Randall Museum History

The Randall Museum, located in the heart of San Francisco, was the inspiration of Josephine D. Randall. Here is the interesting history of the museum and its founder.

Who Was Josephine Randall?

After receiving a Masters degree in zoology from Stanford University in 1910, Ms. Randall organized some of the first Girl Scout and Camp Fire Girl troops in the United States. She went on to become San Francisco’s first Superintendent of Recreation, a position she held for a quarter of a century. In 1948 Ms. Randall became the first woman elected a Fellow of the American Recreation Society, and in 1950 she received an honorary Doctorate from the University of California. Under her direction, the San Francisco Recreation Department achieved national recognition as one of the most outstanding agencies of its kind.

Josephine Randall

How Was the Randall Museum Founded?

One of Ms. Randall’s long-term goals was to establish a nature museum for children. She believed that learning should be fun and imagined a museum that combined science and art, inspiring visitors to develop interests that would last throughout their lives. In 1937 her vision came to fruition when the “Junior Museum” opened in the city’s old jail on Ocean Avenue. Ten years later Ms. Randall shepherded a $12 million bond issue for recreation capital projects including a new museum. The new facility opened in 1951 on a 16-acre park overlooking San Francisco Bay. In recognition of Josephine Randall’s vision, hard work, and dedication, the museum was renamed in her honor. In 2004, the outdoor areas were renovated and in 2016 the entire interior of the museum was redesigned and revitalized to better serve its visitors.

What is the Randall Museum Today?

Following completion of robust renovations in 2017, the Randall Museum features a STEM lab with state-of-the-art technological tools; a fully equipped woodworking studio; a natural sciences lab; art and ceramic studios; a toddler playroom; and permanent exhibits exploring ocean ecology, geology, and railroads, along with an extensive working model railroad. Dynamic habitat-based live animal enclosures house more than 100 creatures that can no longer survive in the wild, allowing museum visitors to interact with and learn about California’s diverse wildlife. Outdoor areas feature an observation deck, a small amphitheater, a kinetic wind sculpture, native plant gardens, a water catchment system, picnic spots, and easy access to hillside hiking trails in Corona Heights.

Ms. Randall intended the museum to be “… a place that would foster a love of science, natural history, and the arts.” As part of this continued mission, the Randall Museum provides free admission and free or low-cost hands-on learning experiences including exhibits, classes, summer camps, workshops, school field trips, and special events for children, teens, and adults.

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