Start Here!

Words cannot describe the fever pitch of excitement barely contained within the walls of our Museum the past several months as we led up to opening our latest home-grown exhibition, Coast to Cactus in Southern California. If the walls could move, they would definitely have been pulsing with the high energy imbued in this new show.

“In the works” in one form or another for at least a decade, this creation is viewed by staff as the signature exhibition which best exemplifies our mission. Walking through the exhibition is like being given a personal guided tour by an extraordinarily knowledgeable and entertaining local guide, who starts us out at the coast and meanders through the urban canyons, riversides, chaparral, mountains, and deserts of southern California, pointing out all the stellar highlights along the way. Talk about imparting our visitors with respect for our local beauty and biodiversity, and our own residents a new heartfelt sense of place! Never again can anyone who visits the Museum come away without a vital appreciation for the spectacularly rich array of plant and animal species and the natural wonders that make up our home here in southern California. In fact, we feel that this exhibition should be “required viewing” for anyone visiting our area for the first time—so much so that we imagine it would be appropriate to hang a huge banner on our building with the simple words:  “Start here!” 

This exhibition, placed on the west side of the Atrium in the Dennis and Carol Wilson Hall of Biodiversity, mirrors the layout for Fossil Mysteries, which is oriented on the east side of the Atrium. The two exhibitions together complete the prehistoric as well as the current view of this environmentally lush locality we call home. A guest walking through both of these exhibitions comes away with the complete picture of southern California from past to present, and will surely take away with them a new inspiration to get out and actively hike, explore, photograph, camp, visit, and otherwise revel in our very own backyard.

Of equal interest to adults and kids, Coast to Cactus has many interactive features that will delight kids while entertaining the adults accompanying them. Our remarkably creative exhibit developers and designers have excelled at making the experience fun, engaging, and absorbing, while adding on deeper layers of learning.

A crawl-through model of an intertidal mudflat teeming with birds, fish, and marine invertebrates takes on a whole new dimension, literally, since it has been blown up to huge proportions, allowing kids to crawl through on hands and knees and see critters eye-to-eye that would be tiny in real life. Never had a chance to stay overnight in the Anza-Borrego desert area? No problem! An actual Airstream Bambi trailer, parked on the exhibition floor, allows kids and adults alike to see and encounter the miraculously strange and mysterious sights they would witness while camping overnight in our vast deserts.  Explore our urban wildlife interface in the Patio, where you can test your knowledge of native plants and animals.

Our staff has lavished their skills, talents, knowledge, and undying enthusiasm on these displays, and that effort shines through in every corner of Coast to Cactus, whether in the beautiful recreation of the Torrey Pines bluff with secretive animals peeking out from hidden spots, or The Attic, where visitors can   listen to locals sharing personal stories about change over time in our region.    

Simply put, we are certain our guests will be blown away by this exhibition for many years to come. It is fun, it is fabulous, it is fantastically educational! Despite the daunting task of covering the whole gamut of varied habitats, our staff has woven together a rich and complex tapestry representing the vivid natural beauty and resources of southern California, giving a powerful message that we all need to work towards preserving these precious natural treasures for future generations.

Visit our website for more information on Coast to Cactus in Southern California

Posted by The Nat.

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