New Exploratorium opens doors to the public


At the 9 a.m. dedication ceremony outside the 330,000-square-foot facility at Pier 15, board chairman George Cogan beamed as he stood before of a crowd of dignitaries, staff and visitors.

"Everyone in the Bay Area loves the Exploratorium," Cogan said.

The interactive science museum reopened its doors today after the board raised $300 million in a capital campaign to build the new waterfront site.

The museum had been housed in a cavernous space at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District for the past 40 years before shutting down on Jan. 2 for the move.

Now in a state-of-the-art facility that is three times larger with Bay and downtown views, the museum boasts 600 exhibits, including displays that delve into the science of human perception, psychology, biology, physics and more.

Executive director Dennis Bartels called the museum a "wonderful, zany learning laboratory."

At its new location, the Exploratorium will be able to extend its classroom and teaching resources to about 1,000 educators a year, and will offer an expanded Explainer program for more than 300 orange-vested high school youths who serve as museum docents and guides.

Mayor Lee said this morning he could barely contain his excitement about the new museum, which he said will inspire future generations.

"It's been one of our city's treasured educational and cultural centers for over 40 years," Lee said.

As part of the reopening ceremony, Lee placed a metal ring around the top of a bronze bell that was cast at the Oakland-based Crucible metal works studio by artist Nick DiPhillipo.

The bell will become part of the Exploratorium's tradition of marking the opening and closing of the museum each day with a bell-ringing.

Newsom called the museum "spectacular" and recalled visiting the old space at the Palace of Fine Arts and getting lost in the endless experiments, science stations and games.

He encouraged adults and children alike to continue the tradition of "curiosity, collaboration, and creativity" that the Exploratorium promotes.

After others, including Board of Supervisors president David Chiu and Port Director Monique Moyer, spoke and placed their rings atop the bell, Explainer Gloria Granados rang it with the help of Bartels to announce that the Exploratorium was officially open.

As the bell chimed, artist Fujiko Nakaya's fog installation on a 150-foot pedestrian bridge that connects Piers 15 and 17 was activated, shrouding visitors in a thick manmade mist.

The waterfront facility includes a large outdoor space that is open to pedestrians passing by, with large-scale art and interactive exhibits including a wind tower, a viewing hole into the Bay waters below, and a reflective mirror that creates a circular pattern on the side of Pier 17.

San Francisco fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, a city native, said she was a longtime patron of the old museum, where she would bring her three sons.

Although her sons are now all teenagers, she said she plans to bring them to the new space, where she hopes she can play with her favorite old-time exhibit -- the extra-large-soap-bubble station.

Eager to step inside the museum were Piedmont students Cole and Zozo Tahawi, ages 11 and 10, respectively. They were waiting with other fourth- and fifth-graders and two parents at the front doors with pre-purchased tickets.

"I liked how everything was hands-on," Cole said of his last visit to the Exploratorium. He noted that the new facility is "much nicer than the old one."

Zozo said she was excited to see her favorite demonstration -- the cow eye dissection -- and that she hopes to be scientist one day.

The new Exploratorium opened its doors with a row of Explainers ushering in the first visitors at 10 a.m. amid loud cheers.

The first 200 guests were invited to visit the museum for free today.

The museum will be open until 10 p.m. today, and opening events include a free viewing of a digital light show projected onto the building's exterior tonight and Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $25 for adults and $19 for youths and seniors. Tickets are available at

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