The Evolving Exploratorium: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Terminal 1

February 2013 - April 2013


The Evolving Exploratorium: Looking Back, Moving Forward

In the fall of 1969, renowned physicist and educator Dr. Frank Oppenheimer (1912–1985) saw great potential for an interactive science museum in the vast unused gallery of the Palace of Fine Arts, originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Over the next four and a half decades, the cavernous space was filled with millions of curious visitors and hundreds of exhibits illuminating principles of physics, optics, sound, biology, and more. Frank’s vision was to create a place where people could notice, discover, and engage with scientific phenomena for themselves—and thus feel empowered to participate fully in the world around them.The Exploratorium is many things—an interactive science museum, a hands-on laboratory, a place where natural phenomena, art, and human perception meet. The images in this exhibition follow the evolution of the Exploratorium from its earliest days at the Palace of Fine Arts to its new home at Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront.

By the early 2000s, it was clear that the museum had outgrown its first home, and preparations were made for a move to Pier 15 along the Embarcadero. The new Exploratorium will open on April 17, 2013, in a completely renovated building that preserves the original “bones” of the pier while incorporating cutting edge, environmentally sustainable infrastructure. The museum’s new footprint will encompass almost three times as much space as the original site, hundreds of new exhibits, an all-glass Observatory, and an outdoor gallery.

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