Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Exploratorium Records,
Date (inclusive): 1957-[ongoing]
Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/148 c
Number of containers: 45 cartons, 2 boxes, 11 oversize folders, 4 tubes
Linear feet: 63
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Abstract: Provides a fairly complete history of this innovative museum from its founding in 1969 through the present. The records reflect
the central role founder Dr. Frank Oppenheimer played in developing the Exploratorium and sustaining it until his death in
1985. The collection includes Oppenheimer's correspondence and writings related to the museum, board of director minutes,
exhibit development materials, publicity, grant proposals, reports and chronological files, records of subsequent directors,
notably Goery Delacote, as well as departmental records documenting the evolution of the museum.
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research, with the following exception:
- Minutes of the Board of Directors: 20 years from date of meeting.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Exploratorium records, BANC MSS 87/148 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Title: Frank Oppenheimer Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 98/136 c
Material Cataloged Separately
- Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
- Videotapes/sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.
The Exploratorium Records were given to The Bancroft Library by Dr. Robert L. White, Director of the Exploratorium on July
8, 1987. Additions were made on November 19, 1999 and in March and April 2000.
Funding partially provided by a grant from the American Institute of Physics.
The Exploratorium was founded in San Francisco, California in 1969 by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer. Dissatisfied
with traditional teaching methods, Dr. Oppenheimer had long been searching for ways to make science education accessible to
the general population. After spending a year in Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1965, he began formulating a plan to
establish a multidisciplinary museum in the U.S. that would integrate the arts and sciences in a hands-on learning environment
through the use of interactive exhibits and educational programs.
In 1968, Dr. Oppenheimer proposed opening the new museum in the historic Palace of Fine Arts, a recently renovated building
that had been designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Oppenheimer
presented his plan to the Palace of Fine Arts League and to the City of San Francisco, who agreed to lease the building for
$1 per year.
With the help of a $50,000 grant from the San Francisco Foundation and the support of many community leaders, educators, and
scientists, the Exploratorium opened its doors to the public in September 1969. By the end of its first year of operation,
the museum's staff had constructed over 100 exhibits. By 1972, 20,000 people per month were visiting the Exploratorium.
While serving as the museum's first director, Dr. Oppenheimer played an active role in the daily operation of the museum.
He continued to design and build exhibits, solicit funds and conduct tours for visiting dignitaries as well as local school
children until his death in 1985.
After a succession of short-term directors, Goéry Delacôte, a leading French physicist and educator, was named Executive Director
of the Exploratorium in 1991. Under his leadership the museum has established three centers for promoting science education:
the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Center for Public Exhibition, and the Center for Media and Communication.
The Exploratorium currently houses over 650 interactive exhibits and artworks, a library/ resource center, nine classrooms,
a multimedia studio, a theater, and a life science laboratory. The museum offers performances, artist residency programs,
and teacher and resident scholar programs. Reproductions of Exploratorium exhibits are sold and rented to science museums
all over the world.
Scope and Content
The Exploratorium Records, 1957-[ongoing], provide a fairly complete history of this innovative museum from its founding in
1969 through the present. The records reflect the central role founder Dr. Frank Oppenheimer played in developing the Exploratorium
and sustaining it until his death in 1985. The collection includes Oppenheimer's correspondence and writings related to the
museum, board of director minutes, exhibit development materials, publicity, grant proposals, reports and chronological files,
records of subsequent directors, notably Goéry Delacôte as well as departmental records documenting the evolution of the museum.
Management materials include planning documents from the museum's early years as well as administrative records of the Board
of Directors, the Executive Directors and Chief of Staff. Dr. Oppenheimer's papers relate almost exclusively to his career
at the Exploratorium. His personal papers and materials connected with his teaching and scientific research can be found in
the Frank Oppenheimer Papers (BANC MSS 98/136 c). Director Goéry Delacôte's papers include correspondence and writings reflecting
his efforts to expand the role of the museum as an international center for science education.
The Exploratorium's unique exhibits and educational programs are documented in the Public Information Office files. These
include news clippings, press releases and publicity dating from 1969-2000. Development office records chronicle fundraising
activities at the Exploratorium and include grant proposals to public foundations as well as private corporations.
Since the early 1980's, the Exploratorium has produced reproductions of its exhibits for sale and rental to other science
centers and institutions. Exhibit Services files consist of materials related to sales of exhibits along with correspondence
and publicity for travelling exhibitions of artwork and collections of exhibits designed by the museum's staff and artists
Under the directorship of Goéry Delacôte, three centers have been established at the Exploratorium: the Center for Public
Exhibition, the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Media and Communications. This reorganization retains
core elements of Frank Oppenheimer's Exploratorium, but takes his vision further by expanding the museum's role in research,
teacher training and multimedia science education. The records of the Center for Public Exhibition document the history of
exhibit development and include promotional materials for performances and special events held at the Exploratorium from 1970-1999.
This series also includes files for the museum's Artist in Residence Program.
Educational programs, including the Teacher Institute and the School in the Exploratorium, as well as the Field Trip and Explainer
programs, are all included in the Center for Teaching and Learning files. These records include a collection of thank you
letters written by school children to Dr. Oppenheimer and other staff members. Also included are a series of exhibit guides
and workbooks called Pathways, created for the Field Trip program.
The Center for Media and Communications focuses on the museum's integration of multimedia technology in science education.
This series includes the records of the Exploratorium Library, Media Department and Publications Department.
Other materials related to Dr. Oppenheimer, including personal and professional papers, can be found in the Frank Oppenheimer
Papers, BANC MSS 98/136 c.