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General information

City / Country: San Francisco, California / USA
Theme: Science & Technology
Languages: English
Platforms: Web
Web accessibility: Not specified
Mission: "...The Exploratorium is a collage of hundreds of science, art, and human perception exhibits. The Exploratorium is a leader in the movement to promote museums as informal education centers."
Outstanding features: 
Winner of several awards, this is a rich website with a great amount of online activities and features that approach users (especially kids) to the museum.

Static map of the museum, with exhibit locations indicated on it.
No interactive features.


Online exhibitions

This website contains a great amount of information on exhibitions, and a lot of complementary activities.

WEAK POINT Exhibition websites and activities don't display a unified look-and-feel. Museum identity can get lost.
Exploratorium website contains a great amount of links to online exhibitions.
These websites don't display a unified design.
They are rich in multimedia resources.


Exploratorium Webcasts are live video or audio programs
broadcast over the Internet.

Tools for teaching
This section gathers documents and links useful for teachers.
It contains:

  • Links to online exhibits
  • Links to hands-on activities
  • Documents for teachers to be used at classroom 
  • Link to digital library 
  • Subscription to educator newsletter  
  • Filed trip pathways (collections of support materials
    for teachers who bring their students to the Exploratorium)
  • External links

Internet 2

Tools for teaching section contains a link to Internet 2, a university-led effort to develop advanced network applications for research and education.
Most Internet2 applications make use of Abilene network.
Among others, it contains:

  • DVD Quality video
  • Video stream
  • High-fidelity audio
  • 3-D imagery
  • Webcasts

Online activities

Online activities / Hands-on activities
Explore section offers a lot of online activities.
These activities don't seem to be developed by a unique team, because they are based on a heterogeneous diversity of file formats (html, shockwave, flash,...). Graphic style is also diverse.

Visit planning

Users -especially teachers- can prepare their visit by using online resources. They can also use the Events Calendar (see Outstanding best practices section below).

Visit follow-up

No special features to follow-up the visit.

Online community

Online communities
Exploratorium website links to the main online communities:

  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Flickr
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • Yelp
  • SecondLife

This URL contains access to all Exploratorium blogs.

Exhibition websites

Some exhibit websites contain also their own online communities.

Mobile features

No features for mobile devices.

Searching & browsing

Conventional browsing behavior based on a main top menu, and a secondary menu on the right side of the page.

Simple search powered by Google.
Not advanced search.
Search tool located at the bottom of the secondary menu (right side of the page)

Site map
Site index (clickable hierarchical tree)


Latest issue:
User can submit his name and email to receive the newsletter. No registration required.

Educator newsletter
Teachers and educators can subscribe to receive the free educator e-mail newsletter.

Events Calendar

User can subscribe to the museum events calendar. See outstanding best practices > Events calendar for more details.

Online transactions

Form to become a membership.
VeriSign secured.

Form to submit donations.
VeriSign secured.

Extensive form to become a museum volunteer.
Contains a CAPTCHA.

Form to submit name and email to receive the newsletter.
No registration required.

Educator newsletter
Teachers and educators can subscribe to receive the free educator e-mail newsletter.

Museum online store.
Contains user's cart.
Requires users to login before checking out.

Outstanding best practices

Roof Cam camera view captures live images of the San Francisco Bay from the roof of the Exploratorium.
User is allowed to control the camera's zoom and view (there are also some presets for user to look at).
Worldwide users can contextualize camera's views thanks to the local San Francisco time that appears next to the view.
Java controlled.

Events Calendar
Interactive calendar that shows all museum events, with the next options:

  • Select/unselect type of events displayed
  • Print the calendar
  • Subscribe to the calendar (daily mail, RSS)
  • Send it to friends
  • Remind by mail
  • Download iCal
  • Add to Calendar. User sends the selected event to his own calendar (Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Outlook,...)

Don't push this button
Website home contains a button tagged "Don't push this button". When user pushes it, he is randomly directed to an online exhibition or activity website.
A good idea to push users to discover museum's resources.

Home header design
Website header design changes randomly although it keeps the same look-and-feel to invite users to discover new contents.
A good idea to push users to discover museum's resources. 

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1 Comment

  1. "WEAK POINT Exhibition websites and activities don't display a unified look-and-feel. Museum identity can get lost."

    The online exhibits date from 1994 to today. When I worked at the Exploratorium, we purposely tried to avoid a "unified look-and-feel." The reasoning behind this was, the space was still very experimental, the online space need to reflect the eclectic nature of the museum floor.

    In my opinion the real weak point is search, there are around 30,000 pages on the Exploratorium website and it can be very difficult to find the information you are looking for.