Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

113 Harbor Way,, Santa Barbara, CA 93109 - United States




Santa Barbara Maritime Museum opened its doors to the public in July 2000 in the Waterfront Center Building, formerly the Naval Reserve Building, with the unique mission to interpret the rich and diverse maritime history of the Santa Barbara Channel. Founded by a group of fishermen, divers, and sailors who are a part of this exciting history, SBMM centered on interactivity and the founders envisioned it as a place where the public could experience maritime culture without leaving the harbor.

Santa Barbara is a coastal community, with a strong, varied maritime history and the Santa Barbara Channel is an important part of our culture that is rich in history and natural resources. SBMM provides hands-on learning opportunities for all ages to delve into that history. Through interactive learning opportunities, SBMM hopes to instill a love and respect for our Santa Barbara Channel, for the people who make their living on its waters, for those who enjoy its recreational activities, and for the abundant marine life that calls these waters home.

The museum has nearly 8,000 square feet of exhibits, as well as docking space for three historic vessels. An additional 5,000 square foot warehouse off-site allows for artifact collection and storage. The 88-seat, high-definition Munger Theater also provides a venue for films, lectures, and panel discussions on all things maritime. SBMM currently has a membership base of nearly 2,000 members. Attendance approaches 40,000 visitors annually.


We have three new interesting exhibits for you to visit: Love Letters to the Sea, Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility, and Naval Reserve Building History. We have also updated our existing Military Exhibit – A Maritime Power, A Maritime Nation, and the United States Navy. Coming soon! An exciting exhibit of surfboards, paintings and historic photographs called Heritage, Craft & Evolution: Surfboard Design 1885 – 1959 , which opened June 24 and will be on view through October 30, 2021.

Love Letters to the Sea Interactive exhibit: Love Letters to the Sea is an arts-enriched, creative letter-writing project, developed by Sondra Weiss (@lostartofloveletters) a longtime museum Art Educator & founder of Lost Art of Love Letters. Wanting to expand on the project, SBMM created an interactive exhibit incorporating a Love Letters to the Sea nook complete with a writing table, art supplies, writing tools, and samples of student art and words. Building on provided prompts, visitors will be able to take a moment to reflect on various issues, create artistic and persuasive letters and envelopes, and thus use their art and words as power for global change. You can learn more, watch an instructional video & download materials here.

Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility exhibit: Visitors will learn more about the Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility (SCARF) which was designed, built, installed, operated, and maintained by General Motors Defense Research Lab, Sea Operations from 1966 – 1982. In 1982 through 1990 the US Navy took ownership of the range. Goleta-based MariPro Inc. operated and maintained the system. The onshore facility was located on the south side of Santa Cruz Island on land leased from the Santa Cruz Island Company. SCARF supported hundreds of U.S Navy development and test programs, many of them classified.

Other exhibits at SBMM will take you on a winding journey through two floors where you will learn about: Early Explorers, the Chumash, Whaling, History of the Waterfront, Commercial Diving and Technology, Commercial Fishing, Surfing, Navigation, Shipwrecks, Channel Island Ranching, First Order Fresnel Lens from Point Conception Lighthouse, and Santa Barbara Lighthouse Women Keepers.

You’ll also enjoy the History of Oil in the Santa Barbara Channel exhibit. Oil has been a part of our maritime history for thousands of years. The Chumash utilized the natural seeps in our channel for their tomols and baskets, the world’s first offshore oil well stood off Summerland Beach, commercial diving technology flourished in Santa Barbara due to oil production, and the modern environmental movement grew out of the 1969 Oil Spill. Today, oil affects every facet of our lives, even as we move towards renewable energy sources.

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