Junior Museum and Zoo reopening sparks excitement

A peacock spreads its feathers and a flamingo stands on a single leg while the meerkats scamper throughout their exhibit. Life at the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is back to normal. Actually, it’s even better.

The reopening of what many consider a community treasure on Friday, after a two-year closure, is drawing many students and families to the new exhibits and animals.

Executive Director John Aikin said the museum, which shut down for renovations in June 2019, has doubled in size. 

“We’ve added exterior exhibit space in the museum for outdoor play for kids, as well as a larger exhibit hall,” Aikin said.

According to Aikin, the zoo will feature many of the same animals, including Edward the tortoise, that were showcased in the exhibits before the zoo closed. However, visitors can expect a multitude of new animals, including green-tailed lemurs, meerkats, fish, and American flamingos. 

Many Palo Alto High School students are looking forward to visiting the newly reopened museum.

“I am excited for the reopening and think everyone in the community will enjoy it,” senior Isa Morabia said. “Especially after COVID, it is refreshing and exciting to be able to visit something new in our town.”

Many students had previously experienced the Junior Museum and Zoo prior to its remodeling.

“I went once for a field trip, and I would be excited to go again after the remodel,” freshmen Peter Fetter said. “I think the museum will be even cooler now.”

COVID-19 also significantly affected the museum’s path to reopening.

 “It [COVID-19] has slowed down a lot of processes within the city. It slowed down the shipping of exhibit materials, it slowed down the movement of animals and it limited the number of flights, and so it was very hard to move animals around the country,” Aikin said.

Aikin said the museum is taking several COVID-19 precautions for its reopening. Masking is required for visitors over three years old, although it is suggested for visitors of all ages. 

According to Aikin, the museum’s ventilation system has been improved to turn the air over every three hours. The museum will also close to wipe off surfaces between the mornings and afternoons as well as enforce a limited capacity through reserved tickets.

“The first weekend has gone really well and people are enjoying and saying very nice things about their experiences and we have not had any major glitches,” Aikin said Sunday afternoon.

Visitors can purchase tickets online through the Junior Museum Website.