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Middle Ground

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Middle Ground

Reconsidering ourselves and others

From July through March 2024, people of all ages are invited to pull up a chair and experience Middle Ground, an exciting outdoor exhibition about how people interact with one another.

Whether you’re a denizen of the densest urban metropolis or the smallest small town, no person is an island. What goes into the stories we tell ourselves about other people—whether they’re on the streets we share, in our memories and our newsfeeds, or on the other side of the world?

Social scientists have studied how we think, feel, and behave in relation to other people for decades. Their investigations have shed light on bias and stereotyping, humor and generosity, how we work together, and how we pull apart into tribes.

Middle Ground explores these topics while giving people a chance to connect with others and experience directly the human phenomenon of the exhibition. It will be available free to all comers on the steps of the San Francisco Main Library for eight months, at which point it will travel to another location in San Francisco.

Middle Ground was made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation (awards #1713638 and #2116110).

Middle Ground


Middle Ground, allows people to drop their guard for a bit, enjoy the presence of others, and learn something new. Fifteen interactive exhibits, a coffee cart, and chairs and tables create a space for fun, comfortable exploration, while friendly staffers welcome all users to the space and facilitate their experiences.

Digital Content

This website grew out of the original Middle Ground, a yearlong exhibition first installed at San Francisco’s Main Library. The essays and interactive digital experiences you’ll find here aim to get you thinking about how you think—and how you interact with others as you go about your daily life.

Explore interactive exhibits in the Play section, or dive deep into social science concepts in the Ponder section. If you're a museum practitioner thinking of bringing your exhibits outside, download our free guide to working in public space, The Promise of Public Spaces.



Middle Ground was created by the Exploratorium, in partnership with:

SF Planning
Urban Alchemy


Thanks also to the many individuals from this community who contributed their time, energy, and thoughtfulness to the project.


National Science Foundation
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2116110. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.