The Walt Disney Family Museum is proud to call San Francisco's historic Presidio home. Visit our About page to learn more about the history of our museum buildings. For more information about restaurants, amenities, trails, transportation, and more, visit the Presidio’s newly-renovated William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center, located just down the street from the museum on Lincoln Boulevard, and adjacent to the Presidio Transit Center. Additionally, explore the Presidio’s website to learn more before visiting the park.
Why Is The Walt Disney Family Museum In San Francisco?
Though the museum has welcomed visitors since October 1, 2009, one of the questions we’re asked most frequently by guests remains: “Why is the museum here?” Why San Francisco and not one of the cities one thinks of when one hears the name “Disney,” like Burbank, Anaheim, or even Orlando? Often, visitors wonder if Walt had a personal connection to San Francisco. Though he did visit a few times, and though there are threads of Walt’s story that intersect with the Bay Area, The Walt Disney Family Museum isn’t here because of Walt—it’s here, primarily, because of his daughter, Diane. She and her husband Ron Miller moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid 1980s. They even founded Silverado Winery, just north of Napa, on land Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, had purchased.
For over a decade, Diane considered how best to memorialize her father’s life story. Many people in her life suggested she write a book, but, Diane finally decided that a museum would be the best way to tell her father’s story. She felt that an interactive, innovative space—as opposed to a book—seemed more fitting for to her father.
The Walt Disney Family Foundation, which had been established in 1995, helmed the museum project. Initially, the Foundation—under the guidance of both Walter Elias Disney Miller, President of the Foundation and grandson of Walt, along with his mother, Diane, envisioned the museum as a small family office where Walt’s awards, memorabilia, and story would be showcased.
In 2001, the Foundation rented a warehouse on Gorgas Avenue here in the Presidio to store artifacts relating to Walt’s life, and set it up much like a small, by-appointment-only gallery. But as the Foundation’s collection of art and artifacts grew, so did the scope of the museum project. “The art is beautiful, but it’s more important to get the words,” Diane said of the collection. “The truth is so important to me. Not an exaggeration or a beautification of [Dad’s] life.” And in order to showcase that truth, the family needed a larger site for the museum.
The family considered a number of options, but Diane soon heard that the Presidio, which had officially closed as an Army base some years earlier and was in the process of being rehabilitated by the National Parks Service and the Presidio Trust, was looking to lease out some of its historic buildings. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio is the world’s largest national park situated in an urban setting; full of natural beauty, accessible by public transit, and known for preserving the past, the Presidio became the obvious choice for the construction of the museum.
In 2007, construction on the museum began here, in this former barracks building on Montgomery Street. After much retrofitting and remodeling—which included cleverly constructing two levels of content around the historic multiplane camera and transforming an outdoor courtyard into an enclosed gallery with iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge —The Walt Disney Family Museum opened its doors to the public on October 1, 2009. In 2013, the museum applied to become its own nonprofit institution, separate from the Foundation, and acquired 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2014. During this transition, Diane, unfortunately, passed away. In her honor, the special exhibitions venue was renamed the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall in 2014.