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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  San Francisco's Exploratorium: A New Home and an Expanded Focus

City Traveler Blog

San Francisco's Exploratorium: A New Home and an Expanded Focus

This article was originally published in The New York Times and was written by Kenneth Chang.

In 2013, the Exploratorium is moving from the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15, on San Francisco’s historic Embarcadero. Located on the waterfront, just a 10-minute walk from the landmark Ferry Building, the new nine-acre campus will be easily accessible by visitors coming from every part of the Bay Area — and beyond.

Artist renderings of the new Exploratorium at Piers 15 and 17. Image credit:

Frank Oppenheimer, the younger brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the father of the atomic bomb, reinvented the science museum more than four decades ago.

Instead of eye-catching objects like the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian or the steam engine at the Franklin Institute, exhibits at the Exploratorium here were more like handmade toys.

Visitors swung pendulums and watched the chaotic swings, played with prisms to split light and learned about the motion of gas molecules through bouncing balls.

It was, as Frank Oppenheimer described it, “a playful place.”

The Exploratorium inspired other museums to adopt a hands-on, learning-by-doing ethos. Dr. Oppenheimer fostered replication by freely giving away information, and the museum later went into the business of building exhibits for other science museums.

Now, 100 years after the birth of Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium is on the verge of a rebirth. Read More.

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