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Earlier this year, a group of Chumash basket weavers from the Santa Ynez Reservation spent the day with Museum Curator of Ethnography Jan Timbrook, Ph.D. The group studied Chumash baskets in our Anthropology Department and on exhibit in Chumash Indian Life Hall and Fleischmann Auditorium.

After an opening prayer to honor the baskets, the weavers used magnifiers for close and detailed analysis of nuances - characteristics of plant materials, technique of splices, creation of designs, and more. Being able to hold the baskets made over a hundred years ago by their ancestors, without an intervening barrier of glass, gave these weavers a deeper connection to this key part of their cultural heritage and an even stronger desire to carry on the basket weaving tradition.

Elise Tripp, Carmen Sandoval, and Lisa Valencia get up close and personal with Chumash baskets in the Museum Anthropology Department.

Alyssa Arguilles, Lisa Valencia, Kristina Talaugon-Rivera, Abe Sanchez, Carmen Sandoval, Angelina Hernandez, Elise Tripp, Sally Hammel, Mercy Weller, Susie Hammel-Sawyer, and Jan Timbrook. (Not pictured: Julio Carrillo and Louis Weller).

The group is led by their teacher Abe Sanchez, who is from the Purépecha tribe in Mexico, now retired and living in Laguna Beach. Sanchez learned his basket weaving skills from renowned Diegueño Indian weaver Justin Farmer.

Sanchez said, "I want you to know how meaningful the day was and how excited the group was to get to see the baskets. It went perfectly well having Dr. Timbrook share her expertise about Chumash baskets. We were all pretty high on baskets after that! I will be pushing the group to a different level with hopes of getting them to finish a basket for submission to the California Indian Basket Weavers Gathering in Oroville in June."

Curator Timbrook has carefully stewarded the 49 catalogued Chumash baskets among the thousands of other objects in the Museum's Anthropology collection. Each acquisition is carefully analyzed, identified, cleaned if necessary, and preserved for future research and exhibition. "We work closely with the Chumash and other Native people to care for their cultural heritage objects that have been entrusted to the Museum."

Timbrook says that she developed her American Indian basket expertise largely by working with what is in the Museum's collection and learning from other basket experts, along with travelling to museums around the world. As an undergraduate at UCSB, she majored in Anthropology and Studio Art (ceramics). "The best class that I took at college was a botany class on California plants. It changed my life and motivated me to learn more about how native plants have been managed and used by Native people in so many ways, including basket weaving."

Jan started her 44-year career at the Museum when she volunteered for six months cataloguing a collection of Navajo rugs. She was then hired by the new Curator of Anthropology Travis Hudson in 1974 and began assisting him with various research projects. Her own study of Chumash interactions with plants, conducted over the course of many years, culminated in the publication of her landmark book, Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California , in 2007 (now approaching its 4th printing). The following year she adapted the manuscript as a dissertation and was awarded the Ph.D. in 2008.

"I love to look at plants in order to understand how people around the world, and from ancient times to the present, figured out how to make them into these beautiful three-dimensional objects. As a novice basket weaver myself I have gained an even deeper appreciation for these baskets. It's so impressive that Chumash weavers have never been content with making purely functional but plain baskets. They wove in decorations and designs, they made them beautiful. The best part is that Chumash weavers today are following that tradition, and that the Museum can help them do that."

The Museum is both proud and honored to have curators such as Jan, who bring lifetimes of knowledge and passion to their work every day. And perhaps what makes this institution so special is our commitment to being an open door resource to anyone in the community who wants to learn and to experience our galleries, our programs, our beautiful campus, and yes, our collections too. Thank you for your continuing support - it is what enables us to continue the Museum's legacy of service now more than one hundred years long.


Luke J. Swetland
President & CEO
Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival
Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22
11:00 AM-8:00 PM and 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Alameda Park, Santa Barbara
The Community Environmental Council (CEC) will host its 2018 Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival-which is free to attend. Join the Museum and Sea Center at our booth in the Kids Corner! The 2018 festival—themed "Educate. Inspire. Act."— will bring community together to tell their climate stories, learn, and heal. Features two full days of live music performances, guest speakers, family programming, a Green Car Show with Ride & Drive, beer garden, sustainable food, and an Environmental Hero Award presentation. Visit for more information..
Town Hall: Drought, Fire, and Flood
Climate Change and Our New Normal
Wednesday, April 25
7:00-9:00 PM
The Granada Theatre, 1214 State Street
A community conversation focused on climate resilience. Free Admission. Get Informed - Flash Talks from UCSB experts on fires, floods, climate change, and political responses. Get Inspired - Keynote from former FEMA Director James Lee Witt. Get Details - Community panel discussion and Q&A with key officials from Santa Barbara Fire, Santa Barbara County, and nonprofits. To ensure your seat, please pick up a free ticket in advance at The Granada Theatre ticket office. For more information, visit
Portal to the Planet: Marine Debris Investigation Station
Saturday, April 28
1:00–3:00 PM
Sea Center
The ocean shapes the surface of our planet and supports all life on Earth. Today, humans have the chance to shape the health of the ocean for the better! Join us on the wet deck for a hands-on experience focused on marine debris impacts. Free with paid admission. Information: or 805-962-2526 ext. 110.
Science on Site: Wildlife Camera Basics
Saturday, April 28
11:00 AM–2:00 PM
Biologists use wildlife cameras to discover animal habitats and ranges without interacting with them. Join David Lee, local wildlife biologist, as he demonstrates how to install, monitor and troubleshoot trail cameras for use in wildlife observation. Learn about choosing a trail camera, data collection methods, and how the results are used in research.
Kids can also solve their own animal mystery by exploring evidence of wildlife. Free with paid admission. Information: or call 805-682-4711 ext. 170.
Science Pub: Exploring the Deep Sea Aboard
The Exploration Vessel Nautilus
Monday, May 14
6:00 PM
Dargan's Irish Restaurant & Pub
18 E. Ortega Street, Santa Barbara
Serving as a Science Communication Fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust since 2015, SBMNH Development Officer Melissa Baffa explored the deep sea alongside pioneering ocean explorer Robert Ballard. In 2015 she accompanied Dr. Ballard to the Galapagos Rift Zone during his first trip back to the hydrothermal vents he discovered there in 1977. Since then, she has also explored the deep basins and ridges along the Southern California coastline; she will be returning this fall to explore off the coast of Monterey. Learn about her past explorations aboard the Nautilus, the plans for the 2018 exploration season, and how you can participate live. Free program. Arrive early; space is limited.

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