About Us

Museum History

Our Story

Inspired by a trip to the Denver Children’s Museum in 1980, Sharon Brier registered the name Children’s Museum of Houston in 1981 and began advocating for the Museum. Shortly thereafter, a Board of Directors was assembled by Sharon Brier, Gail Adler and Ann McFarlane and consisted of community members and educators chosen by them.

Sharon Brier poses with her husband Michael and their son Samson in 1980.

A Junior League of Houston committee led by Ann McFarlane had spent a year traveling the country studying children’s programs of art and science museums, as well as those of the few children’s museums that existed then. The ideas culled from those programs were used to engage Houston school districts, the Texas Commission for the Arts and other groups to support the nascent museum.

Gail Adler and Ann McFarlane worked with an innovative San Antonio exhibits firm to develop the concept of a debut exhibit, Kidtechnics, to introduce the Houston community to the idea of a children’s museum. Gail secured Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston as the location for the exhibit. Kidtechnics was a great success and validated going forward to establish a brick-and-mortar museum.

Ann McFarlane (left) poses with former Board President Sidney Hawkins Fay (second from right) and Museum volunteers in 1985.

Through Gail Adler and Sidney Hawkins Fay, the Museum rented space on Allen Parkway and launched its second successful exhibit, Oaxaca Village, as well as other permanent exhibits inspired by Junior League of Houston research. Chaille Cullinan Hutcheson then began her two-year term as President and the Museum launched its “Take a Giant Step” Capital Campaign to build a larger, permanent facility in the Museum District.

Former CMH Presidents Chaille Cullinan Hutcheson (left) and Sidney Hawkins Fay(right) explore the miscellanea in Oaxaca Village, the Museum’s second exhibit.

During her tenure as Board President and Life Board Member, Gail Adler began the search for a permanent site. Subsequently, during her time as Board President, Life Board Member Julie Alexander went on to chair the museum’s first Capital Campaign to raise the funds to build the Museum at its present location in the Museum District.

Gail Farfel Adler (left) and Julie Alexander (right) each served as Board Presidents: Gail from 1987–1988 and Julie from 1988–1990.

Under the leadership of former Board President, Edward Rudge Allen Jr., in 1989-1990, the Museum’s Building committee went on to select the site and architects, including renowned architect, Robert Venturi, for our present building. Rudge’s son, Randy Allen, would later follow in his footsteps as Board President and become instrumental in the Museum’s expansion.

Edward Rudge Allen Jr. served as Board President and Museum trustee from 1984–1990.
Rudge’s son, Randy Allen, served as Board President from 2013-–2015.

The Museum celebrated its public grand opening at the Mary Gibbs Jones Building in the fall of 1992 under the Presidency of Kathryn L.E. Rabinow, who continues to serve as a dedicated, active trustee and Life Board Member.

Past Board President from 1992-1994 and Life Board Member, Kathryn L.E. Rabinow, stands next to a “caryakid”—one of a series of 13 figures, located in front of the Museum, designed by Museum architect Robert Venturi.

In 2000, with the combined efforts of consecutive Board Presidents, Max Lukens, Life Board Member Charlene Pate and Paul Murphy, the five year “Campaign for the Children” established an endowment fund to support the creation and refurbishment of exhibits and provided support for programming.

Pictured from left to right, past Presidents Max Lukens (1996–1999), Life Board Member Charlene Pate (1994–1996) and Paul Murphy (1999–2001) in the John P. McGovern Kids’ Hall.

Under the consecutive leadership of Board Presidents Randy Allen, Lee Lahourcade, Dan Parsley and Geoff Bracken, in 2005, the Museum launched its “Take Another Giant Step” Capital Campaign to fund the doubling of the Museum’s exhibition space, the expansion of the Museum’s outreach programs and the formal launch of the Museum’s Institute for Family Learning.

Consecutive Board Presidents pictured from left to right, Mark Duffey (2001–2003), Dan Parsley (2003–2005) and Lee Lahourcade (2005–2009), gather together at the Museum’s expansion celebration in 2009.

On March 14, 2009, under the presidencies of Lance Gilliam and Michael Plank, the Museum opened its doors to a new building addition that doubled its size.

The Museum completed its building expansion and Capital Campaign, under Board Presidents Lance Gilliam (2011–13) and Michael J. Plank (2009–11), making it the #1 children’s museum in the country.

Since its establishment, the Children’s Museum of Houston has grown to serve more than one million children and families annually through onsite Museum attendance and community-based programs. The Museum now operates thirteen bilingual exhibits, seven out-of-school and summer outreach programs and seven bilingual Parent Engagement programs. Remaining focused on its mission to transform communities through innovative, child-centered learning, the Museum continues to thrive and address significant community needs.

The Museum operates as a 501(c)(3) under the direction of a Board of Directors.