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The Exploratorium at 35 Past, Present and Future Rob Semper Executive Associate Director Workshop on Education and Outreach Aspen Center for Physics June 28, 2004 - July 9, 2004 © Exploratorium Exploratorium 1969 Dr. Frank Oppenheimer 1912-1985 A Rationale For A Science Museum

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the exploratorium at 35

The Exploratorium at 35

Past, Present and Future

Rob Semper

Executive Associate Director

Workshop on Education and Outreach

Aspen Center for Physics

June 28, 2004 - July 9, 2004

© Exploratorium

a rationale for a science museum
A Rationale For A Science Museum

“There have been many attempts to bridge the gap between the experts and the laymen. The attempts have involved books, magazine articles, television programs and general science courses in schools. But such attempts, although valuable, are at a disadvantage because they lack props; they require apparatus which people can see and handle and which display phenomena which people can turn on and off and vary at will. Explaining science and technology without props can resemble an attempt to tell what it is like to swim without ever letting a person near the water. There is thus a growing need for an environment in which people can become familiar with the details of science and technology and begin to gain some understanding by controlling and watching the behavior of laboratory apparatus and machinery; such a place can arouse their latent curiosity and can provide at least partial answers.”

- FRANK OPPENHEIMER Curator 11 (3) 1968

science history museums
Science History Museums

Developed in 1700’s

Ashmolean Museum - Oxford

National Museum for the History of Science - Leyden

Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza - Florence

Collection of historical scientific objects

Ashmolean Museum

Oxford 1683

technical museums
Technical Museums

Created world-wide in 1800’s

Musee des Arts and Metiers - Paris

Franklin Institute - Philadelphia

Science Museum - London

Exhibits of machines, instruments and models

Industrial fairs of 1850-1900 stimulated technical museums in Prague, Vienna, Washington, and Munich

Musee des Arts and Metiers

Paris 1794

science and industry museums
Science and Industry Museums

Developed during first half of 20th century

Deutsches Museum - Munich

Museum of Science and Industry - Chicago

Franklin Institute - Philadelphia

Historical artifacts, working models and participatory exhibits

Focus on science and technology

Deutsches Museum

Munich 1906

science centers
Science Centers

Developed mainly in second half of 20th century

Palais de la Découverte - Paris

Evoluon - Eindhoven

Japan Science Foundation -Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka

Outgrowth of Worlds Fair exhibitions

Pacific Science Center - Seattle

Experimental demonstrations of scientific principles

Palais de la Découverte

(Palace of Discovery) 1937

educational centers
Educational Centers

Started 1968-69

Educational exhibits with no object collections

Some developments informed by formal science curriculum development

Exploratorium - San Francisco

Lawrence Hall of Science - Berkeley

Other developments informed by experiential design

Ontario Science Center - Toronto


Lawrence Hall of Science

Ontario Science Centre

interactive exhibits
Interactive Exhibits

Direct experience with natural phenomena

Focus on perception and the phenomena of nature

Aesthetic dimension

Social interaction

exhibition development
Exhibition Development

In-house exhibit development process

Development process visible to the public

Educationally based

Staff of scientists, educators, designers and builders


Perception, light, sound, waves, resonance, mechanics, electricity, heat, language, neurobiology, genetics, animal behavior, exponentials, complexity, mathematics

Exploratorium Machine Shop

public exhibition
Public Exhibition

6,000 sq mt of open exhibition space

500,000 annual visitors

2/3 older than 21 years

50% family groups

Current Focus



Traits of Life

Mind and Learning

Matter World

Catenary Arch

extending the exploratorium beyond its walls
Extending the Exploratorium Beyond its Walls



Exported Exhibits


supporting k 12 education
Supporting K-12 Education

School in the Exploratorium 1974

Museum environment supporting science teacher development

Staff, exhibits and space creating a professional home for teachers

Teacher Workshop

center for informal learning and schools



Center for Informal Learning and Schools

CILS is funded by the National Science Foundation, with generous support from NEC Foundation of America and the Noyce Foundation

exploratorium network for exhibit based teaching exnet
Exploratorium Network for Exhibit-based Teaching (ExNET)

Partnership with 8 North American museums

Using exhibits to support education

35 interactive exhibits - 400 sq. mt.

Sets rotate annually

Knowledge exchange between partners

exploratorium today
Exploratorium Today

300 staff

$25M annual budget

Three centers of activity

Center for Public Exhibition

Center for Museum Partnership

Center for Learning and Teaching

R & D center in science education for the public and schools

Dr. Goéry Delacôte Executive Director 1991 -

mission statement
Mission Statement

“The Exploratorium’s mission is to create a culture of learning through the creation of innovative environments, programs and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them.”