The Franklin Institute has received a $3 million gift from The Boeing Company for the ambitious development of an entirely new future-focused SPACE exhibit. The gift will enable the transformation and expansion of the existing exhibit into an immersive two-story gallery on space exploration, ushering in a new age of space science at the Franklin Institute as it approaches its 200th anniversary in 2024.
“Boeing has a long and storied history of space exploration,” said Ziad Ojakli, Boeing’s executive vice president of Government Operations. “From the International Space Station to the new Space Launch System, which will take humans back to the Moon and beyond, Boeing has been and will continue to be at the forefront of that next big leap for mankind. As part of our proud space legacy, we know that space can be an indispensable tool for inspiring and engaging students around science, technology, engineering and math. Boeing’s investment will be transformative for both the Franklin Institute and the hundreds of thousands of students who will visit the reimagined SPACE exhibit each year, ensuring future generations can be inspired by the endless possibilities of space, and see themselves as part of that journey.”
Home to the second oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, the Franklin Institute has a connection to space that has been central to its identity since 1824. For generations, a visit to the museum at a young age was the first time they learned about the impact, possibilities and promise of space.
The launch of SPACE represents the first in a series of six topic areas the Institute will explore through a suite of innovative exhibitions developed and rolled out over the next five years to support a bold vision that reimagines the Franklin Institute experience, enabling it to transform the way it communicates information, tells diverse science stories and delivers awe-inspiring encounters with the latest in science and technology.
Opening in the fall of 2023, the 7,000-square-foot space science exhibit will inspire a new generation to feel excitement for the great explorations of the future—a return to the moon, travel to Mars and the technological advancements in space science that benefit life on Earth.
“It’s impossible to think about space and space exploration without considering the contributions, innovation, and mastery of Boeing, and we are extremely grateful for their contributions to this exhibition and their investment in the future of space education at The Franklin Institute,” said Larry Dubinski, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute. “This cutting-edge, dynamic, fully-immersive exhibit is groundbreaking. Involving all sectors of the community using an outside-in approach was an important part of this process to ensure that we created an exhibit that satisfies the desires of our many visitors. We listened and learned, and now we are ready to deliver an exceptional experience.”
Located between the first-floor Fels Planetarium and the fourth-floor Holt & Miller Observatory, the two-story exhibit will deliver an immersive, future-focused sensory experience demonstrating the rich diversity of science, technology and the innovative people in the space industry who work every day to bring science fiction to life. It will provide opportunities to experience space phenomena, control forces of nature, and explore what it takes to live, work and play in outer space. The exhibit will feature current technologies and future tools for exploration and showcase the many and varied careers that support the companies embedded in space exploration.
During the early concept development phase of SPACE, the Franklin Institute sought extensive community input. In a completely new exhibit planning approach, the Institute held focus groups and student workshops; engaging local teachers, principals and students, business and foundation leaders, as well as representatives from other non-profits and universities to help inform the themes and threads of the exhibit. Among the topics included based on feedback from these focus groups were workforce development and the diversity of careers in STEM. The Institute then formed an exhibit content advisory board led by Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, comprised of space enthusiasts and experts at Boeing.
The gift marks an important milestone in the Institute’s longstanding partnership with Boeing, which dates back to the 1970s, with the permanent installation of Foxtrot Papa, a former British Airways Boeing 707 airplane. In recent years, Boeing has provided investments totaling more than $1 million in support of the Institute’s work, including that of its longstanding STEM Scholars youth education program.