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Copywrite 2001-2004, California Science Center

Science Center History

  The gate to Agricultural Park, which is now known as Exposition Park, the home of the Science Center. In 1876 when Agricultural Park opened, the land was used for agricultural fairs.

The California Science Center is housed in a location that has long played an important role in the history of Los Angeles. The first State Exposition Building, which stood in the exact spot of the current Science Center, opened in 1912 and housed simple, agriculturally based displays of natural resources and industrial products from across the state.

After World War II, as technology-based businesses began to grow, the State Exposition Building was remodeled to show visitors the role of science and technology in everyday life. To better describe this new objective, it was renamed the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1951.

In 1988, the Museum's leadership began a strategic planning process that led to the adoption in 1993 of a 25-year organizational Master Plan to transform the existing organization into a new kind of public institution for science learning. They envisioned a state-of-the-art education facility, designed to respond to the needs of diverse communities and a state that continues to grow and evolve. Its new name, the California Science Center, reflects the redesign and ambitious goals. The three-phase Master Plan included the unique combination of a major regional science center, an adjacent neighborhood elementary school and a teacher professional development center all on one site.

Phase I of the California Science Center opened to the public in February 1998 as a 245,000 square foot complex consisting of two permanent hands-on science learning galleries World of Life and Creative World,a special exhibits gallery for changing exhibitions, a conference center and an IMAX Theater. As part of Phase II, in 2002, the Science Center opened the The SKETCH Foundation Gallery, Air and Space Exhibits, a temporary gallery feature interactive exhibits as well as artifacts on continuing loan from NASA and The Smithsonian Institution. In 2004, the Science Center marked the completion of the the Wallis Annenberg Building for Science Learning and Innovation and the opening of the Science Center School, a neighborhood elementary school created in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The Science Center's latest milestone is the opening of the newest permanent exhibition gallery, Ecosystems in March 2010. This groundbreaking learning experience navigates guests through Earth's varied landscapes, presenting immersive environments, engaging hand-on exhibits, and nearly 400 live plant and animal species from around the globe. Exhibits include a 188,000-gallon kelp tank populated with live kelp, fish and other marine life; a desert flash flood; a reptile corral with tortoises, iguanas and chuckwallas; a polar ice wall; and a special gallery dedicated to the urban ecology of Los Angeles.

Plans are underway for Phase III and the construction of the Air and Space Center featuring Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour. This major expansion will dramatically increase the Science Center's exhibits and education programs, encouraging guests of all ages to explore the scientific concepts underlying aeronautics and the formation and exploration of our universe. Joining the Science Center's other galleries including Ecosystems, World of Life and Creative World, the Air and Space Center will be an integral part of a layered, holistic and coordinated effort to bring science to the community. With the completion of the Master Plan, the Science Center will fulfill its vision of creating a world-class participatory science learning resource for the people of California and beyond to enjoy themselves while learning about our world.

Since opening in 1998, the California Science Center has quickly emerged as a national leader in science learning and education. The Science Center is accredited by the American Association of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is honored to be a Smithsonian Affiliate. In recognition of our hands-on, thought-provoking exhibits and engaging educational programming, the Science Center has received several awards and continues to be one of the most well-attended museums in Southern California. We are grateful to all of the community partners and supporters who have enabled our growth and transformation and strengthened the Science Center's ability to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone.

The California Science Center main building as it looks now, blending the front of the old State Exposition Building with a new structure. The building serves as a reminder of our history—and of our plans for the future.

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