The San Francisco Exploratorium Is On The Move
It should be illegal to call San Francisco’s famed Exploratorium a museum. Museums don’t let you touch the exhibits or laugh out loud and make noise – which is exactly what the Exploratorium encourages you to do. Since its opening in 1969, the Exploratorium has created over 1,000 participatory exhibits that combine science, art and most especially, a sense of magic and whimsy. From giant bubbles and worms that glow from implanted jellyfish genes to quirky musical instruments and a tornado you can touch, the fun and learning go hand in hand.
In addition to the museum’s notoriety and popularity for the interesting interactive exhibits, the Exploratorium is also known as a training center for science teachers. More than 6,400 teachers from 48 states and 11 countries have gone through training there and the museum is considered to be the pioneer in a global revolution for hands-on science learning. It was built on the founder’s desire to create a place “where exhibits would be built as experiments to inspire creativity and critical thinking in young visitors.”
The Exploratorium was the brainchild of physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer. During a break from his academic career, Oppenheimer began lending a hand with science projects at local high schools. The field trips and experiments he did with these students became the blueprint for the hands-on methods of teaching and learning he brought to the Exploratorium. Oppenheimer was asked to do the initial planning for a new branch of the Smithsonian, but he turned it down to work on what he called his “San Francisco project” – and the Exploratorium was born. He continued to serve as the museum’s director until his death in 1985. If only he could see it now!
After 43 years, the Exploratorium is moving from its old location at the Palace of Fine Arts to a brand new complex in Pier 15 on the Embarcadero (between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf). Triple in size and featuring almost 600 hands-on exhibits (25% more than at the old location), this new Exploratorium opens up a whole new world for its designers and is not to be missed!