In 1975, as Santa Monica celebrated its 100th birthday, the Historical Activities Committee of the Centennial held an exhibition of local history at the Civic Auditorium. Much public interest was generated, especially by those who for the first time were exposed to the history of their city. As a result, the Historical Activities Committee undertook a public survey to see if the community wanted the formation of a Santa Monica Historical Society to collect, preserve, and be the caretaker of the history. There was overwhelming support and thus, the Santa Monica Historical Society founding meeting was held on October 8, 1975 in the Santa Monica Public Library. Representatives from the city, county, library, Conference of California Historical Societies, many organizations, and citizens from a cross-section of the community were in attendance.
Ann Funk, who chaired the Historical Activities Committee and coordinated the exhibit at the Civic Auditorium, was the founding Chairwoman of the Historical Society. Clo Hoover, first woman Mayor of Santa Monica, was the first president of the Historical Society. In 1988, Louise Gabriel, one of the founders and incorporators of the Historical Society, founded the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum for the collections to be displayed and shared with the public. The museum has grown far beyond expectations with an expansive collection of of artifacts, photographs and memorabilia. Thousands of hours have been dedicated to public education and museum services. The museum is one of the largest in the country for a city the size of Santa Monica.