The Story of the
California Museum of Science and Industry

The California Museum of Science and Industry is the largest and oldest museum of its kind in the Western United States and is designed to present scientific and technological exhibits of educational value in a manner to excite the interest of the general public in the fields of science and technology.

Exposition Park began with a land transaction in 1872, when James N. Thompson sold a parcel of land to a private corporation, the Southern District Agricultural Society, dedicated to promoting local agricultural interests. The area was named Agricultural Park. A clubhouse, stables, and corrals were built and livestock shows, farm equipment displays, and horse races were the major activities.

In 1880, the State Legislature established Agricultural Districts to promote agricultural development. Agriculture Park fell in the Sixth Agricultural District. A Board of Directors was appointed by the Governor for the District and their first project was a fair.

The fair was a success and was attended on the final day by President Rutherford B. Hayes, the first time a U.S. President ever visited Los Angeles.

In 1885, the State purchased the property, 100 acres of park and 15 acres of parking, for $100 an acre. However, funding was a problem and to meet expenses, the District began leasing out sections of the park to private concessionaires.

By 1889, the park had become largely a racing and amusement center controlled by the private concessionaires and was not a place families came to visit.

William Miller Bowen began a 10 year legal battle to remove the private concessionaires. In 1909, the battle was won and title of the park was vested in the people of California.

By the following year, the State Legislature appropriated $250,000 for construction of a State Exposition Building and the County appropriated $150,000 for construction of a museum building. On December 12, 1910, the name was officially changed to Exposition Park.

The new Exposition Building contained displays and pictures of natural resources and industrial products. In 1949, the Directors made the decision to remodel the Exposition Building. The building reopened in 1951, with a new name - California Museum of Science and Industry - and expanded facilities: an Agricultural Hall, Industrial Hall, Mineral Hall and a Transportation Exhibit.

In 1954, the new Board of Directors decided to build a great Museum and the State of California agreed to be responsible for building improvements, maintenance, and housekeeping facilities. Funding for exhibits would be from private sources and the California Museum Foundation was established in 1958 to do the fundraising. The 6th Agricultural District officially became the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1962.

In 1968, the Hall of Health was added to the Museum and prior to the 1984 Olympics the Aerospace Hall, IMAX theatre, and the Mark Taper Hall of Economics were added.

Today, the museum has undertaken the task of developing a master plan to maximize the use of Exposition Park facilities and green space. An agreement has been negotiatiated among the Los Angeles Unified School District, the School of Education at the University of Southern California, and the Museum to develop an elementary school on the grounds.

CMSI / History /