A New Beginning
Message from the Executive Director
image of Exploratorium Executive Director Dennis Bartels
Dr. Dennis M. Bartels has been Executive Director of the Exploratorium since 2006. His leadership, along with the participation and support of the Exploratorium’s Board, community partners, city officials, and staff, has made it possible to take on the enormous responsibility of transforming a challenging environment into a dynamic new home for the Exploratorium.

More than 40 years ago, Frank Oppenheimer started a movement that transformed education: He founded the Exploratorium, the prototype for more than 1,000 hands-on, participatory institutions that exist around the world today.

The Exploratorium also pioneered the idea that science institutions like ours are bona fide teacher education institutions. In fact, the Exploratorium produces more hours of teacher professional development than any other Bay Area institution, including universities and school systems. As a research and development laboratory for public learning, the Exploratorium receives more NSF funding than any other non-university nationwide. We were acknowledged in the 2007 book Forces for Good as one of the 12 most impactful nonprofits from the last 30 years—and the only one that was a museum.

And now we’re planning to move from our home at the Palace of Fine Arts (but far from the city center, on the western outskirts of town) to a nine-acre campus at Piers 15 and 17, in the center of the city, between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf, on San Francisco’s historic waterfront. Set for the spring of 2013, this move will multiply the impact we’ve already had. With easy public access and transportation options from every direction, it will significantly extend and expand the audiences we’re reaching.

Every year, more than 180 million people worldwide play with and learn through exhibits that were created, developed, or built by the Exploratorium. Since we opened in 1969, 15 million people have visited the Exploratorium in San Francisco and, since its 1984 launch, tens of millions have visited our website.

We’ve created this online resource, highlighting our new home, in order to keep you informed of our progress and plans as we prepare for our move. Come back often to watch the transformation, and share this site with friends so they can learn how the Exploratorium is reshaping the landscape—physically, as we revitalize our historical campus at the piers; mentally, as we explore and experiment in our new environment; and educationally, through our leadership and work with institutions and educators worldwide.

As we get closer to our move, this site will keep you posted on the latest steps, events, and innovations being designed in preparation for our new home. We look forward to opening our new doors to you in 2013, and hope you will follow our progress as the journey unfolds.


Dennis M. Bartels, PhD
Executive Director, Exploratorium

image of Exploratorium Founder Frank Oppenheimer 1912-1985
Dr. Frank Oppenheimer
When noted physicist Frank Oppenheimer opened the doors to the Exploratorium in 1969, it was the only museum of its kind: a radical new concept, an engine of curiosity dedicated to lifelong learning. Today, the Exploratorium stands on the threshold of an extraordinary rebirth, blending its rich legacy with a renewed vision for the future.
Echoes of the Past
Palace of Fine Arts, 1969 Frank Oppenheimer with supporters Parmer Fuller and Esther Pike Fuller
Palace of Fine Arts, 1969
With supporters Parmer Fuller and Esther Pike Fuller, Exploratorium founder Dr. Frank Oppenheimer (center) takes stock of the potential offered by the vast, empty Palace of Fine Arts, current home of the Exploratorium.

(Photographer unknown)

Pier 15, 2010 Exploratorium Executive Director Dennis Bartels with Board Chairman George Cogan
Pier 15, 2010
Exploratorium Executive Director Dr. Dennis Bartels (left) and Board Chairman George Cogan (right) assess the echoing interior of Pier 15, soon to be home of the new Exploratorium.

(Photo by Amy Snyder)