Thomas C. Rockwell has been named the Exploratorium’s Director of Exhibitions and Programs, effective March 1, 2005. The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art and human perception, based in San Francisco. It is considered the prototype for hands on science museums around the world.
Mr. Rockwell, the grandson of noted artist Norman Rockwell, is the founder and president of Painted Universe, Inc. an interdisciplinary exhibition design firm, based in Ithaca, New York. He has worked with scientists and artists to create whole facilities, exhibitions, and publications at the intersection of science and art, as well as exhibitions dealing with nano scale science and technology, nanobiotechnology, and the science of art, to name a few. He has helped design the in-development Children’s Library Discovery Center, a project of the Queens Borough Public Library. Among the exhibitions he has created is Enchanted Museum: Exploring the Science of Art, at traveling exhibition originated for the Berkshire Museum; It’s a Nano World and Too Small To See, both done in collaboration with Ithaca’s Sciencenter and Cornell University. Mr. Rockwell also brings extensive experience in community built parks and playgrounds, including projects from Florida to Texas, Oklahoma to Oregon. Mr. Rockwell began his science museum career at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia as an Explainer.
“As the Exploratorium moves into the 21st century, we are looking toward a new home and new intellectual areas of development. With Thomas Rockwell’s cross-disciplinary experience in science and art, his intellect, his entrepreneurial mind, his design sense, and his experience with buildings, parks, playgrounds and individual exhibits, he is the right person to carry the public’s experience of the Exploratorium into the future,” said Dr. Goéry Delacôte, Director of the Exploratorium.
“I’ve been less interested in working inside museums than being a consultant from the outside. Except the Exploratorium. Here, it’s the combination of science and art, the intellectual rigor as well as the willingness to take creative risks, that has brought me to what feels like a home coming,” says Rockwell.
Thomas Rockwell grew up in Rome, Italy, where he first became enamored of the arts. During his college years at Brown, he became interested in the aesthetic dimensions of science. He founded Painted Universe specifically to carry out projects that extend the dialogue between the arts and sciences.
Background on Exploratorium
The Exploratorium first opened its doors with only a handful of exhibits sprinkled through its home, the cavernous Palace of Fine Arts. Today, 100,000 square feet of exhibit space overflows with more than 650 exhibits, 450 of which are on display at any one time, as well as special events, and programs. A half million visitors from California, (including 120,000 children and teachers on school field trips), the nation, and around the world, come to visit the museum each year. But the museum's impact extends beyond these visitors. Given the Exploratorium's influence on 90 percent of the nation's science museums and 70 percent of museums worldwide through its exhibits and programs, it is estimated that between 50 and 60 million people annually are touched by the ideas and exhibits of the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium has been described by Encyclopaedia Britannica as "the archetype of the experiential, ‘hands-on’ science center." Scientific American called it "the best science museum in the world." The Web site at www.exploratorium.edu receives over 17 million unique visits annually, and more than 7 million people see Exploratorium-designed exhibits displayed at science centers around the world.