Milk, who was the city's first openly gay supervisor, was gunned down along with Mayor George Moscone by fellow Supervisor Dan White at City Hall on Nov. 27, 1978. Milk was 48 when he died.
In the decades since then, Milk has been recognized as a champion for civil rights. In 2009, his birthday was declared "Harvey Milk Day" throughout the state.
The GBLT History Museum in San Francisco, located at 4127 18th St., is marking the occasion with free admission.
A video clip of one of Milk's speeches will be screened throughout the day, and tours of the museum will highlight Milk's work. "We live in a diverse society and our mission as a museum is to encourage respect and understanding for that diversity in our culture," museum spokesman Gerard Koskovich said.
Many student groups are expected to stop by the museum throughout the day. The Milk exhibit includes photographs, videos, and some personal belongings that were donated to the museum -- including his well-worn jeans, a "Milk for Supervisor" T-shirt, and novelty glasses, Koskovich said.
"He was famous for his wacky sense of humor," Koskovich said.
Kosovich said the exhibit gives a sense of what Milk's life was like.
"You get a feeling of what he was like as a Castro District resident," he said.
Milk had a camera store in the heart of the Castro, which became the headquarters for his civil rights campaign. Koskovich said Milk was known as the mayor of Castro Street.
This evening, a panel discussion will be held at Books Inc. at 2275 Market St. at 7:30 p.m. with the editors of a new book, "An Archive of Hope," a compilation of Milk's speeches and letters.
The panel will include a former employee of Milk's camera shop, Daniel Nicoletta, and his speechwriter, Frank Robinson.
Later at night, a birthday party will be held in Milk's honor at the Lookout bar at 3600 16th St. beginning around 9 p.m., according to Koskovich.
"The neighborhood is really coming together to honor him and carry on his work," Koskovich said.
San Francisco's Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy will hold an annual celebration this evening at the campus at 4235 19th St. Starting at 6 p.m., students will hold a talent show and unveil a panel for the national AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement Wednesday, saying, "I urge all Californians to remember Harvey Milk for his contributions to the more open, free and honest society that we live in today."