SFO Museum, a division of San Francisco International Airport, is a cultural organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Museum is a multifaceted program with rotating exhibitions on a wide variety of subjects; interactive play areas (Kids' Spots) throughout the terminals; and collects, preserves, interprets, and shares the history of commercial aviation. Exhibitions are featured in galleries throughout the terminals, as are the play areas. The San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a distinct museum, library, and archives dedicated to the history of commercial aviation, is located in the International Terminal with exhibitions, research services, and educational programs provided to the public free of charge.
SFO Museum exists to enhance the Airport environment and to provide a rich cultural and educational experience for the more than 58 million passengers who travel through SFO each year and the 30,000 people who work at the Airport. SFO Museum reflects the priority given to art and culture in San Francisco, and it is an important aspect of the Airport’s industry-leading efforts to provide the best possible passenger experience.
SFO Museum began in 1980 as a collaboration between the San Francisco Airport Commission and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. From modest beginnings with a single exhibition gallery, the program quickly expanded throughout the terminals. SFO Museum was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and remains the first and only accredited museum located at an airport.
Accreditation means that a museum has met or exceeded a rigorous set of standards about its ability to safely borrow, collect, transport, handle, and exhibit a variety of material objects. These standards are set and updated by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Once conferred, accreditation provides assurance to potential lenders and donors that they can confidently loan or donate objects and trust their partnered museum with the proper care, handling, and curatorial treatment of their objects. As of 2018, there are 1,077 museums accredited by AAM out of over 35,000 museums in the United States, as estimated by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2014.
There are thirty galleries located throughout the Airport’s terminals.
Object-focused exhibitions rotate every six to nine months; photography and student art exhibitions rotate every three to four months; and video arts selections are rotated into the screening room each week and shared for a duration of four weeks. A few of the Museum’s galleries feature long-term exhibitions dedicated to the history of aviation. Kids’ Spots are permanent, non-rotating galleries.Current exhibitions may be found by clicking here.
Yes. Of SFO Museum’s thirty galleries, only ten are located beyond security checkpoints. Exhibitions and public art located beyond a security checkpoint can be viewed without a boarding pass by prior arrangement with SFO Museum. Please contact curator@FlySFO.com for additional details and to schedule a visit. Please note: visits must take place during regular business hours and visits must be scheduled at least one week in advance.
SFO Museum’s staff of dedicated professionals are responsible for all aspects of exhibition production: curators who conceive exhibitions, select objects, and write gallery labels; registrars who arrange the objects’ transportation and supervise their care and handling while at our facilities; designers who create the visual layout for each exhibition; and preparators who produce custom mounts and furniture, and carefully install the art in galleries located throughout the Airport’s terminals.
Most exhibited objects belong to our exhibition partners, who may be private or public people or institutions, and are borrowed only for the duration of each exhibition. Some exhibitions, notably those on aviation-related themes, may feature objects from SFO Museum’s aviation collection.
Yes. SFO Museum maintains a growing collection of more than 140,000 objects related to the history of the commercial aviation industry and global air transport with an emphasis on the Pacific Region and the role of San Francisco International Airport. Learn more about the collection here.
SFO Museum presents rotating exhibitions from its permanent collection in the galleries located within the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. This facility is located prior to security checkpoints on the A side of the International Terminal Main Hall. Click here for link to hours and directions. Additional long-term aviation exhibitions can be found pre- and post-security in Terminal 3.
The public art (permanently installed paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations) at SFO belong to the collection of the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC). SFO Museum partners with the SFAC to select and maintain the more than ninety works on view in locations throughout the Airport’s campus.
SFO Museum welcomes comments and suggestions from the public. We can be reached by email at curator@FlySFO.com or by telephone at 650.821.6700. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 8097, San Francisco, CA, 94128. Inquiries specific to the aviation library and museum may be sent to librarian@FlySFO.com.
If you would like to take a short visitor survey about SFO Museum, please click here.
Thank you for your interest in partnering with us! There are a variety of ways to participate:
General exhibitions: If you have an idea for an object-centered exhibition, please send brief thesis and object list to curator@FlySFO.com. Our curatorial team will review the proposal and provide a timely response.
Fine Art Photography: SFO Museum reviews portfolios an exhibition proposals from photographers and artists working with photography on a rolling basis. Click here for an online artist submission form.
Student Art: SFO Museum reviews exhibition proposals from Bay Area schools and non-profit organizations on a rolling basis. Click here for an online Student Art submission form.
Video Arts: SFO Museum is currently programming films that are 15 minutes or less in duration and reviews proposals from artists and filmmakers on a rolling basis. Click here for an online Video Arts submission form.
Aviation Collection: SFO Museum welcomes donations to the aviation collection as an important way to meet our mission of preserving and sharing the history of flight with present and future generations. Donations are tax deductible as charitable contributions.
Public Art: The San Francisco Arts Commission issues calls-for-artists when the opportunity arises for new public art at the Airport (and throughout the City and County of San Francisco). Click here to visit their website for more information.
Employment or volunteering: Employment and volunteer opportunities with SFO Museum are posted on our website here.