Our History

The Friends share an illustrious history with the Palo Alto Junior Museum Zoo. For generations, our community has cherished the gifts of 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 establish and fund the East Palo Alto Science Outreach Program, currently in its 18h year. In total, the program has provided science education classes to thousands of under-served elementary school children in East Palo Alto.

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

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

Today – Hundreds of Bay Area families are Friends Members. The Friends have begun fundraising for a multi-year Master Planning process to explore the renovation and future of the Junior Museum & Zoo.