- George & Vivian Obern Preservation Stewardship Award, presented by Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Designated a Green Business Program by the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County (GBPSBC), honoring businesses in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Buellton, Solvang, Santa Maria and Guadalupe, as well as the unincorporated areas of the County, that operate in an environmentally-responsible manner and recognizing them for their efforts.
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is first and foremost an educational institution. As such, the Museum provides most of its children’s programs at no or low-cost to enable underserved youth the opportunity to benefit from extracurricular enrichment activities and to learn about and experience Santa Barbara’s maritime history and heritage. In 2017-2018, SBMM programs served over 10,000 children from throughout Santa Barbara County, two-thirds of whom came from Title I schools.
SBMM has developed collaborative partnerships with many complementary organizations, including:
the Natural History Museum and its Sea Center,
the Santa Barbara Historical Museum,
the Trust for Historic Preservation,
the Chumash Maritime Association,
the Harbor Patrol,
the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department,
the Historical Diving Society,
the National Park Service,
NOAA, Navy League,
the Ocean Institute,
the County Education Office,
the Coast Guard,
Santa Cruz Island Foundation,
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary,
Ocean Futures Society,
Santa Barbara Channel Keepers,
and Partners in Education.
The museum’s unique focus in all of these partnerships is to provide holistic and hands-on maritime education on the local coastal environment, history and human interactions with the sea.