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Museum History

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Celebrating over 50 years of science!

Building Sewell HallLocated in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Sierra College Museum of Natural History was inspired by its instructors and students and their deeply felt appreciation of nature. In response to a keen public interest in natural history, the museum was begun within Sewell Hall, the college's science building in the mid-60s. Initially funded by a special grant, the museum's first director, R.A. Underhill, oversaw the construction of exhibits and displays based upon the rising theme of ecology.

Accompanied by the popular planetarium, the museum became the familiar home of thousands of youngsters, students, teachers and parents who came to see, learn, and enjoy. Over a period of its first eleven years, more than 150,000 people participated in lectures, demonstrations, exhibits, field trips and classes.

In 1978, California's Proposition 13 brought the museum's lifeblood funding to a halt. Without adequate funding the museum was unable to continue its level of service to the public. Shortly thereafter, western Placer County's population began to increase rapidly and the demand for public access for science intensified. The museum continued on, albeit scaled down, on a volunteer basis.

Thanks to volunteer faculty, students, staff and public, the museum has been able to offer modest but continuous educational programs to the public. New exhibits have been designed, funded and completed. Public lectures, programs and field trips have been conducted and eagerly attended.

Today there is a renewed and strong interest in revitalizing and expanding the museum and its educational program. A Sierra College Museum Committee, composed of hard-working volunteers, has regular meetings to plan the museum's activities and its growth. New exhibits have been steadily added, funded entirely by generous community members. An agreement with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has resulted in a long-term loan of a few of their exhibits. 

We invite you to have a look! The accompanying pages give just a taste of the present and the future of this exciting academic and public component of Sierra College.

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