Artists' rendering of the new Exploratorium on San Francisco's Embarcadero

San Francisco’s Exploratorium on Friday is announcing the date of its grand re-opening: The wraps come off its new, $300 million home on Pier 15 as of Wednesday, April 17. And as part of the news, the venerable museum is adding yet another tech star to its board.

Craig Silverstein, the very first employee hired at Google, is joining a group that’s recently added LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Jack Dorsey, the Twitter co-founder who in his spare time is CEO of fast-growing mobile payments startup Square. It’s clearly an effort by the 43-year-old center, which was founded by physicist Frank Oppenheimer, to stay fresh.

The mega-million dollar new facility — which is 90 percent completed and 80 percent paid for, with $250 million raised to date — is an even more significant move toward becoming more than just a “kids’ museum.” The Exploratorium is something of an R&D lab for scientists, artists and entrepreneurs, as well as for more than 1,000 other science museums around the world. Officials say its interactive exhibits here and elsewhere reach 180 million people each year.

They also promise the Exploratorium’s new digs on the Embarcadero will let it reach more people than ever. At 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, it will be three times the size of the current facility at the Palace of Fine Arts, with twice as many classrooms. A quarter of the 600 exhibits will be brand new. (Personally, I’m pulling for a hands-on, interactive espresso bar.)

Silverstein, now Dean of Infrastructure at online learning factory Khan Academy, in a statement called the Exploratorium “an incubator for innovation outside of school… The big idea for all of us in the Valley is to find new ways to inspire critical thinking.” Craig Silverstein

Museum board chairman George Cogan, who runs Bain & Co.’s technology practice, says the addition of people like Silverstein and Hoffman can only help the facility keep pace with the future. “These are the sort of folks that want to disrupt existing models in philanthropy as in business,” Cogan said. Others on the board include Hoffman’s wife, philanthropist Michelle Yee; legendary Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart; and financier Buddy Fletcher, whose wife, Ellen Pao, is currently doing courtroom battle with her former employer, venture heavyweight Kleiner Perkins.

As for the other new board member being announced Friday – PG&E’s 62-year-old CEO, Anthony Earley – PG&E Chief Executive Tony Earleywell, maybe he’s proof that you still need some old-school tradition to balance out those hip techies.

 

 

Peter Delevett Peter Delevett (184 Posts)

Peter Delevett covers startups and venture capital for the San Jose Mercury News. He's been a journalist in Silicon Valley since the dot-com daze.