Alexander “Sandy” Lindsay started teaching neighborhood children about nature in the early 1950s. He soon drew parents in to help, and this group of civic-minded people incorporated as the Diablo Junior Museum Association, with a governing board of directors in June 1955. Initially housed in an elementary school, the museum began offering school age children summer classes and field trips focused on the natural world. The institution’s name was changed to the Alexander Lindsay Junior Museum in 1962 to honor its founder after his premature death at age 44.
After nearly a decade of operation, it became apparent that a permanent, year-round site was necessary. In 1965, as the City of Walnut Creek was enlarging its park system, the museum moved into an unoccupied water pump house that was available in Larkey Park. With a new 5,000 square-foot home, the museum could now develop and display a permanent collection of live, non-releasable native wildlife and natural history objects. The City of Walnut Creek assumed operation of the museum until 1986, when it became independently operated as a private, not-for-profit organization.
People came to the museum for help with wild animals that had been injured or orphaned because of intense urban growth and the loss of native habitat. In response, a formal wildlife rehabilitation program—the first of its kind in the United States—began in 1970. Museum programming now catered to all age groups, and in 1987 the board of directors dropped “Junior” from the organization, shortening the name to The Lindsay Museum. In 1990, the museum was re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, validating the institution’s quality of programming and management practices.
In 1984, the museum received notice that it would have to move. A capital campaign was launched, yielding $7 million, and the new 28,000-square-foot museum in Larkey Park opened in 1993.
In 2015, the name was changed to Lindsay Wildlife Experience to better illustrate what the center means to the community and visitors.
Lindsay Wildlife currently serves more than 100,000 visitors each year, including 40,000 school children. Approximately 600 volunteers are active in the Lindsay’s work, contributing more than 120,000 hours of service each year to education, wildlife care, operations, fundraising and outreach. In 2012, Lindsay was re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.