A science center (U.S. English) or science centre (Commonwealth English) is a science museum that emphasizes a hands-on approach, featuring interactive exhibits that encourage visitors to experiment and explore.
The first science center was Urania founded in Berlin in 1888 . The Academy of Science of Saint Louis (founded in 1856) created the Saint Louis Museum of Science and Natural History in 1959 (Saint Louis Science Center), but generally science centers are a product of the 1960s and later. In the United Kingdom, many of them were founded as Millennium projects, with funding from the National Lotteries Fund.
The first "science center" in the United States was the Science Center of Pinellas County, founded in 1959. The Pacific Science Center (one of the first to call itself a "science center" rather than a museum) opened in a Seattle World's Fair building in 1962. The Smithsonian Institution invited visitors into a new Discovery Room in its National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, where they could touch and handle formerly off-limits specimens. In 1969, Oppenheimer's Exploratorium opened in San Francisco, California, and the Ontario Science Centre opened near Toronto, Canada. By the early 1970s, COSI Columbus, then known as the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio, had run its first "camp-in."
It did not take long for these new-style museums to band together for mutual support. In 1971, 16 museum directors gathered to discuss the possibility of starting a new association — one more specifically tailored to their needs than the existing American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums). The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) was formally established in 1973. The corresponding European organization is ECSITE .
In India, the National Council of Science Museums runs science centers at several places including Delhi, Bhopal, Nagpur and Ranchi.
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—John Donne (15721631)
“The knowledge of an unlearned man is living and luxuriant like a forest, but covered with mosses and lichens and for the most part inaccessible and going to waste; the knowledge of the man of science is like timber collected in yards for public works, which still supports a green sprout here and there, but even this is liable to dry rot.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)