Visitors look into the Exploratorium's shop to see exhibit developer Diane Whitmore making custom plastic spacers on a Monarch lathe, a repurposed World War II–era machine obtained in the 1970s from excess U.S. Navy property.
Behind the Scenes at the Exploratorium
Meet the Women Behind Exploratorium Exhibits
The Exploratorium’s museum at Pier 15 features more than 650 hands-on exhibits, almost all of them built right here in our exhibit development shop. The Shop is always open to public view, and visitors can spot exhibit projects in various stages amid the machinery and tools that support every stage of the exhibit creation process. Hanging prominently in the Shop, you’ll also see a sign that reads, “Here is being created the Exploratorium.” Both our exhibits and the Exploratorium itself are constantly being prototyped and are perpetual works in progress.
Curious? Meet some of the Exploratorium staff members behind our exhibits.
Lead Exhibit Developer
Jessica has been at the Exploratorium for over two decades. Her deep interest in building on an idea—her first shop project was a CD case—inspired her to become an exhibit developer. She enjoys coming up with new ideas and building them. As an exhibit developer, she tackles all phases of a project, from initial research and building to maintenance once the exhibit is placed on the museum floor.
Jessica’s favorite tool in the shop is the laser cutter—it lets her quickly cut a variety of shapes and materials for prototyping—and is great for creating templates for exhibit parts. She recently worked on exhibits for Self, Made: Exploring You in a World of We, our summer 2019 temporary exhibition exploring personal identity.
Janet has been in the museum world for more than 30 years. She started at the Exploratorium 20 years ago as an intern on the What About AIDS? exhibition, and returned as a staff member four years ago to oversee exhibit maintenance and refurbishment along with galleries on the museum floor. She helps create a seamless visitor experience from behind the scenes by managing the Exploratorium’s collection of exhibits. The Exploratorium has a very flexible floor, in that almost every exhibit can be moved. Janet enjoys figuring out the museum space and how visitors can best navigate through our exhibits, as well as walking around the floor during open hours to notice how visitors are using exhibits. Her typical day at the Exploratorium mixes hands-on work and long-term planning.
She is currently working on the next phase of the Exploratorium’s EDGE Project, which started as a study of girls' engagement with science exhibits, and has fueled opportunities for rethinking current exhibits and experimenting with new prototypes.
Denise has been an exhibit developer at the Exploratorium since 2001. She is the creator behind some of our most frequently photographed exhibits, including All Eyes on Me and Mood Lighting. She enjoys the continued challenge of coming up with an idea and producing an experience that can educate as well as entertain visitors. A biologist with a background in ecology and evolution, Denise has developed many biology exhibits at the Exploratorium, including Glass Settling Plate and Bacteriopolis, and redesigned some old favorites, including Live Chicken Embryos.
Her favorite tool currently is the 3-D printer, which she used in the Cells to Self exhibit collection to create tactile cell models that empower vision-impaired visitors to experience the microscopic world.