Museum History



  • Conceived by a group of concerned private citizens.



  • City of Palm Desert Funding for museum needs assessment and facility
  • Incorporated in the state of California.
  • Charter member in Association of Youth Museums


  • Achieved nonprofit 501(C)(3) status.


  • Initiated outreach programs in the schools.
  • Opened Museum office and first exhibits.


  • $1.6 million Building Trust Fund created by Cove Cities: Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells.


  • Winner of the California Teachers Association State Gold Award.
  • First Annual Educator’s Community Resource Faire.



  • First traveling exhibit “Garbage… and all that Trash” at the Palm Desert Town Center Super Saturdays Open Museum



  • Discovery Edu-Kits Outreach Program introduced.
  • Family Theater Series partnership with the Rancho Mirage Parks and Recreation
  • Museum Partnerships with Scholastic, Microsoft, Crayola and the Los Angeles Times
  • International children’s art exhibition “Discover My World”.



  • Named Nonprofit of the Year by the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce.
  • Co-Sponsors of the Celebration of Young Children in Palm Desert.
  • Museum Operations in Palm Desert Town Center Mall June-September
  • Construction begun September 1996



  • Completion of Phase I and delivery of exhibits
  • Recruitment and training of Professional Staff and volunteers



  • Ribbon Cutting Ceremony January 29, 1998
  • Discovery Partners’ Adult Fun Night Opening Celebration January 30, 1998
  • Grand Opening-free tours to the public February 1, 1998
  • Served over 65,000 visitors



  • Rancho Mirage Nonprofit of the year Award
  • Served over 50,000 visitors



  • Add Design Corner (Interior Design Exhibit)
  • Add Westfield Shoppingtown Mall Exhibits (Outreach Program)
  • Served over 55,000 visitors



  • Ranked #20 in the nation; #2 in California
  • Served over 56,000 visitors



  • Rancho Mirage Nonprofit of the year Award
  • Served over 55,000 visitors



  • Kaleidoscope Traveling exhibit serving over 8,000 children in 17 days
  • New Exhibit: Fur Fins Feathers and Fun w/Animal Samaritans
  • Rancho Mirage Nonprofit of the year Award
  • Served over 62,000 visitors



  • Served over 65,000 visitors



  • Served over 62,000 visitors
  • Mural Project installed and unveiled.



  • Gallery Refurbish and addition of 5 new exhibits
  • Rancho Mirage Non-Profit of the year Award
  • Served over 64,000 visitors
  • New Web-site design unveiled
  • Application and approval of Preliminary Development Plan for Master Plan Expansion



  • First Children’s Champions Award Gala recognizing Betty Barker
  • Rancho Mirage Non-Profit of the year Award
  • Strategic Plan reviewed and expanded upon
  • Unveil new design of Museum newsletter, the Discovery Gram
  • Served over 66,000 visitors



  • Confirmation received of City of Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage pledges for expansion
  • First Phase of Master Plan finalized
  • Second Children’s Champions recognizing: Barbara Sinatra, Palm Desert National Bank, Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, and Jean Benson
  • Served over 59,000 visitors



  • KPSP Local 2 and the H.N. Frances C. Berger Foundation Coachella Valley Spotlight award
  • National Recognition as ACM “Good to Grow Museum” One of the 4 in the Nation
  • Served 55,000 visitors



  • Developed Children’s Gardens
  • Partnered with ASID for 10th Annual Home Tour
  • E-newsletter developed
  • Broke Ground on Phase I Expansion project
  • Served 55,000 visitors



  • September 2011 New Multipurpose Building ready for occupancy
  • Outdoor play areas and maze completed
  • November 2011:11 new Hands-On Exhibits installed
  • Ribbon Cut, Media Play day, Evening Celebration Event, and Healthy Family Day
  • Naming of the interior of the Dinah Shore Building to the Betty Barker Gallery
  • Installation of newly donated art sculpture- “R.Hero”



  • Served over One Million paid visitors at the Gerald Ford location!



  • Built an Exhibit Fabrication shop on site
  • Installed 22 new STEM exhibits including: 20 Puzzler exhibits to challenge your creativity
  • Installed a Cup Copter exhibit and a Harmonograph exhibit
  • Installed a Swiss Cheese Maze activity
  • Began Family Science Nights programs – Children and families from Title 1 schools come enjoy an evening of fun, family learning (at no cost to the families or the school)
  • Redesigned the museum lobby and moved the Gift Shop into the lobby
  • Made the old Gift Shop into a new Hands-On Learning Lab



  • Began a traveling exhibit program hosting: SuperKids Save the World!
  • Introduced a weekend workshop program
  • Introduced a new School Tours Program including a 30-min instructor-led program.
  • Joined the Coachella Valley Days of Los Muertos collaborative with the Palm Springs Art Museum, Sunnylands Gardens and Estate, and Run with Los Muertos.



  • Installed and opened the Trike Track, the Museum’s first of many outdoor exhibits
  • Traveling exhibits include: Chagall for Children, Playing Together:Games, Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Installed MakerSpace presented by LOWES Home Improvement
  • Opened satellite location at The River at Rancho Mirage
  • Served over 70,000 visitors



  • “Great Friend to Kids Award” recipient R.D. Hubbard
  • Installed Creative Builders Exhibit
  • Traveling Exhibits include: Attack of the Bloodsuckers, Playing Together:Games, Once Upon a Time


The Facility:
MGA Partners designed the entire CDMOD complex of buildings. Their award-winning designs are known all over the world. The dramatic angles, curved walls, and floor to ceiling windows are only a few of the special touches created by their superior architects.

Exhibit design and fabrication was primarily developed by Hands On! Inc., a leader in Children’s Museums. Today the museum has its own Exhibit Shop and the museum has begun making exhibits in-house.

The Present:
The museum has embarked on an ambitious new initiative to expand the value of our exhibits to children of all ages and their families, make the museum even more accessible to people with limited resources, and to develop more science, technology, engineering and math content so essential for success in today’s world.