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Exhibit Making

Exhibit Making

A sign hangs over our workshop that reads “Here is being created the Exploratorium.” Almost all of our exhibits are made at the museum by our staff. In the Exhibit Development Shop, which is open to public view, you’ll find woodworking equipment, drills, lathes, electronics benches, a welding area, and plenty of exhibits in various stages of development. This workshop, and the exhibits created there, are the heart of the Exploratorium.

Ideas for exhibits can come from anywhere. Visiting artists and scientists sometimes propose exhibits. Inspiration also comes from research articles, news stories, and even YouTube videos. Often, an exhibit emerges spontaneously when someone is just playing with stuff and seeing what happens.

What makes a good exhibit? We like exhibits that let you interact directly with real phenomena—as opposed to models or simulations. Real phenomena react in robust and interesting ways as you interact with them, encouraging you to explore, ask questions, and find your own answers.

Once we find a promising idea, we build a rough prototype and get feedback from staff and visitors as quickly as possible. Ideas may get dropped at this stage, or morph into something new. If an exhibit seems to be working well, we‘ll build a more-or-less permanent version, with increased attention to aesthetics and durability.

Our exhibits are never “done.” We always watch for opportunities to improve them, and many exhibits experience several incarnations. The exhibits, like the museum itself, are a perpetual work in progress.

The Exploratorium, established in 1969, is an internationally renowned museum of art, science, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. Its hundreds of hands-on exhibits are designed to promote science discovery.

Global Collaborations The Exploratorium's mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide. Through Global Collaborations, we share our deep knowledge of exhibit making, program creation, and professional development with partner organizations around the world.

Explo cookbook cover

Everything you need to build your own versions of the Exploratorium's interactive exhibits.

Buy the Exploratorium Cookbooks

This web project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0175-16].

Institute of Museum and Library Sciences