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Funding, patience in short supply as Palo Alto plans for new history museum

Original post made on Nov 18, 2020

City leaders often tout Palo Alto's role as a pioneer in the fields of technology, education and medicine. On Tuesday, however, they struggled to advance a long-awaited project that would celebrate this legacy: the Palo Alto Museum.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 9:13 AM

Comments (10)

16 people like this
Posted by vizslamadness
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:16 am

vizslamadness is a registered user.

To not develop this museum would be a serious mistake and a travesty. This museum location is perfect and will attract all kinds of visitors. Being next to Heritage Park, it is a perfect place for people to picnic if they want after going to the museum. In addition there is another interesting museum across the street. How convenient is that?

If the City of Palo Alto can rebuild the Children's Museum (for the 3rd or 4th time), why can't they build this museum. It is a shame that the Silicon Valley moguls can't pitch in a few million dollars for this project. It would be greatly appreciated.

6 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:41 am

commonsense is a registered user.

$50,000,000 over budget (and counting) and now considering $10m for this project? No comprendo.

16 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:53 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Is this the old PAMF building? If so, I remember going there as a child growing up in Palo Alto.

It looks kind of run down...another one of those pseudo, PA ubiquitous Birge Clark Spanish-era retro designs.

Why not just demolish the decrepit building & have a fundraiser to erect a new museum.

Local high-tech companies could contribute as well & have their name engraved on a brass plate near the entrance.

2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 18, 2020 at 11:42 am

Observer is a registered user.

My enthusiasm and support for this museum would be MUCH greater if it was not so single-mindedly focused on Palo Alto's role as a pioneer in technology, education and medicine. Important as those three areas are, the technology part overlaps the mission of the Computer Museum. But more importantly, the mission of the Palo Alto Historical Association (PAHA) is much broader, and there are many other areas of Palo Alto History that are of interest to those who live here, and potentially to outside visitors. The collection of PAHA will not be fully utilized if the focus remains as narrow as it seems to be. My understanding is that the narrow focus is due to the leadership that has shackled planning and fund-raising efforts to date. If that is the case, perhaps some leadership change is in order. I would take issue with the possible argument that the focus must be narrow in order for the museum to be feasible. A broader focus on the history of this community could be exactly what is needed in order to move this effort forward. Clearly, the strategy to date is not working.

6 people like this
Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Noel is a registered user.

There are lots of things that would be nice to have in Palo Alto including a history museum. But they all cost money. Spending $10M+ to renovate an old building to create a sub-optimal space for a museum that would then proceed to cost the city $1million+ per year to operate is WAY down the list of thing we should be spending money on right now. It makes far more sense to sell the building and take existing funds to create a roving history exhibit that can rotate among our several libraries and maybe Cubberley and some of our schools.

2 people like this
Posted by Gary G.
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:20 am

Gary G. is a registered user.

Local history is an important area. The space is beautiful and has tremendous potential. Likely the best use of the area is expansion of computer stations with designation of one floor exclusively for local students to use. Los Gatos built a spectacular library with dedicated sections to young children and high school students. The future of public service needs to be more focused on children and supporting families which during this period of COVID-19 have really been limited in social resources. The library resources dedicated to young people in Palo Alto are simply not sufficient to support the needs of the population. A forward thinking approach would be to integrate local history with the AP Examination Structure and to develop testing systems to engage students over local history as a municipal service.

3 people like this
Posted by Do this so that it doesn't cost the city money it won't get back.
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Do this so that it doesn't cost the city money it won't get back. is a registered user.

The history group has had over a decade to raise money to fix this building and they have not done a darn thing. They seem to be incompetent and I don't think they should be given a free lunch.

It would be nice to rehab the building but if the city does it they should then rent out the bulk of the building to a paying entity to recoup the investment until what they have invested is paid back.

Once the building and repair cost is paid back then the city can see about renting some part of it at a lower cost to the history museum while still making enough to maintain the building from entities that know how to make/raise money (unlike the history museum board).

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Posted by Laura Bajuk
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2020 at 11:40 am

Laura Bajuk is a registered user.

To Observer's concern about the range of the Museum's programming: yes, tech put Palo Alto on the global map, but that’s the tip of the iceberg.

We need a Museum to tell the whole story. To give context. To build empathy. This feels especially relevant as we face a global pandemic (again), economic turmoil (again) and calls for social justice (still).

The Museum project started in PAHA, and we’ve developed partnerships with neighboring museums, historical associations and archives which stand ready to offer expertise and artifacts. We’re growing connections in the community to bring out hundreds of stories from individuals and groups, so that everyone will see something of themselves reflected in the Museum.

Check out our website for more info and to bring your stories forward: We’d like to hear from you. - Laura Bajuk, ED, Palo Alto Museum

2 people like this
Posted by Laura Bajuk
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2020 at 11:49 am

Laura Bajuk is a registered user.

Noel, I hear you. I'm a taxpayer here, too. But allow me to clarify a few things:

"Spending $10M+ to renovate an old building..." – Yes, it’s a lot. This City-owned building has substantial seismic issues, which is taking the bulk of the budget. Construction costs have risen, creating a larger gap. But we have over $6M already raised to rehabilitate it, despite resistance from donors to invest in rehabbing a building we'll never own.

"...proceed to cost the city $1million+ per year to operate..." It’s not the City's (or taxpayer's) bill to pay. Unlike other cultural institutions in the City, we are NOT asking for operating support.

I've run history museums (Los Gatos, Los Altos) for over 20 years, stabilizing them financially so they could better serve their communities. For the Palo Alto Museum, we have a 7-year financial plan that is conservative and attainable, and will build the Museum this community deserves.

Check it out in the City staff report from the meeting for details. - Laura Bajuk, ED, Palo Alto Museum

16 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2020 at 2:29 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"It is a shame that the Silicon Valley moguls can't pitch in a few million dollars for this project. It would be greatly appreciated."

^ Good point...if the museum is going to primarily focus on & pay homage to high-tech, then the million/billion-aires & their offspring who prospered off of this endeavor can easily shell out the dough to build & maintain the proposed museum. A brass plate with their names engraved on it should pacify the majority of them...unless consumed by the vanities.

On the other hand...if the museum is also going to include the natural history of Palo Alto, then perhaps the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth & other conservation groups could chip in as well.

As for Ohlone representation...simply install a small casino & restaurant to help make ends meet. This will encourage others who don't particularly care about local history to engage themselves.

Historical representation of other ethnic groups & topics can be left up to the museum review board members...maybe along the lines of 'floating' themes.

Done deal.

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