History Forum

Are you intrigued by our ever-expanding Santa Cruz county history? Become a member of our fun and venturesome group of local history supporters! The above photo, courtesy of MAH, was featured in one of our 2023 talks and captures the Sierra Club's groundbreaking camping trip to Big Basin State Park in 1902.

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2024 Events

Embrace Our Awe-Inspiring Shared Heritage

Preview our 2024 journey with riveting tales of historic preservation! Come along with us as we delve into the saga of the mission to rescue the iconic Del Mar Theatre, appreciate Elkhorn Slough Reserve as the setting for a murder mystery, discover the exceptional vintage paintings of Frank Heath, and walk through the gorgeous open space triumph at history-rich Arana Gulch. We look forward to seeing you all!

Del Mar

History Forum Event: Saving the Beloved Del Mar
February 7th at 4pm at MAH

Imagine it is 1936 when the majestic 1510-seat Del Mar opened its doors during the Great Depression, offering true grandeur for a mere 15¢ admission. Gary Parks, a distinguished board member of the Theatre Historical Society of America, unfolds the fascinating narrative of the Del Mar within the broader tapestry of surviving Bay Area Theatres of the era. As the author of Theatres of the San Francisco Peninsula and Theatres of San Jose, Gary will transport us to the golden age of cinema.

Adding to the allure, Sentinel history writer Ross Gibson will share how the community made possible the Del Mar's renaissance. Twenty-five years ago, when the theater faced imminent closure and sale, Ross and the vigilant Friends of the Del Mar orchestrated an extraordinary victory for historic preservation. Guest fee: $20 at event.

See 2024 Highlights below.

Nina Simon2

History Forum Event: Nina Simon's Murder Mystery
April 18th, 4pm at MAH

What murder mystery is set at Elkhorn Slough?

Nina Simon's debut novel is currently in the spotlight on the national stage as a New York Times bestseller. The former executive director of MAH chose Elkhorn Slough as the atmospheric setting for Mother-Daughter Murder Night. Enjoy an intimate conversation with Nina as she shares the inspiration that led her to set her novel in the first estuarine sanctuary in the United States. Learn what this distinctive location means to her as she reads relevant passages from her book. Plus, we're in for a compelling slide show highlighting the incredible otter recovery at the Slough—a testament to over fifty years of dedicated ecosystem preservation efforts. Guest fee: $20 at event.

Click here for more information and to register.

Traci and painting

History Forum Event: Preserving Art of the Monterey Bay Region
June 13th at 4pm (off-site)

A thrilling Victorian love story is the centerpiece of this talk. Esteemed artists Frank Heath and Lillian Dane Heath shaped the culture of Santa Cruz for generations to come. From their iconic Mount Hermon art studio to co-founding the Santa Cruz Art League in 1920, experience their enduring impact on the Santa Cruz arts community. Emerita professor Traci Bliss, acclaimed author of three Santa Cruz history books, reveals the dramatic details of their faith-based lives. Learn about Lillian's poignant gift of Frank's paintings to the Methodist Church and the exceptional stewardship that ensued. Experience the stunning works of both artists first hand followed by a reception in the community room with church members.

Meet at the Church, 250 California Street at 4pm. Guest fee $20 at event.

Click here for more information and to register.

Dan Model

History Forum Field Trip: Unearthing the Secrets of Arana Gulch
August 24th at 10am (off site)

You won't want to miss this exhilarating historical walking tour of Arana Gulch with neighborhood historian Dan Model, an Eastside resident. Dan dives into vibrant narratives, from the first Mexican settlers to the present day, and shares the mystery of the "Ghost of the Gulch". He’ll explore the development of the Small Crafts Harbor with Port Commissioner Reed Geisreiter providing insights about the Harbor operations today. Optional lunch at one of the Harbor's restaurants.

Meet at the corner of Agnes St. and Mentel Ave. at 10am. Be ready for a one-mile, two-hour tour some of which is not suitable for walkers and strollers. Guest fee: $20 at event.

Click here for more information and to register.

Awards night

2024 History Forum Awards Night
November 20th at 4pm (Location TBD)

Join us as we celebrate significant contributions to Santa Cruz County history. Watch this space for additional information and please check out our Dolkas-Mertz Grant. Feel free to share this wonderful opportunity with friends and colleagues. All are encouraged to apply. Click here for application.

2024 Dolkas-Mertz Award
Presented by the History Forum in partnership with the MAH, the Dolkas-Mertz Award is a competitive research grant awarded annually for original projects that promote the understanding of the history of the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay Area both in the area of intellectual research (publishing: writing/photographic, video, voice) and material structure (objects/buildings). Nominations and applications for the 2024 Dolkas-Mertz Award are now open through October 1, 2024.
Download Application

2024 Highlights

New Memberships and Renewals

Please join us as we work together to preserve and promote our unique history in a time of rapid change in downtown Santa Cruz. One hundred percent of your dues go to support MAH's commitment to celebrating our past. Are you intrigued by our ever-expanding Santa Cruz county history? Become a member of our fun and venturesome group of local history supporters.

Join or renew your History Forum membership and enjoy guest speakers, tours, and more.

Register by Mail

Click here to download, complete and return a membership form with a check.


The Santa Cruz History Forum is a membership support group based out of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH).

Since its inception in the 1990s, the History Forum has sponsored at least 100 history talks and field trips while annually celebrating an outstanding local historian. It has provided over $30,000 in grants to local historians thanks to the Dolkas/Mertz endowment named for the group’s founders, James Dolkas and Karl Mertz. You can help maintain this positive momentum by becoming a member. Annual dues are $65 per person, tax-deductible and support MAH's history programs.

Mission Statement

Santa Cruz History Forum activities enhance our understanding and enjoyment of historical and cultural locations, people, and artifacts throughout the area. Our efforts also help promote historic preservation within Santa Cruz County.

  • Each quarterly event consists of a compelling presentation on local history at the MAH or other historic venues.
  • We sponsor field trips and walking tours to significant sites.
  • We promote scholarly, relevant research that encourages public engagement with local history. This is made possible by our Dolkas/Mertz Endowment Fund of over $90,000.
  • Each November, we present the MAH with a check to support history programs. The amount is based on total contributions from our membership dues.

History Forum Board:
Traci Bliss, President; Jone Balesteri, Treasurer;
Peg Danielson, Outreach and Communications
Ross Gibson, Nikki Patterson, Alison Speights