Pacific Science Center History

arches-daylight-01-175In 1962, millions of people came to explore the wonders of science at the United States Science Pavilion during the Seattle World's Fair. They also came to witness the stunning architecture designed by Seattle-born architect Minoru Yamasaki. Yamasaki wanted to create a space with sweeping Gothic arches, glowing sandstone walls and floral fountains - a quiet sanctuary from the fair's noise and crowds.

In addition to Yamasaki's design of the main structure, Walter Dorwin Teague designed the exhibits; Jack Christiansen of Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson served as structural engineer; Ray and Charles Eames designed the opening film, as well as the interior of the theater; and Lawrence Halprin designed the original landscape plan.

Upon closing ceremonies, the Science Pavilion was given new life as the private not-for-profit Pacific Science Center, becoming the first U.S. museum founded as a science and technology center.



1962 The Seattle World's Fair closed October 21. Pacific Science Center opens October 22 with one paid admission.

1963 First school group visits.

1967 First Festival of the Fountains. This annual black tie fundraiser continues to this day each July.

1972 Pacific Science Center's 10th birthday. Gemini 11 Space Capsule put on display. Puget Sound Model is installed.

1973 In response to the energy crisis, Pacific Science Center's first van, Science On Wheels, travels to schools that can't make it to the Science Center.

1974 Building ownership transferred to Pacific Science Center Foundation. First Model Railroad Show held.

1975 First laser light show.

1977 Starlab Planetarium opens.

1979 First IMAX film shown in the renovated Eames Theater with the film To Fly. Building 4 is renovated to house traveling exhibits.

1980 Fountains Café opens. 1981 First summer camps held. 1982 Pacific Science Center's 20th birthday. Science Playground opens.

1984 China: 2000 Years of Discovery opens, setting new attendance and school visit records. Dinosaurs exhibit opens.

1986 First Camp-In program is held. Designed to attract more women and minorities to science and math, Camp-In draws 820 participants in its initial year.

1987 Dinosaurs exhibit hits the road as the first of Pacific Science Center's traveling exhibits, reaching science centers across the U.S. Puget Sound Salt Water Tidepool is installed. First Bubble Festival held. Neil Armstrong visits for the Science Center's 25th anniversary.

1989 High Rail Bike is constructed for the Science of Sports exhibit.

1990 Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibit debuts and embarks on international tour.

1991 Dinosaurs exhibit returns and is installed as a permanent exhibit. Lasers & Holograms exhibit opens.

1992 Pacific Science Center celebrates its 30th birthday. The planetarium is remodeled and renamed the Willard W. Smith Planetarium.

1993 Renovations begin on Building 3 and the main entrance ticket booths. The High Rail Bike is moved to above the ponds. Water Works exhibit is installed.

1994 Building 3 reopens as the Kiewit Pavilion, complete with a new school group entrance and permanent Tech Zone exhibit. Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center opens in Bellevue, Washington.

1995 Pacific Science Center exceeds one million visitors on-site during a fiscal year for the first time.

1997 The Seattle Rotary Discovery Lab is completed, marking the first building expansion since the World's Fair. Groundbreaking for the Boeing IMAX® Theater and the Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery.

1998 Pacific Science Center's Boeing IMAX® Theater opens October 22 with EVEREST as the debut film. The Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery opens December 26 with two permanent exhibits: Insect Village and the Tropical Butterfly House.

1999 The debut of IMAX 3D at the Boeing IMAX® Theater with the 3D film Into the Deep. The James Albert Claypool Memorial Garage opens. Dinosaurs exhibit is renovated and relocated to Building 1. Washington State Leadership and Assistance for Education Reform (LASER) is launched.

2000 Walt Disney Pictures' FANTASIA/2000, the first ever feature-length animated IMAX film opens at the Boeing IMAX® Theater. Laser theater is renovated and renamed Adobe Laser Dome in February.

2001 Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit opens in March, marking the west coast premiere of an international exhibit already witnessed by over 7 million people worldwide. Genetics: The Code of Life, created by Pacific Science Center, opens.

2004 Pacific Science Center receives free and clear title to property after 42 years of bringing science education to the community.

2006 Discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls opens. Pacific Science Center was the premiere venue in the western United States to exhibit the scrolls. First research weekend is held.

2007 The Portal to the Public Initiative is launched in response to the growing need to share current science research content and its implications. Science Café series is launched.

2008 Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia opens, featuring the original fossilized remains of the 3.2 million-year-old hominid known as Lucy. The renovated Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center opens.

2009 Pacific Science Center, along with Sailors for the Sea, sent a 64' sailboat named Ocean Watch Around the Americas to educate the public about ocean health and marine conservation.

2010 Pacific Science Center buildings officially designated as a City of Seattle Landmark.

2011 Membership increases to 31,380 members due largely to Harry Potter®: The Exhibition and Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination.

2012 Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs opens; it is the exhibit's last North American stop. The region's first Seattle Science Festival is spearheaded by Pacific Science Center. Pacific Science Center's 50th anniversary.