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; 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 exhibits, 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 2,000 members. Attendance approaches 40,000 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.
SBMM Organizational Values
Values guide how we strive for excellence as we pursue our mission, vision, and goals:
Stewardship: Responsibly and collaboratively oversee and manage the Museum’s resources providing the best care of its treasured exhibits, collections, and every member of the greater museum family: our staff, volunteers, supporters, visitors, and the diverse communities that we serve.
Fiscal Responsibility: Ensure best practice financial management and funding in a responsible, transparent, sustainable, and informative manner confirming public trust and accountability for the Museum’s combined assets.
Education: Offer innovative, informative, accessible, and authentic programs showcasing maritime history, the cultural diversity of coastal California and our rich marine habitat. Engage and empower inclusive voices and ideas along with partnerships designed to provide unique and profound opportunities for all.
2021 – 2026 Strategic Plan
Our commitment to the community is to showcase our rich maritime history, present inspirational programs, and prompt insightful discussions about the future of our coastal community. We invite you to read our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan to learn more about our vision and goals for membership, volunteers, programs, exhibits and collections, and community engagement.
Top row left to right: Lee Fleischer, 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, Ed Cassano, Llew Goodfield, and Leslie Leaney
- Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 NonProfit of the Year
- Named in MarinaLife Magazine as 1 of the Top 10 Maritime Museum in the U.S.
- 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 2019-2020, SBMM programs served 7,151 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 Santa Barbara Natural History Museum and its Sea Center, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, SBCC, UCSB, the Chumash Maritime Association, the Harbor Patrol, the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department, the Historical Diving Society, the National Park Service, NOAA, Santa Barbara Navy League, the Ocean Institute, the Santa Barbara County Education Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, Santa Cruz Island Foundation, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, Ocean Futures Society, Santa Barbara Channel Keepers, FishSB, Sea Landing, 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.