California Cultural and Historical Endowment funds new gallery to display California's prehistoric legacy

California’s landscape millions of years ago wasn’t dotted with tall buildings or crisscrossed by miles of highways. Instead, there were acres of lush tropical forest populated by animals and plants. Many of these plants and animals are now extinct and many Californians are unaware of their state’s incredible prehistoric legacy. Now though, Californians will be able to learn about this aspect of the state’s history thanks to a grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) , an agency the California State Library currently hosts.

The CCHE board awarded a $2,887,500 grant to the San Diego Natural History Museum to create the only museum gallery in California that gives a comprehensive overview of the unique fossils, minerals, and other artifacts from California’s prehistoric past. These fossil and geological specimens, collected by the San Diego Natural History Museum’s paleontologists and geologists from sites throughout California, literally chronicle the formation of the state.

The gallery exhibits will use the museum’s specimens, together with full-sized animal fabrications, to showcase California’s natural heritage. Visitors will learn the history of the forces that shaped the biological and environmental changes that occurred during California’s prehistoric past and the history of more recent forces and events that have shaped the state’s present physical and natural environment.

The Main Gallery, when completed in late-2006, will house a 34-foot model of the Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived. There will also be exhibits of the small animals that lived during the Pleistocene Era, 10,000 to 70,000 years ago. Visitors will have the opportunity to be immersed in the tropical forests that existed during the Eocene Era, some 45 million years ago. In this exhibit, visitors will see not only pictures of the Eocene, but will stand in a realistic setting that provides the sights, sounds and smells of a tropical environment. There will also be a life-sized Albertosaur, a flesh eating theropod dinosaur of the Cretaceous Era, about 75 million years ago. Similar exhibits will highlight fossils and rock forms associated with the Miocene Era (5 to 24 million years ago) and Pliocene Era (1.8 to 5 million years ago).

For more information about the CCHE please call Diane Matsuda, CCHE executive officer at 916-651-8769 or email




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