Preserving and exhibiting the area’s history and heritage, its arts, sciences, and lifestyle… such are the aims of the myriad museums of Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, and Goleta. The museums reflect residents’ varying passions, interests, and penchants for collecting. Some were founded decades ago; others are newer additions to the cityscape. But all these vibrant institutions welcome young and old, exciting our curiosity, stimulating our minds, and entertaining our imaginations.
You can begin by exploring the natural history of the region, delving into the way geology and geography have shaped the plants and animals — and, of course, the people — that have lived here from ancient times to the present day.
Fascinating aspects of human history come alive in museums that use art, artifacts, and innovative exhibits to trace the challenges and achievements of successive cultures who have called Santa Barbara home, from the indigenous Chumash to the Spanish, from Mexican rancheros to European newcomers who sought a healthful and gracious place to live. There are museums on private estates that showcase the lifestyles of historical families, as well as institutions devoted to the ocean on our doorstep, and the modes of transportation that brought travelers here.
When it comes to art, Santa Barbara shines with collections that include masterworks of Western civilization, Asian treasures, architectural gems, and paintings and sculpture from the past as well as the creations of living legends. It’s a cornucopia of visual riches.