Like many museums in Balboa Park, the San Diego Museum of Man traces its roots to the 1915 Panama – California Exposition. After the expo, the museum was dedicated primarily to anthropology of the Western Americas. The San Diego Museum of Man has five core exhibits; Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Footsteps Through Time, Children’s Discovery Center, Ancient Egypt, and Kumeyaay: Native Californians.
The Ancient Egypt exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Man is one of America’s most important ancient Egyptian collections. It includes stone carvings, pottery, amulets, jewelry and every day artifacts. A Ptolemaic child’s coffin is also a featured item in the display; it is one of only six in the world today. Authentic Egyptian mummies are sometimes on loan to the museum as an added feature of this exhibition.
Footsteps Through Time examines the history of humankind. The vast permanent exhibition is displayed in five galleries over a combined 7,000 square feet. There are over 100 interactive pieces in this exhibition including replicas of primates, early humans, and cyborgs. Visit Primate Hall, venture through Hominid Hall, and travel through Time Tunnel. Gain rare insight into the future in the Human Lab examining man’s future with gene selection and cloning. The fifth gallery, Dig Site, offers an opportunity for visitors to learn archeological methods.
The Children’s Discovery Center is an interactive exhibit where visitors can assume the roles of Egyptian royalty and dress in costumes of ancient Egypt. They can learn about the afterlife and gain an understanding of the process of mummification. Visitors can also experience a replica of an archeological field camp and build pyramids from wood blocks. This is a truly sensory museum experience.
The Kumeyaay exhibition is a permanent collection of the San Diego Museum of Man and dedicated to the first people of San Diego and Imperial counties. The Kumeyaay nation is represented in the San Diego area today by 13 bands, plus four bands in Baja, Mexico. The museum honors the Kumeyaay origins with a collection of arts, traditional dress, medicine and ceremonies, games, and food procurement.
The Museum’s Maya exhibit features archaeological discoveries from the heart of Maya territory, southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. There is an expansive mural of a rainforest; visitors should note the massive ceiba tree in the center, which is sacred to the Maya. Visitors will also see huge casts of Maya monuments, and original Maya artifacts including figurines, masks, bowls, and more.
Museum exhibit guided tours are available every Tuesday and the first Sunday of the month. Past temporary exhibitions have included Empowering Women, Instruments of Torture, BEERology, and From the Vault, where the museum selects extraordinary items from among 400,000 artifacts to display – each with its own story. Check the museum’s website for a calendar of special temporary exhibits at the museum. The San Diego Museum of Man also houses ethnographic collections, a physical anthropology department, and a scientific library. Contact the museum library to arrange research access to the collections.
1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 239-2001