Exploratorium Revisited

EX photo (28)Late last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Exploratorium. I was extremely psyched to check out the exhibits after reading about the museum in Nina Simon’s book, The Participatory Museum. Unfortunately, many exhibits were closed in preparation for the transition to the new Pier 15 location. Also, I went by myself and discovered it was difficult to enjoy because many exhibits required a partner…and at that time, the location was deserted, so even if I could summon the bravery to enlist a stranger as exhibit partner, there was no one available.

I wrote about my disappointment and an Exploratorium staff member commented and encouraged me to revisit the facility when it opened on Pier 15 (check out these videos documenting the move). Not only did I revisit, but as luck would have it, I was able to return on opening day! Obviously, on opening day there was no shortage of people (and A LOT of children) experiencing the joys of the new museum. This time, I did not visit the museum alone, but wanted to share the discovery process with my super smart friend, Teresa. Did we have a blast! Oh yes, we did.

What we quickly discovered is kids were not going to wait in line to test out exhibits, so we had to jump in alongside them if we wanted to participate. We learned a thing or two watching the children explore the complex concepts with simple and creative participatory exhibits. Teresa and I spent a significant amount of time reading and deciphering the exhibit labels. The kids? They just jumped in and started experimenting! As I have gotten older, I have become more cautious and aim for perfection. The children wanted to see action and personal progress.

I could not leave the museum without visiting the store and picking up some gifts for my daughters. What I did not anticipate was buying four books and trying to cram into my carryon! I bought three books (pictured above) documenting how the new Exploratorium took shape  at its new location on Pier 15. These small books are packed with pictures and behind-the-scenes information about how this state-of-the-art institution came into being.

Here is an excerpt from Build:

It took two years to create this place – a place for our future, dynamically defined – a place for our work, emerging continually – a place from which to change the way the world learns.

As a museum studies student, it was fascinating to roam the open spaces of the new museum and see people so enamored with knowledge discovery. As an adult, the visit reminded me how fun it was to learn new things and know I do not always have the answers. Thanks to the Exploratorium for encouraging me to visit the museum again!

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