• Extraordinary Ideas
    from Ordinary People
    Always on view
  • Extraordinary Ideas
    from Ordinary People
    Always on view
  • Extraordinary Ideas
    from Ordinary People
    Always on view
  • Extraordinary Ideas
    from Ordinary People
    Always on view

Rare books, artwork, and more demonstrate everyone can participate in science.

This permanent exhibition about the history—and the future—of citizen science is housed in the Eleanor and Jerome Navarra Special Collections Gallery, which was opened to the public in summer 2016 after the Museum transformed a space that was once back-of-house into an exhibition space open to all. To protect the integrity of the featured objects, the pages of the rare books are turned and artworks are rotated periodically, making it a new experience each time visitors come to enjoy the space.

Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science highlights naturalists—both past and present—and the impact their work and observations has had on science as we know it today. Rare books, art, photographs, and historical documents from our Research Library’s 56,000-volume collection are displayed alongside plant and animal specimens and brought to life through touchable objects and multimedia experiences that allow deeper access to the works on display. The overarching theme of Extraordinary Ideas is a simple one: you do not need to be a scientist to participate in science.

Some of the locally known citizen scientists featured in the exhibition are Laurence Klauber, Joe Sefton, Charles Orcutt, Laurence Huey, and Ethel Bailey Higgins. They dedicated their life’s work to documenting their observations on an array of species in San Diego County. Check out the exhibition highlights to learn more about what you'll see in this beautiful space.

Upper mezzanine galleries

The upper-level mezzanine features two smaller galleries. The A.R. Valentien gallery displays approximately 10 paintings at one time from the 1,094 works the Museum has in its collection. These paintings had been languishing in storage for many years and were conserved and restored with support from Eleanor and Jerome Navarra. The Museum rotates the works on a regular basis, ensuring there's always something new to see.

The second gallery features a children's book nook and a small exhibition that rotates each year. Currently on view: Dragon's Den. Visitors will see images from antiquarian books in our collection, ranging from the 1600s to the 1800s. They display illustrations of fantastic beasts such as dragons, sea serpents, griffins, and more, depicting bizarre anatomy of multiple heads or stitched-together animal parts. Why did natural history books feature mythical creatures alongside engravings of common animals like horses, dogs, cows, and mice? One possible explanation: Where fossils were naturally intermingled, such as tar pits, people may have reconstructed one imaginary animal from several sources. Also, early Euopean explorers who documenated the natural world often returned from expeditons with tales of beasts like nothing they had ever seen. It's quite possible the stories of these foreign creatures took on a life of their own through story-telling and documentation.

Extraordinary Ideas was part of our Special Projects Campaign which included the January 2015 completion of the permanent exhibition Coast to Cactus in Southern California.

The exhibition is included with general admission and is free for members.

The A.R. Valentien Collection

Hear Margaret “Margi” Dykens, curator of Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science and director of the Research Library, talk about her background at the Museum and the significance of the A.R. Valentien art collection. Extraordinary Ideas, opening August 20, will feature a gallery dedicated to these works, which depict native plants of California. The A.R. Valentien gallery will display approximately 10 paintings at one time from the 1,094 pieces the Museum has in its collection. The paintings were commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1908, painted between 1908 and 1918, and donated to the Museum in 1933. Until about 15 years ago, they had been languishing in improper storage due to a lack of funds. In 1999, local philanthropist Eleanor Navarra first learned of the art collection. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband Jerome “Jerry” Navarra committed to long-term financial support, which allowed the Museum to photograph, conserve, re-house, curate, appraise, and exhibit these works of art.



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