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Our Mission: History inspires imagination, stimulates thought and transforms society.

The Los Altos History Museum preserves and shares our local history to enrich our community and to shape a more informed future.

inspire explore celebrate

Current Exhibit

Reflect + Create: Where Art and History Intersect
May 7 - October 4, 2015

Artists, makers and creators from throughout the broader community have been creating new work inspired by items in the Museum collection. “Creating things is uniquely human,” says exhibit coordinator Johanna Fassbender. “It connects us to the world around us and is a form of storytelling. Objects in museum collections also inspire storytelling and can help us draw unexpected connections to contemporary issues and perspectives.” To that end, several objects and oral histories were chosen from the collection as the starting point for this exhibit; local artists, makers and creators are being inspired by these old things to create something new and original that explores their connections to our past, and present.


Photos & Stories Wanted for New Museum Exhibit

How do you keep memories of your loved ones alive?

The Los Altos History Museum is looking for your stories and photos for its new exhibition, Spirits Return – Cultural Traditions Keeping Memories Alive, opening October 29, 2015. The exhibit will showcase how different cultures remember, honor and celebrate their ancestors--around the world and right here in the Bay Area--including Dia de Los Muertos (Mexico), Obon (Japan), Qing Ming and the Hungry Ghost Festival (China), Chuseok (Korea), Shradh (India), All Saints and All Souls Days and Memorial Day.

How we remember our ancestors is very personal. Our diverse volunteer committee has been doing lots of research, but we need community stories and images to bring real meaning and impact to the exhibit. How do you honor, celebrate and remember your ancestors? Do you follow specific traditions? Have you created your own traditions? We would love to hear from you! Share your stories and images by September 30 using this form or contact Johanna Fassbender, jfassbender@losaltoshistory.org or 650.948.9427 x16.

Vintage Tintype Photography

Now on exhibit in the Smith House Gallery

Coinciding with the current exhibit Reflect + Create: Where Art & History Intersect, Emmy Award-winning instructor, Russell Brown from Adobe Systems, recently taught a workshop on Vintage Tintype Photography. Participants learned how to create "new" vintage tintype images using inkjet-printed emulsion transferred onto aged metal. The end result is reminiscent of the photographic processes of the late 1800s including tintypes, cyanotypes, and ambrotypes.

Bob Grimm Memorial

On May 2 friends and family gathered to celebrate and honor the life of Bob Grimm who passed away on March 21 while on vacation in Tanzania, Africa. Below is a video of the memorial service. You can also watch it by clicking here.


Upcoming Events

exhibit events

Lean In Circle
Second Wednesdays, 6-8pm

Speakers and networking for emerging professional women. Free, registration required.





Train Days!
September 19-20, 10am-4pm. Admission $5 for 5 and over (children 0-4 free)
Community favorite, Train Days, returns to the Los Altos History Museum for two days of train-filled fun celebrating the joy and wonder of model railroading. Elaborate layouts, intricate scenery, and scaled renditions of prototypes and whimsical engines and theme cars complete with steam, lights and sound, will speed the rails to delight visitors of all ages. Explore the gauges and scales associated with model railroading as private collectors and clubs showcase and field questions about their American, European and Asian layouts. Participants include:

*      Live Steamers from the Bay Area Garden Railway Society (G scale)
*      Diablo Pacific Short Line (G scale)
*      Golden Gate Lionel Railroad Club (O scale)
*      Private Collector: BBF&FRR (O scale)
*      Private Collector: Swiss Narrow Gauge (HO scale)
*      National Model Railroad Association (N scale)
*      LEGO Layout (L scale)
*      Private Collector: Maintenance Railway Car (Full scale)

Joining the above is: California Operation Lifesaver who will provide education on proper rail safety, our glitter tattoo station will be in full gear and an array of gourmet food trucks and carts will be serving up delectables for Train Days patrons and the public.

"We're thrilled to bring our visitors something new every year and we have some special surprises in store," says event chair Kristen Fuller. "Four new exhibits will join us, including the private 'Speeder' rail car of a beloved Los Altan and train enthusiast."

Trains are integral to America's and our local history. For over 150 years rail service has been transporting passengers along the Peninsula. In 1907 Southern Pacific put Los Altos on the map with its steam railway connecting Palo Alto to Los Gatos. Mirroring railroad development through the years, you'll see the transition from early steam locomotives to diesel engines up through electric and high-speed passenger trains-all scaled in miniature. Whether you're new to model railroading or have been an enthusiast for years, come join the fun and see why it is one of the most beloved hobbies around the world.

Exhibit Program:
Historic Techniques -  Panel with California Artists
Thursday, September 24, 7pm

Join us for a fascinating panel discussion with California artists working at the intersection of art, science, and history. As part of the discussion, the artists will show off their work, and we'll finish the evening with a documentary/performance by Ben Wood about British photographer Eadweard Muybridge - via a magic lantern - which will bring the audience back to the experimental period of the 1870s when Muybridge captured the horse in motion.

This program is a partnership between the Los Altos History Museum (LAHM) and the California Historical Society (CHS).

$5 for LAHM and CHS members, $10 for non-members. Register by calling 650-948-9427 x14.

The photo shows video work by Ben Wood from 2011. It was a video installation projected onto Saint Ignatius Church in San Francisco on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.


Historic Bike Tour of Los Altos
Saturday, September 26, 9:30 am-12:30 pm

Tour the past, in collaboration with GreenTown Los Altos; registration required.




MoonFest Workshop!
Sunday, September 27
Multi-country celebration of this festive fall holiday. (children's craft workshop) multiple groups



Ohlone Day
Sunday, October 4, 10am-noon
Kids (grades 2-4) & parents learn through games, crafts, acorn- and food-tasting with experienced teachers. Free.





Catch the Spirit returns!
Wednesday, November 18, Noon - 4 pm
Local Authors Appearing at Catch the Spirit

Diana Chan - Animal Kingdom - Vertebrates, Animals with Backbones
Yvonne Jacobson - Memoirs of a Farmer's Daughter in Silicon Valley
Shannon Klein - Dogs of Los Altos
Teri Medcalf - Rambler Rose
Donald Neff - Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley
John Ralston - Fremont Older and the 1916 San Francisco Bombing: A Tireless Crusade for Justice

Support the Museum!

It's not too late to contribute to the Los Altos History Museum's 2014-2015 annual campaign. Click here to download our Annual Fund Donation Form, then mail in your gift today! Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

LAHM in My Out & About Magazine

The Los Altos History Museum was voted the best museum for Silicon Valley and the Coast by readers of My Out & About Magazine in their annual "What Do Locals Love" ballot!


Virtual tour of the J. Gilbert Smith House

Check out the virtual tour of the J. Gilbert Smith House on YouTube done by the Library: 3 chapters! Watch below or click here.


County History Today is a video series that highlights points of interest and historical sites in Santa Clara County, California. This video is the first part of a series of three videos that showcases the J. Gilbert Smith House in the City of Los Altos, CA.

Support LAHM through AmazonSmile!

Bookmark the Los Altos History Museum AmazonSmile page and use it every time you shop at Amazon.com. By using this link, 0.5% of your eligible purchase total will benefit the Los Altos History Museum.




The Los Altos History Museum

Snoopy Plate from California Association of Museums

Did you know that Snoopy supports museums like the Los Altos History Museum? Pre-order a Snoopy license plate here and support all California museums! Once 7,500 license plates are sold, a new museum grant program will be established by the state. Plus, how cute will Snoopy look on your car!

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