Exploratorium: Home

Letter from Dennis Bartels, Executive Director

August 2013

Dear colleagues, friends, and loyal supporters,

By all accounts, we have realized a popular and critical success with the opening of the new Exploratorium on Piers 15/17. The entire family of staff and supporters are justifiably proud of our decade-plus effort to create a more accessible and impactful Exploratorium.

Despite this success, it has become apparent that in the interest of financial stability, both short and long term, we must reduce our overall budget. While our attendance has more than doubled at our new home, our projected spending per visitor and our revenue forecasts have not been achieved. Our community has been shaken by the news of staff reductions through layoffs, early retirement, and job reductions for about 35 staff members, along with a reorganization of the institution.

We have established this site and will maintain it during this important time to:

  • Post relevant and timely information about the restructuring
  • Offer clarifications and corrections on information provided by others
  • Share attendance data, charts, and reports
  • Provide updates on our forward progress

One key goal with this site is to create a place for answers to questions we have already received, and to add more answers to new questions that we will receive. Being forthcoming with the facts and transparent about the circumstances leading to our actions is a vital ingredient in our relationships with the community, our community of supporters, our staff, and with those who are leaving.

The Exploratorium staff is a tight-knit community of more than 400 people who came together magnificently to produce the experiences we all enjoy today. I want to especially salute the talents and skills of our staff, and acknowledge the pain we feel losing a part of our team at this time. Each and every person has made a tremendous contribution to our new home. While we reorganize and refocus, we are doing as much as possible to comfort and care for all of our employees, both those who are leaving and those who remain. This is our most important priority for some time to come.



Exploratorium Restructuring

Exploratorium Restructuring

The Exploratorium is now undergoing an extensive recalibration and reorganization of our activities brought about by revenues being lower than budgetary forecasts since opening in April at Pier 15.

  • Attendance figures (see chart) have been 5,000 to 6,000 per day. Although more than twice the level of our previous location, attendance revenues have been below our estimates and forecasts both in numbers and in revenue per visitor.
  • We are making budget adjustments, reorganization decisions, reducing headcount by 35 full-time positions, and reducing hours for another 8 positions.
  • 33 seasonal positions are also ending in September.
  • The new FY14 budget supports approximately 350 full-time equivalent positions. This compares to the 275 we had at the Palace of Fine Arts prior to our expansion in preparation for the move.

We expect that the measures we plan to undertake will be fully implemented by the end of the year. Employee briefings on plans and objectives started the week of August 11 and will continue over the next several weeks. Distribution of separation notices was completed by Friday, August 16.

Every employee contributed to the Exploratorium’s move and opening, and we will truly miss and hold in high regard all those who will be leaving. Qualified former employees will be considered first for any future job openings.

We are an institution and a community of and about the future. Our vision is to change the way the world learns. We will move ahead the way we always have: with curiosity, excitement, and enthusiasm. We believe that, as hard as this process will be, we will emerge from the resizing and restructuring stronger and able to continue our mission to create a culture of learning through innovative environments, programs, and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them.

Please let us know your questions or comments. We look forward to hearing from you.

– Dennis Bartels, Exploratorium Executive Director