Portico Premier unveils first phase of Museum of Man renovation


After a year of silence, the California Tower bells rang out again to mark the completion of the first phase of the $3.9 million restoration of the San Diego Museum of Man.

To celebrate the project, a veritable who’s who of museum supporters, local culturati, philanthropists and politicians turned out for the stylish Portico Premier last Saturday.

The square below the 200-foot tower hosted a bright and vibrant Mexican fiesta, complete with fresh, handmade tortillas, fresh margaritas and a mariachi band. The silent auction featured beautiful art, jewelry and travel packages from a bevy of local donors and businesses.

After thanking the generous supporters, including honorary chairs Dr. Andrew and Mrs. Erna Viterbi of La Jolla, and the organizers of the Premier, museum CEO Dr. Mari Lyn Salvador cut the ribbon and threw open the doors to the refurbished California Building. With little urging, the attendees moved into the rotunda, eager to discover the secrets of the 93-year-old institution.

Armed with treasure maps and guided by exotic and mysterious belly dancers, the guests traversed the Egypt and China exhibits, the Human Lab and the primate room before finding their way to the treasures of the “Gods & Gold” exhibit of Meso and South American antiquities.

One part cultural extravaganza, one part Indiana Jones adventure, the Premier was a smash hit for all who attended, raising funds for and awareness of one of Balboa Park’s most exquisite architectural and educational gems.

“It is a chance for the museum to have the life it deserves. It’s good for the park, good for the city, good for the tourists, good for all of us,” said honorary co-chair Erna Viterbi, of the increased exposure for the museum.

And thanks to the joint city and state-funded restoration project, the museum staff’s efforts and the organizers of the Portico Premier, there is no question that the San Diego Museum of Man is ready for its close up, Mr. Spielberg.

Among the Premier attendees were

Dr. Andrew and Mrs. Erna Viterbi

, honorary co-chairs;

Dr. Mari Lyn Salvador

, Museum of Man CEO;

Karen Berger

, president of the board; event chairs

Reena Horowitz, Reinette Levine, Patti Cooprider and Susan Heller

; former

Mayor Dick Murphy


Jeanne Jones and Don Breitenberg


Irene and George Chandler


Gordon and Annika Kovtun


Dr. Elliot and Mrs. Joan Alpert; Regina Kurtz and Al Isenberg; Jack and Judith White; Deborah Williams and Heather Dietz; and Charlie Daniels


Photos by Tanya Ditschun