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Luke Swetland Named President/CEO of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

The Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has announced Luke Swetland as the museum’s new president and CEO.

Luke Swetland
Luke Swetland

As the museum moves toward celebrating its centennial in a few years, Swetland will lead the organization through the entitlement process of the museum’s Master Plan to ensure that the museum continues to serve the community for generations to come as a leader in science education, steward of natural heritage, trailblazer in scientific research and catalyst in building community connections.

“This is an exciting time for the museum, and Luke is sincerely committed to our mission of inspiring a thirst for discovery and a passion for the natural world,” board chairman Palmer Jackson Jr. said. “Luke’s exceptional reputation precedes him, and I am confident he will expertly lead our organization into our centennial year of service.”

Swetland most recently served as the interim head of the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, where he was vice president since 2008. An expert on museum information management, he held top management positions at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles and the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., as well as serving as deputy director/senior vice president of the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles. He also served as vice president of the board of the California Association of Museums, adjunct lecturer for the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and has been active in supporting the efforts of numerous conservation, archival and library associations.

Swetland earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, and two master’s degrees, one in American studies as a Mellon Fellow and the other in library/archival sciences, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“The museum has been a cherished and respected institution in the Santa Barbara community for generations,” Swetland said. “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with a dynamic board and an outstanding professional staff to strengthen and extend the museum’s critically important mission — to serve the community and to educate and engage all of our visitors with our natural world so that we collectively ensure a bright, healthy and sustainable future.”

Meet Swetland at the annual State of the Museum Address on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Beginning mid-January, Swetland will be responsible for leading a team of nearly 100 staff and more than 1,000 volunteers dedicated to the successful operations of the museum and its marine facility on Stearns Wharf, the Ty Warner Sea Center. As a first step, he will work with the staff to update its Strategic Plan, which serves as a guide to the museum’s future, including its master plan to ensure that the renovated museum continues to serve the community of Santa Barbara for the next 100 years.

Born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., Swetland moved to Los Angeles in 1996. A father of two grown boys, Swetland will live in Santa Barbara in the museum director’s house with his wife, Stacey.

— Easter Moorman is the marketing and public relations manager for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

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