San Diego’s Natural History museum opens its drawers to public

Like most museums, the Nat in Balboa Park has far more specimens in its collection than it could ever put on display.

So on Nov. 18 it’s opening a new exhibition it’s billing as “cool stuff from storage.”


Stuff like the jaw from a giant sperm whale. A 20-foot-long skin from an anaconda. A wall of skulls.

“Most visitors don’t get to see our treasure trove — rows upon rows of shelves, drawers and crates holding millions of plant and animal specimens,” Judy Gradwohl, president and CEO of the natural history museum, said in a statement. “A look behind the scenes in our storage areas is like a cross-section of the diversity of nature itself.”

Formally titled “Unshelved,” the exhibit is drawn from the 8 million items the museum has been collecting since it was established by a small group of citizen scientists in 1874.

Although the museum’s research focus is on Southern California and Baja California, some items in the collection come from all over the world, which is why the new exhibit will include an emperor penguin and huge bats, as well as taxidermied birds, tiny beetles, gems and minerals.

Some of the specimens have never been exhibited before, according to museum officials.

“Unshelved,” located on Level Two, will be in place for two years. The exhibit is included with the price of admission.

The museum also has two companion events scheduled. Its monthly Family Day, Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will feature hands-on activities and crafts for kids.

On Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., museum scientists will discuss their favorite items from storage in an event called “What’s In Our Drawers.” Admission requires a separate ticket.

The museum calls itself the second-oldest scientific institution in California and the third-oldest west of the Mississippi. It’s open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, daily (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas).


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