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Guide to the Exploratorium Records, 1957-[ongoing]
BANC MSS 87/148 c  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Exploratorium Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1957-[ongoing]
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/148 c
    Creator: Exploratorium (Organization)
    Extent: Number of containers: 45 cartons, 2 boxes, 11 oversize folders, 4 tubes Linear feet: 63
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    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.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research, with the following exception:
    • Minutes of the Board of Directors: 20 years from date of meeting.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Exploratorium records, BANC MSS 87/148 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    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.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    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

    Funding partially provided by a grant from the American Institute of Physics.

    Organizational History

    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 in residence.
    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.