As the only anthropology and archaeology museum in the region, the San Diego Museum of Man offers visitors five permanent exhibitions of cultural (ethnographic), physical and historic significance. They include Mayan civilization, ancient Egypt, the Kumeyaay Indians of San Diego County, Human Evolution, and the Human Life Cycle. Frequently changing special exhibits are also featured here, presenting artifacts from the museum's own collections and on loan from around the world.
The Museum of Man's home within Balboa Park is the historic California Building, easily recognizable by its iconic tower. This structure was designed in the style of a Spanish-Colonial church for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Many of the items in the museum's current collection date back to that original exhibit, which was entitled "The Story of Man through the Ages.''
Since 1966, the museum's collection and research focus has been the peoples of the Western Americas. The Haber Collection of Mayan figurines and the Harkleroad Collection of Southern California archaeological material were acquired in 1974. The museum's current name was formalized in 1978, and the facilities were modernized and expand in the 1980s.
Gradually, the museum's research collections, mostly of Native Americans, reached 72,000 display items and 37,000 historic photographs. They were augmented over the years by the addition of the Stanford-Meyer Osteopathology Collection, the Gildred Collection of pre-Hispanic Peruvian ceramics, Mexican and Guatemalan apparel, the Cannon Collection of Southern Californian Indian basketry, and the Smith Collection of Egyptian antiquities.
The Museum of Man is quite fortunate to possess one of the United States' most important ancient Egyptian collections, displayed in the permanent "Ancient Egypt'' exhibit. The collection known as "Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth'' is also a singular exhibit. And the West Wing's "Footsteps Through Time: Four Million Years of Human Evolution'' display covers 7,000 square feet of floor space with five galleries and more than a hundred hands-on replicas of early humans.
The "Kumeyaay: Native Californians'' exhibit is especially popular among Sand Diego County students, depicting the thriving population of peaceful and hospitable people encountered here by Father Junipero Serra in 1769. Also a favorite is the "Children's Discovery Center,'' set up for interactive, sensory learning about ancient Egypt.
Open daily during museum hours from 10am to 4:40pm, the San Diego Museum of Man Store offers a wide selection of unusual, high-quality ethnic merchandise for collectors and novices alike. Gift items include Egyptian jewelry and sculptures, Mata Ortiz pottery from Mexico, handmade Native American jewelry, pottery, and carvings, and Mexican folk art. There are Zuni fetishes, Guatemalan clothing, carved animals from Oaxaca, Mexico, and much more. Among books alone, there are more than 600 titles available.
Items for children are also sold here, such as craft kits, illustrated books, and musical instruments, from ocarinas and Peruvian panpipes to reed flutes. All proceeds from purchases benefit the Museum of Man.
Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $7.50 for students, active military personnel, seniors aged 62+ and youth aged 13~17, and $5 for children aged 3~12 years. Children under three and members of the museum are admitted free of charge. Residents of San Diego County are also granted free entry on the third Tuesday of each month. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The San Diego Museum of Man is located at 1350 El Prado, San Diego, California 92101-1681. By car, take the I-5 South to the 10th Avenue Exit and turn left onto A Street. Continue to Park Boulevard and turn left. From there, simply follow the signs to the Balboa Park. El Prado is the main thoroughfare, which passes the Visitors Center. The Inspiration Point parking lot can be found on the east side of the park.