Self-Preservation

Jeanette Kihs will oversee the museum’s fiscal duties as well as its mission of “inspiration, discovery, wonder and stewardship of the natural world.”

Founded in 1883 by the Chautauqua Society, the charge of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, then as now, has been to educate people in the natural history of the surroundings. Its rotating exhibits and permanent displays of native plants, rocks and animals – including more than 400 species of California birds – do that with a sense of wonder and a love of science.

Its mission has just been bolstered by two developments that arrived Monday last week. Jeanette Kihs was made the ongoing executive director. She’s a longtime Peninsula resident with a background in development and fundraising, came on at the museum as development director last July, then was made interim executive director.

“I was attracted to [the museum’s] potential,” Kihs says. “I think it’s a gem. A wonderful resource. Not enough people know about the programs and the educational exhibits.”

The other development is that museum booster Helen Johnson, who passed away last April, left it an endowment of $800,000 to use for education and citizen science toward the preservation of her beloved monarch butterflies.

Fundraising and development stages for the Butterfly Pavilion are already in play, per the endowment’s instructions. A robust programming plan featuring daily school field trips, Science Saturdays and the upcoming exhibit on the Panama Pacific International Exposition, a spectacular world fair held in San Francisco 100 years ago, is rolling along.

“I’m going to continue on that strong course they’ve laid,” Kihs says.

That course has guided it across 132 years. But expect the coming years to be some of its most triumphant.

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