San Diego Museum of Man
The Museum of Man located in Balboa Park has excellent displays demonstrating the progress of mankind from prehistoric to futuristic times. The museum is divided into 6 sections, each showcasing a snapshot of human history.
- Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth
- Footsteps Through Time
- Kumeyaay: Native Americans
- Ancient Egypt
- Children's Discovery Center
- Human Lab map of gallery
The entry level to the Museum of Man is gallery A. Most of the floor is devoted to Mayan history and culture. Huge stelae (engraved pillars) dominate the gallery floor while periphery display cases show aspects of Mayan life and their deities.
Parts of this lower level can be sectioned off for temporary or traveling exhibits. Temporary exhibits change every 6 to 8 months.
If you take the stairs on the left, you will enter "Footsteps Through Time". If you take the stairs on the right, you will find the Kumeyaay gallery. The upper galleries loop around so it doesn't matter which stairs you take, you will eventually see them all.
This section of the Museum of Man takes you through 4 million years of human history. It starts with primitive man - Java man, Neanderthal Man - to futuristic robots. It starts with comparisons between animals, apes, and humans. These include, the shape of their skulls, the size of their brains, the shape of their footprints, and the similarities in their DNA.
With over a hundred hands-on displays and 7,000 square feet of floor space, this exhibit is quite extensive and there is no other like it in the West Coast of USA
It is interesting to note that the museum entrance is on the north side of El Prado but the building itself straddles El Prado. Galleries E and F are actually on the south side of El Prado. You will notice this when you enter "Human Lab" and "Dhildren's Discovery Center. See map here
Far into Gallery B, you will enter a section that represents our current knowledge and possible future of mankind: the "Human Lab" gallery. This starts with displays on human genetics, development, and birth. The gallery finishes with a section on robotics and cloning.
If you find these topics a little too heavy, you can also take a rest in the Dinosaur Dig. This is a kid-friendly, outdoor display where children can pretend to be paleontologists: they get to sweep a sand pit in search of fossils!
The exhibit about the Kumeyaay tribe is relatively small in comparision. However, it does a good job in showing the way these native Americans (native San Diegans, really) lived. Displays include artful basketry & pottery, Kumeyaay tools & toys, and other aspects which allow these people to live in harmony with the environment.
Gallery D on the upper right side of the Museum of Man is devoted to ancient Egypt. Here you will find mummies, coffins, masks, jewelry, stone carvings, artifacts, and hieroglyphic.
Thought the Museum of man is highly education, some young children may not understand how humans evolved from apes, and mummies may be a bit terrifying. For these young children, the Children's Discovery Center may be more appropriate. Here, children can pretend to live as ancient Egyptians did. You can dress up as a pharaoh, you can pretend to buy and sell Egyptian wares, you can play ancient Egyptian games.
Last but not least, be sure to stop by the gift shop and take a look around. You'll find archeological kits & toys, cultural jewelry & accessories; books & posters; figurines & knickknack, and drinks & snacks. The gift shop is located along the east side of the building: it is not in the museum, rather it is just outside the eastern side door.
San Diego Museum of man
1350 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 239-2001
map location #7
Open daily: 10 am to 4:30 pm
Closed: Thanksgiving & Christmas Day
Adults (18 and over):
College Students with ID:
Active Military (with ID)
Children under 3:
Membership: Annual membership is $45 for an individual or $60 for a family. However, if you are so inclined, you can also be a Patron for $1000 or $5000 per year. See here for details.