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California Science Center

Coordinates: 34°0′56″N 118°17′9″W / 34.01556°N 118.28583°W / 34.01556; -118.28583
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California Science Center
Established1951; 73 years ago (1951) (as California Museum of Science and Industry)
1998; 26 years ago (1998) (as California Science Center)
LocationExposition Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Coordinates34°0′56″N 118°17′9″W / 34.01556°N 118.28583°W / 34.01556; -118.28583
TypeScience museum
AccreditationAAM, ASTC, AZA
Visitors1,694,000 (2022)[1]
Public transit access E Line  Expo Park/USC

The California Science Center (sometimes spelled California ScienCenter) is a state agency and museum located in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, next to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the University of Southern California. Billed as the West Coast's largest hands-on science center, the California Science Center is a public-private partnership between the State of California and the California Science Center Foundation. The California Natural Resources Agency oversees the California Science Center and the California African American Museum. Founded in 1951 as the "California Museum of Science and Industry", the Museum was remodeled and renamed in 1998 as the "California Science Center". The California Science Center hosts the California State Science Fair annually.

Admission is free for their permanent exhibition galleries, such as the Space Shuttle Endeavour and other prominent aircraft and spacecraft, and to various demonstrations. There are price charges for special exhibitions, educated films shown in their IMAX theater, and special activities that include a climbing wall, a motion simulator, and a high-wire bicycle.


State Exhibition[edit]

The museum's history dates back to the first California State Exhibition building, which opened in Exposition Park in Los Angeles in 1912, the site of an agricultural fairground from 1872 to 1910. The brick and terra cotta building, designed by William D. Coates, Jr., state architect, and N. Ellery, state engineer,[2] displayed agriculturally-based natural resources and industrial products from across the state, including ranching, fish and game, coal mining, gold mining, oil production, and lumbering, as well as some of the state's recreational attractions.[3] After World War II, the building also featured exhibits about state science and technology industries.[4][5]

California Museum of Science and Industry[edit]

In 1951, the exhibition became the "California Museum of Science and Industry". The State Exhibition building was renamed in honor of major donor and trustee Howard F. Ahmanson as the Howard F. Ahmanson Building.[6] The hands-on interactive exhibits included themes on agriculture, transportation, electricity, energy, industries, and minerals.[7]

In 1961, the museum opened a new science wing that featured "Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond", an exhibit sponsored by IBM and designed by Charles and Ray Eames to visually demonstrate fundamental mathematical concepts.[8][9] Interaction stations demonstrated different concepts including celestial mechanics, the Möbius strip, multiplication, symmetry, and projective geometry. The original exhibit closed in 1998, and is now on display at the New York Hall of Science.[10]

The Hall of Health was added in 1968.[7]

1984 changes[edit]

In preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics, the museum added new exhibits on earthquakes and economics, and an IMAX theatre.[11] The opening and closing ceremonies for the games were held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is adjacent to the museum.

California African American Museum[edit]

The California African American Museum was founded in 1981 and housed in the California Museum of Science and Industry building until 1984, when its own facility was opened adjacent to the California Aerospace Museum.

1990s and closing[edit]

In 1994, the museum's building was damaged by the Northridge earthquake.[12] The California Museum of Science and Industry closed in 1996 to prepare for a new facility.

California Aerospace Museum[edit]

Former California Aerospace Museum (now closed) was designed by Frank Gehry, and displayed a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

The "California Aerospace Museum" was also opened in 1984 adjacent to and operated by the California Museum of Science and Industry to coincide with the Summer Olympics.[13][14] It was also known as Aerospace Hall but also commonly known as the California Air and Space Museum/Gallery and the SKETCH Foundation Gallery,[15] and was the first major public work of architect Frank Gehry.[16] The museum focused on the State's history as a leader in the aviation and aerospace industries and featured a giant, hangar-like space with aircraft and space vehicles and artifacts. The building, now known as the Air and Space Gallery, was closed in 2011.[17] In 2012 the building was listed on the California Register of Historical Resources,[18] but its future is unknown.

Transformation to the California Science Center[edit]

In 1988 the museum's leadership began a to develop a three-phase, 25-year master plan to transform the institution from a science museum to a science education facility.[4] This new facility would be known as the California Science Center. The original museum building closed its doors in 1996 to prepare for the new construction, which was designed by Portland, Oregon-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership.[12] The original main building (Howard F. Ahmanson building) was redesigned, which the north facade of the Science Center retains the facade of former State Exposition Building that opened to the Exposition Park Rose Garden. However, the remainder of the original building was demolished.[4][19] When Phase I was completed, the museum was officially renamed as the California Science Center, and was open to the public in 1998.[12]

Phase I[edit]

Lockheed A-12 "Archangel," nicknamed "Titanium Goose," on display outside the California Science Center

The grand opening of the new California Science Center, which includes:

  • Science Plaza - Exhibits outside the main entrance of aircraft and science principles.
  • Exhibits inside the new building
    • World of Life - Explores the science of life in five galleries.
    • Creative World - Highlights technology in transportation, communications and structures. Features include a virtual reality exhibit to play sports using virtual reality and an earthquake simulator.
    • Special Exhibits gallery - Exhibits in this room have included a Titanic exhibit, a magic exhibit, a toy exhibit, and the Human Body exhibit.
    • ExploraStore - Store specializing in scientific and educational items.
  • A new seven-story IMAX theater

Phase II[edit]

The new Ecosystems exhibit opened in 2010, allow guests to experience first-hand of the natural world.[20] Other changes included:

  • Renovated the historic Wallis Annenberg Building building into a new "Building for Science Learning and Innovation", opened in 2004[21] The building includes the Amgen Center for Science Learning and the K-5 Science Center School, a public magnet school officially known as the Dr. Theodore T. Alexander Jr. Science Center School.[22]
  • SKETCH Foundation Gallery, Air and Space Exhibits - opened in 2002, a temporary gallery featuring interactive exhibits and artifacts on continuing loan from NASA and The Smithsonian Institution.[4]
  • Air and Space Gallery (former California Aerospace Museum) closed in 2011, with displays moved into the main Science Center in the SKETCH Foundation Gallery.

In 2011, the California Science Center received Space Shuttle Endeavour by NASA.[23][24][25] In 2012, they opened a steel structure known as the "Samuel Oschin Pavilion" to temporary house the Shuttle. The structure was designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership and is planned to be replaced by the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center on the east side of the Science Center.[26]

Phase III[edit]

Space Shuttle Endeavour in the temporary Samuel Oschin Pavilion (Feb 2023)

The Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which begins construction in 2022, a new 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) addition was formerly titled "Worlds Beyond".[25][24] The ZGF designed addition is currently under construction. It will house a total of 150 new exhibits.[27][28][29]

Permanent exhibits[edit]

Current exhibits[edit]


This two-story, 45,000-square-foot exhibit features display zones with live animals and aquariums about wildlife and adaptation in different ecosystems, including a river, desert, polar region, deep sea, ocean, island and urban areas, as well as the entire planet Earth,[32] including a 188,000-gallon kelp tank populated with more than 1,500 live fish, kelp and other marine life with an acrylic tunnel which allows guests to feel surrounded by the sea life.

Fire! Science & Safety[edit]

This exhibit inside an Casa Del Fuego apartment building showcase the importance of fire safety, and raise awareness on what to do if ever a fire did occurs. It was developed in partnership with the Children's Burn Foundation.

World of Life[edit]

This exhibit examines the processes of life and similarities among other microscopic organisms. A titan arum flower is now on loan from the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. It is also home to BodyWorks, a 15-minute show featuring Tess, a 50-foot animatronic human body simulator, with her animated friend, Walt, demonstrating how homeostasis works.

Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center[edit]

The Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is an upcoming expansion of the California Science Center. It will include three multi-level galleries, spanning four floors and covering over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space. The building will also house special exhibits and events.

Former exhibits[edit]

Creative World[edit]

This exhibit examines the environment humans build to meet their needs for structures and transportation. It features an earthquake simulator shows the safety features used to construct the Science Center; and nearby hands-on exhibits demonstrate liquefaction and how reinforced vs. non-reinforced construction can determine the sturdiness of a structure.


The Apollo command module from the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project displayed in the center's crewed spaceflight exhibit
The Gemini 11 space capsule, flown in 1966



Robotic spacecraft[edit]


The Center received 1,694,000 visitors in 2022, making it 6th in the List of most-visited museums in the United States and the most-visited U.S. science museum.[33]


The center has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. The museum is also an affiliate in the Smithsonian Affiliations program.[34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ TEA-AECOM Museum Index. June 14 2023
  2. ^ "Early Los Angeles Historical Buildings (1900 - 1925)". Water and Power Associates. Retrieved March 6, 2016. Historical Notes The State Exposition Building, designed by William D. Coates, Jr., state architect, and N. Ellery, state engineer, opened in 1912 and housed simple, agriculturally based displays of natural resources and industrial products from across the state.*
  3. ^ "Postacard: The California State Exposition Building, Exposition Park". Card Cow. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Our Past". California Science Center. June 18, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  5. ^ Federal Writers' Project, The WPA Guide to California: The Golden State
  6. ^ "History". The Ahmanson Foundation. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "The Story of the California Museum of Science and Industry". California State Science Fair Historical Information. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  8. ^ "Popularizing Math and Science". IBM at 100: Icons of Progress. March 7, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2016. Arguably, the signature example of their efforts for IBM was Mathematica, the first interactive exhibit to make math its subject. Planning a new science wing to debut in 1961, the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles asked IBM for a contribution. The company turned to the Eameses, who designed a display that, in the words of Charles Eames, would "let the fun [of math and science] out of the bag."
  9. ^ "ReAppreciating Mathematica". Humantific New york. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  10. ^ "Mathematica". New York Hall of Science. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  11. ^ "California Museum of Science and Industry1951-1996". Whimsical Will. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Nicolai Ouroussoff (February 2, 1998). "The new California Science Center is a commanding presence and unifying element at a neglected site". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  13. ^ "California Aerospace Museum, Exposition Park". Marry Anne Sullivan, Bluffton University. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  14. ^ "California Aerospace Museum, Los Angeles, California". Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State University. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  15. ^ California Aerospace Museum, California State Parks Office of Historic Preservation, January 24, 2012
  16. ^ "Air and Space Gallery, California Science Center". Los Angeles Conservancy. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  17. ^ "Perishable! Gehry's Air and Space Gallery in limbo at California Science Center". The Architects Newspaper. July 6, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  18. ^ "Recommendation Report" (PDF). Los Angeles Department of City Planning. June 7, 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  19. ^ "Add to Board WS ZO View of historical façade of former State Exposition Building now called the California Science Center in Exposition Park Los Angeles / Los Angeles, California, USA". Getty Images. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  20. ^ "Ecosystem in spotlight at California Science Center". San Jose Mercury News. March 25, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  21. ^ Bianca Barrigan (October 3, 2014). "Cornerspotted: The Old Armory Building in Exposition Park". Curbed Los Angeles. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  22. ^ "Official site". Dr. Theodore T. Alexander Jr. Science Center School. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  23. ^ Stanglin, Douglas (April 12, 2011). "NYC, L.A., Kennedy Space Center, Smithsonian to get the 4 retired space shuttles". USA Today. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Emily Lakdawalla (April 13, 2011). "Congratulations to the California Science Center on getting Space Shuttle Endeavour!". The Planetary Society. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  25. ^ a b "EndeavourLA Campaign". California Science Center. June 19, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  26. ^ "Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center".
  27. ^ "Groundbreaking held for permanent home of former space work horse". June 8, 2022.
  28. ^ "Groundbreaking sets stage for space shuttle Endeavour launch-like display".
  29. ^ "California Science Center Breaks Ground on Future Home of Space Shuttle Endeavour". The Hollywood Reporter. June 2022.
  30. ^ a b Pearlman, Robert Z. (December 31, 2023). "End of year, end of exhibit: Space shuttle Endeavour goes off view for a few years". Space.com. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  31. ^ a b Alicia Chang (October 14, 2012). "Space shuttle Endeavour arrives at Los Angeles museum after 12-mile trip across city". Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  32. ^ "California Science Center Opens New Ecosystems Experience". California Science Center. March 8, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  33. ^ TEA-AECOM Museum Index, published June 14, 2023
  34. ^ "California Science Center". Affiliate Detail. Smithsonian Affiliations. 2011. Archived from the original on September 29, 2011. Retrieved July 16, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

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