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Our Future

Our Strategy, Our Future

In 2024, the Museum is celebrating its sesquicentennial—150 years of contributions to science and the community. While we celebrate the past, there’s never been a better time to think about the future. With that in mind, we developed a strategic plan to serve as a guiding light and compass for where we’re headed.

The tactics we employ may change from year to year, but the principle is the same—research-based science guides everything we do, the causes we get behind, the programming we offer, and how we communicate. Why? We believe nature is the biggest exhibition of all, and we want to preserve it for future generations.

Check out our strategy roadmap, a condensed version of our strategic plan, and read on to learn about recent accomplishments, major initiatives, and future plans.

New spaces for visitors

We want every visitor to experience the joy of scientific discovery the way we do. This includes opening spaces to the public that historically have been off view. In the past five years, we’ve turned our appointment-only research library into a gorgeous exhibition, repurposed a little-used storage space into The Backyard, and commandeered formerly empty passageways for Hidden Gems. We’ve converted office space on the 4th floor into a brand-new exhibition gallery (opening in 2022) and are planning outdoor interpretive gardens to serve as an amenity for all Park visitors.

Conservation in action

Preserving this region has been our thing since day one—and day one was in 1874. But as our reputation as a must-see museum increased, awareness of our conservation work waned. We do the research that makes conservation possible, and we’re putting a renewed emphasis on telling people why that matters. We’re also taking a more active role in advocacy and hands-on conservation work—whether it’s bringing back a local species from the brink of extinction, being vocal about environmental issues affecting our region, or making local canyons more accessible to underserved communities.

Nature is for everyone

Spanish-language programs, resources for those with autism, and free admission for financially disadvantaged visitors are just a few of the ways we’re making nature more accessible to everyone. But we’ve barely scratched the surface, and we know we have work to do. We’re working on developing programs and partnerships that shed light on societal issues and internal biases, and ensuring our Board, staff, and volunteer corps is more reflective of our community. We're committed to making nature—and our study of it—a more equitable experience for all.

Rethinking the museum

If museums are going to aim for future sustainability, we need to pay greater attention to lessons learned during the pandemic. For The Nat, the recent crisis was a period of rapid change, but also rapid learning, experimentation, and growth. It helped us reimagine what it means to be a museum. Moving forward, we will be aiming for a blended model of on-site, online, and out-in-nature activities, among other things. Learn more about our decision to remain closed, what we accomplished during the shutdown, and how we’re learning from the pandemic.


Being energy efficient is key to our protection of the natural world. And for our own operations, reducing our carbon footprint is a primary goal. This includes a major update of our lighting, heating, and air conditioning systems to help save precious resources. In the past two years alone, we have converted more than 1,000 incandescent lightbulbs to LED, replaced antiquated HVAC equipment with state-of-the-art components, and installed protective window inserts to offer better insulation and UV protection. Read more about how we’re tackling this issue.

A culture of innovation

Preparing for our future will require experimentation, innovation, and a culture of risk tolerance at The Nat. The Evolutionary Venture Fund invites staff at all levels to become problem solvers and provides resources for projects that fall outside typical museum operations. The initiative has served as a powerful change agent and resulted in some exciting projects—an escape room, a “refresh” of our rooftop event space, and digitization equipment for research specimens, among other things. Learn more.

A new exhibition strategy

Inside the collections and behind the museum walls are countless stories waiting to be told. That is why in 2017, after many years of hosting back-to-back touring exhibitions, we made the strategic decision to develop future exhibitions in-house, drawing from our own rich collections and incredible body of research. This model is more financially sustainable as well. We have 8 million specimens, a team of scientists doing active research, and live in one of the most biodiverse regions on earth. We have many fascinating stories waiting to be shared.

Blueprint for the future

While much of our work takes place outside the museum walls, our building in Balboa Park is a “basecamp” for everything we do. In fact, no other building houses so much knowledge about the natural history of this region. But our physical structure can do a better job of supporting our long-range mission. Our master plan, completed in 2020, identified three primary goals: improve collections care and research space, enhance visitor experience, and reduce energy use. Page through a condensed version of the master plan to learn more.

Interested in being a part of our future? Please subscribe to our enewsletter, donate today, or contact VP of Institutional Advancement Eowyn Bates at 619.255.0172 or to learn how you can support our mission.