Park Profiles: Meet Manuel Aguilar!

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, One Park - One Team, Park Profiles

Manny is the Store Manager at the San Diego History Center. As a San Diego native, Manny has a huge passion for all things SD, especially Balboa Park. He has put his knowledge of the Park, love of the city, and comedic timing to good use as he expands the History Center’s store and his Balboa Park-based social media pages, @VidaBalboa.

  1. How did you start working in Balboa Park?

I started as a volunteer gallery guide for the San Diego History Center in December of 2013. After volunteering for a few months as a gallery guide, I applied to a store associate position that had opened up in the museum store. The rest is (wait for it)…San Diego history!

  1. What do you like most about working at the History Center?

I get a kick out of interacting with a variety of people from around the world; but more so with locals like myself who were born and raised here in San Diego. There’s a lot more of us than people think. Locals tell me the most interesting stories like the legend of “Lucy” the white deer that lived in Mission Hills. True story!


  1. What is the most interesting part about managing the museum store?

It’s really fascinating to see my coworkers take an interest in the success of the museum store as if it were their own. I enjoy hearing them express their ideas and seeing them use their talents to experiment with those ideas. A lot of what you see, hear, smell and feel in the store is thanks to them! I just make sure everyone stays focused on maintaining the best overall vision for the store.


  1. Do you have any advice on working with guests?

Yes. When working with guests remember that you are building and maintaining a relationship. You are both an ambassador for your organization and a liaison for your guests. It’s a unique balance that requires a lot from those who work with guests on a day to day basis. Sometimes it’s a relationship that becomes off balance because it requires


  1. What are your favorite items sold at the History Center store?

My favorite items to sell at the museum store are the ones that reflect our exhibitions and showcase our collections. Our exhibition catalogs and quarterly journals are very popular with our members. I also like selling merchandise that promotes local artists like the Strahm family and local vendors like Found Image. The Strahms are a talented painter and photographer couple and Found Image makes our vintage postcards.


  1. What do you like to do outside of the Park?

You mean there’s stuff to do outside of Balboa Park? I’m rarely away from Balboa Park, but when I am, you can find me at the movies, browsing a bookstore, or strolling around at one of the malls to do some window shopping. That used to be my typical routine for a while before I started working and volunteering in the Park.


  1. Favorite song, TV show, movie, book?

My favorite song is Brimful of Asha by Cornershop because of it’s random upbeat rhythm and lyrics. I’m a big fan of the late night show Conan. I think he would make a great celebrity ambassador for Balboa Park! My favorite movie is anything with Chris Pratt in it or anything that has Chris Pratt’s likeness or image. My favorite book is the 47 Ronin Story. It’s a classic samurai tale based on real events.


  1. Tell us about @VidaBalboa on Instagram!

@VidaBalboa is a social media theme I created on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube to share all the unique things you can only encounter within Balboa Park. Basically all the weird stuff like the guy riding the pennyfarthing bicycle, poodles wearing sunglasses, or all the different photo shoots around the Park. I try to focus on things beyond the museum walls or beyond the normal museum hours. Curious? Follow @vidabalboa and enjoy!

Editor’s Note: We have linked the Vida Balboa Instagram page in our May OPOT newsletter!


  1.   What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?

My favorite spot in Balboa Park is the lily pond because of all the amazing bird life that flies around that pond. One bird in particular that has become my favorite is the heron. It looks just like the creature in the monster movie Rodan and seems to fly with the same command of the air. The lily pond also seems to be the place where a number of people go to pause for a moment of reflection.