Past Exhibitions

Wildlife is all around, even when we don’t see it. So, what exactly are animals up to when we’re not looking? Find out in this photography exhibition featuring animal candids taken with the help of camera trap technology.  

This site-specific installation inside Unshelved by conceptual artist Gabriel Rico features man-made and natural objects, including taxidermy specimens from our collection. This installation is part of a collaboration with The Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego, who is hosting Rico’s solo exhibition at its Balboa Park galleries. 

More than 35 photographs that celebrate the universal symbol of the Golden State’s beauty: the wildflower. This visual survey of California’s diverse and delicately-balanced ecosystems reveals the effects of climate change and other human impacts on our native plants.

A celebratory look at wildlife, featuring stunning photography from the pages of National Geographic magazine.

Journey to some of the world’s most extraordinary locations and breathtaking landscapes in this new photography exhibition from National Geographic.

Enjoy the breathtaking photography of Dr. Dan Cartamil, a shark expert and marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as he explores Baja California’s Pacific coast region. 

An Ice Age site excavated by Museum staff preserves 130,000-year-old mastodon bones, molars, and tusks that show evidence of modification by early humans, dramatically revising the timeline for when humans first reached the Americas.

Meet new and exotic dinosaurs from the other side of the world. Prehistory takes on 21st century technology when Ultimate Dinosaurs, an exhibition featuring 16 fully-articulated dinosaur specimens from locations in the Southern Hemisphere, opens at theNAT. From the tiny Eoraptor to the massive Giganotosaurus (T. rex's bigger, badder cousin), Ultimate Dinosaurs is a fascinating study of species you haven’t met before.

Photo Ark is multimedia exhibition that showcases National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s project documenting the world’s animal species. Approximately 30 of these photos will be on view in theNAT’s fourth floor photography gallery. This is the show’s U.S. debut outside of Washington, D.C. 

Shrimp that can break through glass? Spider webs stronger than steel? See why every living thing is a machine built to survive, move, and discover, and explore how these marvels of natural engineering inspire us. And don’t miss the life-sized cast of Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex ever discovered.

Guests will have the opportunity to experience the final show for acclaimed local photographer Abe Ordover. This major solo exhibition, which will be curated by Abe himself, will feature choice works he has taken over the last 20 years.

Visitors to the Museum will view magnificent nature-based imagery by amateur and professional photographers from San Diego and around the globe. This annual international photography competition features landscape, wildlife, flora, and nature-based abstract and impressionistic images.

Interactive, immersive, and featuring the latest in international cetacean research, Whales: Giants of the Deep is an experience that brings adults and children eye to eye with some of the world’s most elusive creatures. Developed and presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. 

Birds as Art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris features 67 of Arthur’s all-time favorite images. Visitors will enjoy his clean, graphic style while simultaneously building a deep appreciation for our feathered friends.

Photographic works celebrating the gift of flight and depicting majestic creatures in their natural habitats. Featuring 70 works by 24 artists.

Discover what archaeologists know about the ancient Maya as well as the unresolved questions they continue to investigate. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed explores the fascinating social, natural, and spiritual realms of the ancient Maya through the eyes of powerful kings and queens and the lesser-known people who were the backbone of Maya society. Explore the richness of Maya culture by examining centuries-old authentic artifacts, traditions, and worldview. Experience immersive life-size recreations of classic Maya architecture, and explore the hidden worlds of the Maya past and present.

View stunning imagery of birds from every continent by fourteen award-winning wildlife photographers, featuring Arthur Morris, a Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus, Markus Varesvuo, a fellow Canon Explorer of Light, and many more. 


The Best of Nature Photography Show, on view in The Ordover Gallery at the San Diego Natural History Museum from October 25, 2014 through February 1, 2015. Visitors to the Museum will view magnificent nature-based imagery by amateur and professional photographers from San Diego and around the globe. From a poignant image of a primate with her offspring to star-studded landscapes at night, and from surreal black-and-white scenes to dramatic underwater imagery, the outstanding images in the Best of Nature show are not to be missed.

The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 is considered the most famous discovery in the history of archaeology, and in modern times, the context of its discovery has been lost. The Discovery of King Tut allows visitors to experience a rush of excitement as they step into a moment only ever witnessed by Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon and a handful of others. Through stunning and scientifically produced replicas, the exhibition invites visitors to enjoy the magnificent splendor of these priceless Egyptian treasures.

Through panoramic photographs and journal excerpts, follow award-winning photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen to 10 of the world’s last great places. Mangelsen’s work takes spectators on his daily excursions through the jungles of India, across the plains of the Serengeti, and into the icebergs of Antarctica. This visually stimulating exhibition investigates humanity’s relationship with nature and is drawn from Mangelsen’s most recent fine art book The Natural World.

View more than 200 artifacts, including cannons, swords, coins, gold and jewelry, recovered off the coast of Cape Cod from the first authenticated pirate ship discovered in U.S. waters. Sail with legendary pirate Sam Bellamy and his crew and learn the true story of the Whydah, from her historic transformation from slave ship to pirate ship to her final resting place on the ocean floor. One of the most advanced ships of her day, the Whydah sank in a storm in 1717 with bounty from more than 50 captured ships.

Ecosystems of San Diego County brings together 14 San Diego artists who have been commissioned to photograph areas throughout our incredibly diverse region. The 80 works include areas from the waters along the coast to the mountains and the deserts, all within the county. Featured artists include Lee Peterson, Richard Herrmann, Bill Evarts, Abe Ordover, and 10 more.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup tells the story of one of the world’s most widely traded commodities and how it has affected cultures, economies, and environments across the globe. Learn about the impacts of caffeine on your body, discover coffee’s early controversial reputation as a “revolutionary drink,” and consider the culture that surrounds coffee in the twenty-first century.

Best of Nature Photography, an international juried competition, will be on view in The Ordover Gallery at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Visitors to the Museum will view magnificent nature-based imagery by amateur and professional photographers. The 72 selected photographs will include sublime landscapes, whimsical and dramatic wildlife images, and unusual close-ups of nature’s beauty.

Journey back in time, thousands to millions of years ago, when mammoths and mastodons roamed the Earth. In Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, get to know Lyuba, the once frozen 42,000-year-old baby woolly—the most complete mammoth ever discovered. Joust with mammoth tusks. Touch colossal mastodon teeth. Feel real mammoth fur. And see what it would be like to live among these larger-than-life creatures in one of the most captivating, interactive, exhibitions since the Ice Age—as only you can experience at theNAT!

Sixty plates illustrate the magnificent marine life that John Steinbeck and naturalist Edward Ricketts chronicled during their historic journey there in 1940. Steinbeck’s book of the excursion, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, remains a tribute to Baja California and an important scientific study of marine biodiversity that is used by travelers and biologists alike. 

From the infamous flesh-eating T. rex to the plant-munching Iguanodon, what do YOU know about dinosaurs and their food? Sometimes gruesome, even gory, Dino Jaws will combine fun hands-on (with no danger of being bitten!) exhibits with scientific insights. See lifelike spectacular animatronics and learn what paleontologists know about what that dino had for dinner! Become a dino detective as you solve clues like a real paleontologist.

Let Dr. Entomo be your guide as you explore the wonderful world of bugs in all their strange splendor. From glow-in-the-dark scorpions to the world’s biggest bird-eating tarantula, Dr. Entomo’s living examples will fascinate visitors of all ages! Resembling an old-fashioned circus sideshow, Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders explores the truth, myths, and mysteries surrounding some of nature's most curious creatures—many of them alive and on view.

View magnificent black-and-white, nature-based imagery inspired by famed photographer Ansel Adams. Photographers with work in the exhibition include: Charles Cramer, William Neill, Aaron Chang, Abe Ordover, Louis Montrose, Will Gibson, John Clark, James Bourret, Steven Bundy, Lew Abulafia, Tom Scott, John Ford, Gary Zuercher, and Joe Nalvin. Admission to the show is included with general admission to the Museum.

Chocolate will engage your senses and reveal facets of this sumptuous treat that you've never before considered. From seed to sweet, unwrap the story of chocolate!

Joseph Rossano’s interactive BOLD sculpture series is inspired in cooperation with leading biodiversity scientists, including Dr. Daniel H. Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania. BOLD shares the acronym of Barcode of Life Datasystems, the Canadian repository for the International Barcode of Life project.

The horse-human relationship started as a prey-predator dynamic. With domestication, humans harnessed horsepower—hence the term—to travel greater distances, expand crop acreage, and be more effective in battle. Horses were bred for specific sizes and qualities that produced everything from tiny ponies to pull ore carts in mines to tall, powerful draft breeds to till the soil and drag lumber from forest to mill. The horse-human bond extended to the equestrian sports with athletic pairs competing together just as they worked together. The bond has been chronicled in literature and portrayed on film. The beauty, strength, and spirit of horses continues to awe each new generation of horse lovers.

Robert Vavra is universally recognized as the world’s premier photographer of equines. This exhibition showcases the vivid, fresh, and very personal way that Vavra photographs horses. It delves into the world that Vavra had created through his lens for the past 60 years while circling the globe. In photographs, in film and in print, Vavra’s images capture the strength, beauty and wisdom of the horse.

Visitors to the highly anticipated  Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition  will receive a replica boarding pass granting them permission to “board” the White Star Line’s R.M.S. Titanic, and from there the journey begins. The galleries focus on the legendary Titanic’s compelling human stories as best told through authentic artifacts recovered from the ocean floor and extensive room re-creations. Perfume from a maker who was traveling to New York to sell his samples, china etched with the logo of the elite White Star Line, even pieces of the Ship itself, these and many other authentic objects offer haunting, emotional connections to lives abruptly ended or forever altered.

Of the 50 watercolors in Exquisite Miniatures, all but four were created in an area that is 9 square inches or smaller. Wes and Rachelle Siegrist are an American husband-and wife-team who create miniature paintings so expertly crafted that they are often mistaken for tiny photographs. The exhibition consists of landscapes, portraits, still lifes, wildlife, and more.

Discover the unique nature of the Earth’s polar regions, the science undertaken there, and how these regions are indicators of climate change on Earth. Visitors will relive polar expeditions though the eyes of great explorers, learn about the formation and size of icebergs, and conduct experiments. Discover polar bears and penguins and the impact that global warming is having on their icy homes in the Ice Cave Theater.

Gems seduce us with their sparkle. But did you know that every glittering ruby, sapphire, diamond, and opal has a history as old as the Earth itself? A gem isn’t just a pretty bauble—it’s a rare and wonderful by-product of the tremendous forces that have shaped our planet.

La Jolla-based scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) travel to Antarctica each year to study its vital ecosystem. See striking photographs taken by NOAA researchers of breathtaking landscapes, up-close interactions with Antarctic predators, and scientists at work in this land of extremes. Real Antarctic zooplankton specimens and research gear are also on display.

All life depends on it, including ours. Learn how a changing climate affects our water supply and see live animals that depend on this vital resource.