In 1949, The Junior League of Miami's "Project Finding Committee" determined that Dade County's children needed a science museum. The Junior Museum of Miami, a private non-profit organization, was established in 1950 in a house on the corner of Biscayne Boulevard and 26th Street. The Junior Museum expanded so quickly that in 1952 it was forced to move to the Miami Women's Club building on Bayshore Drive. It was then christened the Museum of Science and Natural History.
In 1953, the Guild of the Museum of Science was formed. Their efforts included volunteer assistance to the staff, operation of the Museum Store, as well as tours and outreach programs.
The institution, however, again began outgrowing its new space. In response, Mrs. Henry Shaw created a special committee, headed by Mrs. Sydney (Claire) L. Weintraub, which ultimately recommended to the Dade County Commission that it should establish a major independent science museum which could service citizens of all ages.
By 1960, the first building of the community's new science museum opened its doors. The facility, located on three acres of the historic Vizcaya complex, was built and furnished rent-free by the County.
During the same year, the Patrons were formed as the Museum's fundraising arm. They have since developed the outstanding annual "Around the World Fair", South Florida Artists Show, Trust Fund and other fundraising activities to provide the museum with continued financial security. The Sponsors, a host committee, were also created in 1960.
Late 1966 saw the construction of a Space Transit Planetarium which soon became the leading facility of its kind in the world. Its activities now include international television programming.
The next decade, which brought the association of 15 affiliate clubs representing various scientific disciplines, broadened the scope of activities offered and provided an important forum for exchange.
Over the years, additional support groups, such as the Latin American Friends and Orange Bowl Luncheon Committee (formed from representatives of all the volunteers) have stepped forward to meet the institution's increasing financial needs.
During the last decade, the Museum has expanded to provide space for 4,000 member families, over 250,000 annual visitors, one of the largest summer science camps in the nation (ages 3 to 14) and countless additional exhibits, collections and activities. The yearly operating budget has grown to 2.5 million dollars.
Present science education needs in South Florida again require expansion of these facilities, which currently total 48,000 square feet.
Through the years, the Museum has enjoyed the full support of the Metropolitan Dade County Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation and School Board, the City of Miami and the State of Florida.
Though the history of the institution can be charted by the growth of its facility, this story is ultimately one of people. For almost 50 years, the Miami Science Museum and Space Transit Planetarium has been nurtured by a legion of tireless volunteers and generous contributors. Their abundance of vision and dedication has rarely been equaled by any other civic group in the city's history. Here, the greatness of the accomplishment can be found.