I stood completely surrounded. Staring me down from just four feet in front of me was a mountain lion, behind me was a small pack of gray wolves and to my left was a family of ravenous and silent but deadly striped skunks. After a brief moment of panic from being confronted with my adversaries, I made a sly exit through a hallway and out of the Hall of Mammals at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
I had ventured out of Isla Vista on quest for a fun diversion from all the work that has already begun to pile up in my apartment this quarter. Santa Barbara is rife with museums in addition to the Museum of Natural History, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Historical Society.
At the admissions office, I was greeted by Adrianne Calbreath, a fourth-year aquatic biology major who explained why she would recommend wandering around. “There’s stuff here you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” said Calbreath. “The museum shows an appreciation for the natural world.”
When I ventured into the museum to check if her assessment fit my extremely rigorous standards, I found more than I was expecting. Even after an exhausting summer trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, I still found objects of fascination. Though there was no blue whale hanging from the ceiling, there was a skeleton of one outside. There was also a lack of mannequins dressed as prehistoric peoples, which in my own personal opinion is more of a plus than anything else.
While there, I also encountered the Bird Hall, where an astonished little girl in front of me could not pry herself away from the seagull display. Her parents looked tiredly at each other while her mother lamented that they could have saved the $27 and just walked on the beach for seagulls.
Calbreath had mentioned the Mineral and Gem Gallery as one of the more popular places on grounds. Initially I dismissed her advice, thinking to myself, “They’re just rocks.” A short while later I found myself totally entranced in the midst of these “rocks,” primarily because of a cool light trick that shined two different black lights on a group of minerals that lit them up like the black light poster in my neighbor’s frequently hot-boxed apartment.
Finally, I reached the Space Lab, where I found a pendulum with a 65-pound ball swinging on a 35-foot wire. The pendulum itself was not the interesting thing, but rather that the pendulum appears to change direction based on the rotation of the earth. There was one of those giant vortex things that you drop your coins into and watch them spin. If I hadn’t needed to feed the meter later in the day, I might have dropped every single coin in my pocket into that thing just to watch them spin.
Though the museum is not massive, nor does it exhaustively cover natural history, it gives you just enough so that your hunger for natural history is satisfied. As Calbreath explained to me, “It’s just nice to get out of I.V. and get to know something about SB.”