Our History

The Friends share an illustrious history with the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo. For generations, the Friends has funded learning and discovery through hands-on exhibits, animal encounters, and science classes for young children.

1934 – The Junior Museum was founded by Josephine O’Hara in the basement of a local elementary school. It was the first children’s museum west of the Mississippi.

1962 – Community volunteers formed the “Associates of the Palo Alto Junior Museum” to support the exhibits of the museum.

1969 – The Junior Museum added a Zoo with a small selection of mostly indigenous wildlife.

1990 – The Associates re-organized and created the non-profit 501(c)(3) “Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo” (Federal ID #77-0296155) to support the programs and services of the JMZ.

1999 – The Friends establishes and funds the Science Outreach Program in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park schools, which continues to serve thousands of elementary students every year.

2012 – The Friends begin concept design involving CAW Architects, Portico Design Group, staff, and public.

2017 – The Friends completes a campaign to raise $25 million to rebuild the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo.

2018 – Construction on the new JMZ begins.

2021 – The new Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo reopens after nearly two decades of planning, fundraising, and construction.