Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the maritime history of the Santa Barbara Channel as well as exploring man’s relationship with the ocean. Located at the harbor’s Waterfront Center, the museum offers interpretive as well as interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special event services. It also is home to a small theater and the SBMM store which offers books, apparel and nautical gifts for purchase.
Backstory and Context
The museum’s central feature is the 18 foot tall Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel Lens which hangs from its ceiling. The lens was built in Paris in 1854 using a refracted prism technique and first lit in 1856. Other displays include Wives and Daughters: Keepers of the Light which conveys the story of often overlooked female lighthouse keepers and Tragedy at Honda : Honoring the George Writer Family. This display deals with the US Navy’s largest peacetime loss as nine destroyers wrecked on reefs near Honda Creek.
Additional displays center on maritime ranching, marine safety, commercial fishing, diving technology, shipwrecks and underwater archaeology. The museum also features a rotating art exhibit, such as Divergent Focal Planes on the Channel in which two local photographers offer two different perspectives of the same subject. Also, the 88 seat Munger Theater runs daily maritime films as well as Saturday Surf Films.
Its Tall Ships Education Program strives to teach its students historical perspective and interpretation through hands-on activities and permits them to spend the night aboard a tall ship and experience life as an 1830s sailor. The museum also sponsors its annual Kardboard Kayak Race every July and a Harbor Seafood Festival. Finally, the SBMM is also available for corporate functions, weddings, reunions and other special events.