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Meet Marla, Archives and Collections Catalyst

Posted by on September 24, 2018

Meet Marla Novo
Archives and Collections Catalyst at the MAH.

Marla has been transforming MAH archives for 22 years – the longest run of any MAH staffer, ever – so long she says she’s an archive now. Learn more about how archives inform her work, how stories come out of objects, and what she’s currently most excited by.


What’s Marla’s favorite part about archives?

Marla is driven by a passion for telling the stories that would otherwise go untold. There are so many ways we can interpret items. It’s always changing. The collections are an opportunity to empower the voices of those who have been silenced. She loves showing people what lives at the MAH and how it can inform how they live their lives or pursue that research and passions.


What can we look forward to next?

Expect to see the MAH at more off-site locations. Marla is always thinking of what’s next. How can we bring positive impact into the community? How can we bring more relevance to our work? Right now, she’s most excited about making the MAH more accessible to everyone by bringing collections out into the community. Think installations at Dominican Hospital, mini-exhibitions in bus stops, and pop-up galleries at Goodwill stores.


What’s her current favorite object?

The original sign from the Beach Flats garden. This sign will be featured soon in the History Gallery for an upcoming mini-exhibit. The sign helps tell the stories of a marginalized community. Connected to what’s happening now, the sign asks us to reflect. How can you be a part of history? How are things changing in Santa Cruz and in the world? What history are we repeating now?

Marla also loves a new acquisition of protest signs (featured in the photo above) from the first women’s march in January 2017. Not only do these objects tell a powerful story empowerment, activism, and togetherness but they illustrate Marla’s process. All of the signs were crowd sourced and came to the MAH through the collective power and work of a community at the heart of enacting positive change.


What memories stand out to her the most?

In 2015, Marla organized an exhibition called Princes of Surf. The project told the story of three princes that came from Hawaii and introduced surfing to the mainland right here in Santa Cruz. The original boards were brought to the MAH by a massive procession with hundreds of onlookers. A blessing ceremony performed by Hawaiian Kumu Kaui preceded their unveiling. The awe and reverence in the room was a moving demonstration of how deeply objects connect our shared cultures.


What’s the best part about working with volunteers?

Marla’s favorite part about working with volunteers is that make her look at things in a different way. She’s always surprised and energized by the enthusiasm and energy volunteers bring into the space.

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Volunteer Featured Story: Wink the Cat

Posted by on July 5, 2018

Today, our wonderful volunteer and friend of the Museum, Roberta, was kind enough to share the story of her trusted friend, Wink the cat. Check it out below.

“Go ahead and take a second look! One look at Wink is not enough, you’ll need to do a double take. An exotic Turkish Angora, he has long white hair and two different colored eyes – one blue and one green.”

Wink is the cat whose photo and the above description caught my eye on Best Friends Animal Society website for cats available for adoption. His previous owner, who lived in St. George, Utah, came upon hard times and had to give him up.  In 2010, she surrendered him to Best Friends where he received the best of care. He hadn’t been there very long when I noticed him on their website. Plans had already been made for my daughter and me to travel to BF and work as volunteers. I suspected that Wink would be the perfect companion for my other cat, Mr. Blue who was very shy and needed an outgoing and laid-back friend.

Wink was living in Benton’s House, which is dedicated to cats with special needs. Wink has cerebellar hypoplasia.* This condition makes him a little wobbly. I spent three days volunteering in Benton’s and in my free time I followed Wink around, getting acquainted and giving him pets. So funny how he liked to sleep piled up with the other cats. He also was the most amazingly friendliest cat ever! It was fun to see him standing in the middle of a circle of visitors (who were touring BF’s extensive grounds) – enjoying their admiration and petting. At Benton’s, he was a lobby cat and could roam around the large lobby as he liked.

As it turned out, Wink’s caregiver, Danny, drove him to Redwood City from Kanab, which was to be his new forever home. Unfortunately, we learned that Wink does not like car rides, and he complained loudly all the way from Utah to California. He would not let up. Danny is a real hero for putting up with all that noise for such a long drive.

He was instantly comfortable in his new Redwood City home, and became friends with Mr. Blue in record time (about five minutes!). Another amazing thing about Wink! He is incredibly friendly, loves to be petted and loves to talk. He is very expressive conversationally and is demanding when he decides he is hungry. And he doesn’t care what time of day or night it is. If I’m asleep and it’s 2 am, no matter – if he wants a snack he will let me know in a very loud voice and then get in my face until I’m forced awake.

In August of 2017, Wink and I moved to Santa Cruz. (Sadly, Wink’s friend, Mr. Blue crossed two years ago.) And true to his nature, Wink howled in the car all way to his new home in Santa Cruz.

Wink’s sweetness, outgoingness, playfulness and incredible eyes are just a few of the things that make him such an amazing kitty!

*Cerebellar hypoplasia is a developmental condition in which the cerebellum of the brain fails to develop properly. The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that controls fine motor skills, balance and coordination. The condition is not painful or contagious.

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Event Squad

Posted by on June 16, 2018

Lend a hand. Bartend. Lead an art activity. Greet folks. Be the MAH’s little (big) helper. There are a LOT of events at the MAH, and your personality, muscles, and love of being around people helps make these events even better for hundreds of visitors every month.

You: are a flexible, outgoing, courteous, energetic people-person who can occasionally lift tables and chairs.
Availability: Friday evenings and some weekends.
Time commitment: 1 event per month (about a 4-5 hour shift) for at least 3 months.
Training: On the job.

Click here to sign-up now

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From the Archives: Santa Cruz Bans Rock and Roll?

Posted by on June 13, 2018

For today’s blog post I am going to talk about an event that isn’t really spoken of in 2018, but to me it has great historical significance. As we all know, Santa Cruz is one of the most progressive left leaning towns in the United States. Since its just 75 miles away from San Francisco, I guess you could say that the cultural movement that grew from San Francisco made its way to Santa Cruz in the mid-1960s. Before that time however Santa Cruz was the tourist destination built on a foundation of lumber, tanning, and limestone. Some of the most famous people in California would come to Santa Cruz just to get away from it all. Over time Santa Cruz became known as the jewel of the west coast with its extravagant beach views and sunny weather.

Although Santa Cruz was a place to “get away,” politically the county was according to Albert J. Mendez a “conservative stronghold” (Menendez 152-155). For almost a century beginning in 1860 to 1972, Santa Cruz County only had a Democratic majority three times. Santa Cruz like most of the country threw their support toward Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936, and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (Mendez 152-155). Other than those three instances, the county of Santa voted overwhelmingly republican. For most of its patrons, Santa Cruz was a sleepy tourist town that was set in its ways. With the tourist industry booming in Santa Cruz change seemed like an afterthought. Why change something that is going so well? Why would anyone ask for any “negative” national attention? Santa Cruz was the “Jewel of the West Coast” remember?

Well that all changed on June 3rd, 1956 when the Santa Cruz Police Department decided to ban a new music fad called rock and roll. Earlier that night many Santa Cruzians packed the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to see Saxophone sensation Chuck Higgins play his hit “Pachuko Hop.” During the concert police entered the venue at 12:20 am and witnessed music that according to Richard Overton “excited the crowd to passion at times and it was feared that the crowd would become uncontrollable” (“Authorities” 1). Although it was only a few dancers at the venue, Overton and the police department took action under the belief that the dancing was “detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community” (“Authorities” 1). The day after the story appeared on the front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel with quotes from the officers and support from the police chief. As of June 4th rock and roll was officially banned from all public events.

Given the political climate of Santa Cruz at the time, most Santa Cruzians didn’t bat an eye. Everyone wanted to move on with their lives and remain the premiere tourist destination but an amazing thing happened. Santa Cruz had the distinct honor of being the first town to ban the type of music. On June 5th, the story went viral with “Newspapers and radio and television commentators across the country reacted with applause or amusement to the halting of a Civic Auditorium ‘Rock n Roll’ dance last Saturday night” (“Santa Cruz” 1). Once all of this negative attention hit Santa Cruz, government officials became concerned with a possible loss in visitors. As a result they sent city manager Robert Klein on a damage control tour. According to Klein, “There is no ban on the harmless swing known as rock and roll” (“Klein” 1). Klein also went on to say that “We (Santa Cruz) encourage dancing by juvenile groups all summer long. We frequently have dances in the auditorium and as long they’re conducted properly they’re welcome.” (“Klein” 1) By these statements it is clear that the city of Santa Cruz tried to sweep this story under the rug. Tourism was a huge part of the economy and the City of Santa Cruz didn’t want to lose its place as the teenage “weekend getaway.” Even after Klein came out and explained himself, the event continued to be national news with newspapers in Orlando, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, and Washington. I am assuming here and more research needs to be done, but I believe that Santa Cruz was the first city in the United States to ban Rock and Roll. This is due to the story gaining so much national attention and the lack of evidence of a prior ban anywhere else.

For the next few days and even weeks the story of the ban on rock and roll became a thing of the past. Everything went back to normal, city officials were happy, and there was no news of the ban on rock and roll or Santa Cruz. Then just two weeks later on June 18, 1956 similar bans were reported in Ashbury, New Jersey and San Antonio, Texas due to concerns involving rock and roll and its undesirable elements ( Staff “Rock and roll”). To make matters worse an event just a mere 26 miles away from Santa Cruz made teenagers and parents question the validity of Rock and Roll. On July 6, 1956 there was a riot reported at a Fats Domino concert in San Jose California. On what seemed to be a historic night, Fats Domino, one of the biggest acts in the country, was late for his first appearance in San Jose at nine o’ clock. After an hour and a half of waiting a fervent audience finally watched the first band members walk on stage followed by the large piano playing sensation. Once Fats began to play it didn’t matter what time it was, because people were getting their money’s worth. All of that began to change once the band went on their intermission. While everyone was recuperating from a wild set a beer bottle was thrown causing a loud crash in front of the stage. After a few more beer bottles were broken, more people joined in the fight that started by the bar. Once the overhead lights were hit and broken the small fight turned into chaos. When all of the dust settled, people had ran to the restrooms for an exit and 11 of the rioters were arrested by San Jose Chief of Police Ray Blackmore. After the show the city council was left with a situation on their hands, do they ban rock and roll or do nothing? In the end Robert Doerr, the mayor of San Jose sided with Blackmore who stated that the riot was caused by beer bottles, not rock and roll music (Engelmann, “Ain’t that a Shame”). After Blackmore’s decision the city of San Jose decided to ban bottles from public events and use paper cups.

Although it was considered evil music, rock and roll had officially become a genre and it came in the form of a ban on rock and roll. Because of the ban issued by Santa Cruz City Police, rock and roll and Santa Cruz had gained national attention. In what was thought to many as a “fad” it turned out that rock and roll music was here to stay. City governments didn’t know what to do about the music promoting immoral values so many cities banned rock and roll. To get a sense of what teenagers and parents thought about the music and its effect, the Santa Cruz Sentinel tasked head of the Gilbert Youth Research Company Eugene Gilbert, to interview both parents and teens all across the country on the impact of rock and roll. His findings reported that parents thought it was “primitive” “lewd” and possibly damaging to their children. In the article one parent said “It looks like a Roman orgy when those kids get together” (Gilbert 4). The teens on the other hand wanted to let their parents know that they shouldn’t worry. Most of the teens interviewed wanted to have fun with one saying “You’re just not with it man. Why is this so different from the Charleston or the lindy-hop? We’re only having some fun before we get too old to enjoy ourselves” (Gilbert 4). After the interviews, Gilbert stated that the teens asked the parents to let rock and roll run its course until the next fad comes along.

As it turned out rock is still alive and well. With that said I will say that it[s amazing that cities went on to ban rock and roll and in Santa Cruz no less. To reiterate, Santa Cruz on the surface is to some the leftmost city in the country. As of now in my opinion it is, but it took us a while to get there. I am finding that the history of a small beach town 75 miles outside of San Francisco is as rich as a town that has been in existence for more than 150 years. It is in events like the ban on rock and roll that we find small nuggets that make history exciting. I hope you enjoyed this blog and will tell people that Santa Cruz was the first city to ban rock and roll.
Thank you,
Kameron Bell, MAH Archives Volunteer

Works Cited

“Authorities Impose Ban On ‘Rock And Roll’ Dances Here.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4 June 1956, p. 1,, Accessed 21 March 2018.

Engelmann, Larry. “Ain’t That a Shame: Thirty Years Ago, America Experienced Its First Rock ‘n’ Roll Riot.” The Los Angeles Times, 6 July 1986, Accessed 21 March 2018.

Gilbert, Eugene. “Rock And Roll Sends Teen-Agers; Most Don’t Feel It’s Dangerous And Suggestive.” The Santa Cruz Sentinel. 9 Aug 1956, p. 4,, Accessed 21 March 2018. Staff. “Rock and roll banned in Santa Cruz, California.”, 2009, Accessed 21 March 2018.

“Klein Says Rock ‘n’ Roll Not Banned.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6 June 1956, p. 1,, Accessed 21 March 2018.  

Menendez, Albert J. The Geography of Presidential Elections in the United States, 1868–2004. Mcfarland, January 2009.

“Santa Cruz Gets Nationwide Attention For Dance Ban.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, 5 June 1956, p. 1,, Accessed 21 March 2018.


Youtube Chuck Higgins Link:

Early 1950s photo inside the Auditorium:

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Community Builder Highlight: Sam!

Posted by on November 20, 2017



Sam recently moved to Santa Cruz from the UK and is never going back! After getting his BA in Philosophy from University of Southampton, he moved to Barcelona to teach English for a year, but now he’s in California to stay. Sam is a Community Programs Intern at the MAH, as well as being a Community Builder Volunteer, and is always eyeing up new opportunities to get even more involved at the MAH. His favorite activities include: shopping at Goodwill and chatting to Venus at the info booth on Pacific. What he likes most about Santa Cruz are the public community events like First Friday, and the people that he meets every day.  He dreams of one day starting a mid-00’s emo revival band and maybe his own clothing label.



COMMUNITY BUILDING AT THE  MAH: A volunteer position that engages with Youth.

We are Community Builders! A rag tag team of artists, dreamers, weavers and believers, who all share a passion for community and empowering youth.

As community builders we:

  • Lead interactive field trips for youth
  • Meet monthly to discuss community issues, field trip reflections, brainstorm activities and pursue personal passions & discussions
  • Learn about local history and art exhibits
  • Brainstorm ways to activate spaces in creative ways
  • Set up activities in galleries and the classroom
  • Train chaperones to facilitate activities during field trips
  • Lead art and history explorations and activities
  • Push students imagination to create ideas for the future

If you want to become a community builder fill out the application!  Click here to apply!


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