It started 75 years ago as a great place to store eggs. These days the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is known for its many collections, exhibits, educational programs, research and public forums on topics ranging from animals to astronomy, plants to the life of the Chumash Indians.
The museum's beginnings date to Jan. 31, 1916, when William Leon Dawson and several prominent Santa Barbarans met to establish the Museum of Comparative Oology for the collection and study of bird eggs.
Dawson was the first director, but resigned in 1922 when the board of trustees broadened his original vision of the museum to include animals, plants, minerals and local American Indians. At that time they renamed it the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Today, the museum will celebrate its 75th anniversary by offering free admission all day.
One of the featured attractions is "Arts for the Parks," a national exhibition of 100 prize-winning paintings portraying the landscape, wildlife and history of America's national parks. The exhibit is traveling throughout the United States, and this is its only California stop.
Sponsored by the National Park Academy of the Arts, it is the richest annual art competition in the country with a $50,000 grand prize, museum officials said. This year's winner was William Porter, a retired Air Force colonel living in Fresno. Porter did a watercolor of Escalante Butte in Grand Canyon National Park.
Porter was asked by a museum official if he's a professional artist. He replied: "I am now."
The exhibit will run through April 16. Regular admission is $3 for adults, $2 for teen-agers and seniors, $1 for children. 682-4711.
The museum will present "The Wildness Idea," a film about the flooding of the Hetch Hetchy Valley, Friday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Shot on location in Yosemite, the movie explores environmental politics as environmentalist John Muit battles U.S. Forest Service chief Gifford Pinchot. Admission is $2.
A dinner and dance will be held at the museum Saturday at 7 p.m. in celebration of the 75th anniversary. The president emeritus of the American Museum of Natural History will speak and there will be an exclusive viewing of gems and jewelry from the Smithsonian Institution. Tickets are $100 or $200.
The dance troupe Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company will perform at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Campbell Hall, March 12 at 8 p.m. After co-founder Arnie Zane died last spring of AIDS-related illness, Jones choreographed "D-Man in the Waters," a dance of jubilation and affirmation, which makes up the last half of the program. Tickets are $16, $14 and $12. 893-3535
Dell'Arte Players Company will attempt to mix slapstick with a serious message about abusive family relationships when they perform at UC Santa Barbara, Campbell Hall, Tuesday at 8 p.m. A homage to the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers, the story is about an all-American family that heads for the great outdoors for a needed vacation. But an escalating series of incidents turns the trip into burlesque shtick. Tickets are $14, $12 and $10. 893-3535.
The Alexander String Quartet will play at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara Wednesday at 8 p.m. The quartet will perform Hayden's Opus 76, No. 4 in B-flat major; Bartok's No. 3, and Schubert's G major Opus 161. Tickets are $19 and $17, 963-0761.