Museum of Science (Boston)

"Museum of Science" redirects here. For other science museums, see Science Museum (disambiguation).
Museum of Science, Boston

Main entrance
Location within Boston
Established 1830
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°22′04″N 71°04′16″W / 42.367778°N 71.070997°W / 42.367778; -71.070997Coordinates: 42°22′04″N 71°04′16″W / 42.367778°N 71.070997°W / 42.367778; -71.070997
Type Science museum
Accreditation AAM, ASTC, AZA
Visitors 1.5 million [1]
Director Ioannis Miaoulis
Public transit access

Science Park station

Nearest parking Dedicated parking garage (fee)

The Museum of Science (MoS) is a Boston, Massachusetts landmark, located in Science Park, a plot of land spanning the Charles River. Along with over 700 interactive exhibits, the museum features a number of live presentations throughout the building every day, along with shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni Theater, the only domed IMAX screen in New England. The museum is also an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is home to over 100 animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated from various dangerous situations. The museum is also one of the city's three bases of operations for Boston's privately operated Duck Tours.


Original Charles River lock adjacent to the museum and positioned just west of the Charles River Dam Bridge
Mugar Omni Theater
New England Habitats exhibit
Decavitator hanging above the main entrance lobby of the museum
Demonstration of the world's largest open-air Van de Graaff generator

Origin and early years

The museum began as the Boston Society of Natural History in 1830, founded by a collection of men who wished to share scientific interests. It was more commonly called the Boston Museum of Natural History in the 19th century, and this name occurs frequently in the literature. In 1862, after the society had gone through several temporary facilities, a building was constructed in the Back Bay area of the city and dubbed the "New England Museum of Natural History." The museum was located next to the original Rogers Building of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and both neoclassical structures were designed by William G. Preston. The original MIT (then nicknamed "Boston Tech") building was demolished in 1939, but the Natural History Museum building survives today, as a home furnishings showcase.

A great deal of scientific work was done by the society, especially around geology, and the results of this work can be found in the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History which are now freely available online. A library and children's rooms were added to the museum around 1900. It was renamed the Museum of Science in 1939, under a dynamic new Director.[2]

The Boston Museum of Natural History of 1830/1864–1945 should not be confused with the private Warren Museum of Natural History (1858–1906, formerly on Chestnut Street in Boston). The contents of the latter collection, including the first intact mastodon, were relocated to the American Museum of Natural History of New York City in 1906.

Museum Then and Now, an exhibit of artifacts from the early years of the society, is located near the second floor Blue Wing entrance to the Theater of Electricity in today's museum.


After World War II, the old Museum of Science building was sold, and the museum was relocated, again under the name Boston Museum of Science. Under the leadership of Bradford Washburn, the society negotiated with the Metropolitan District Commission for a 99-year lease of the land now known as Science Park. The museum pays $1 a year to the state for use of the land. Construction and development began in 1948, and the museum opened in 1951, arguably the first all-encompassing science museum in the country.

In these first few years, the museum developed a traveling planetarium, a version of which is still brought to many elementary schools in the Greater Boston area every year. They also obtained during these early years "Spooky", a great horned owl who became a symbol or mascot of the museum; he lived to age 38, the longest any great horned owl is known to have lived. Today, a number of other taxidermed specimens remain on display, teaching children about the animals of New England and of the world.

The Science Park/West End MBTA station was opened in August 1955, allowing easier access to the museum by public transportation. The Charles Hayden Planetarium was opened in 1958.

Many more expansions continued into the 1970s and 1980s. In 1999, The Computer Museum in Boston closed and became part of the Museum of Science, integrating some of its displays, although the most of the historical artifacts were moved to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.[3]

A major renovation and expansion took place during 2005 and 2006. In 2010, the Charles Hayden Planetarium was closed for renovation, and has since reopened.[4]

The main entrance to the museum straddles the border between the cities of Boston and Cambridge, and the boundary is indicated by a marker embedded in the floor inside the museum. In 2013, the Museum of Science was the venue for the first joint session of the Boston and Cambridge city councils, to discuss policy measures to improve retention of talented recent university graduates in the area.[5]


Starting in 2013, the Museum of Science has been undergoing a major renovation to upgrade the physical structure and develop new educational content. This $250 million campaign will upgrade nearly half of the Exhibit Halls from 2012, and open three new major exhibits: the Hall of Human Life, the Yawkey Gallery on the Charles River, and What Is Technology?[6] The Hall of Human Life opened in November 2013 in the newly expanded Level 2 of the Green Wing, and has a focus on human biology.[7] The audio kinetic sculpture "Archimedean Excogitation" has been moved to the atrium to make way for a new exhibit in the lower lobby called The Yawkey Gallery on the Charles River. This exhibit is scheduled to open in 2016, creating a new entry to the museum with better views of the Charles River and Boston-Cambridge skyline.

On October 18, 2016 former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg revealed that his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is donating $50 million to the museum, the largest gift in the institution’s 186-year history.[8]

Exhibit halls

Blue Wing[9][10]

Green Wing

Red Wing


Live presentations and programs

The many exhibits in the Blue Wing

The museum offers many free live presentations to the visitors including:[12]

Behind the Headline
Explores an exciting science and technology story that's in the news.
Behind the Headline—An Uncertain Climate
Look at recent climate study, talk about uncertainties surrounding climate science, and discuss how to make better choices for our planet.
Hands-On Laboratory
Encourages visitors of all ages to explore a variety of topics in science.
Design Challenges
Hands-on introduction to the engineering design cycle; different daily workshops that deal with solving a variety of problems.
Indoor bolts are produced by world's largest Van de Graaff generator including talk on lightning, electric charge, and storm safety.
Live Animal Presentation
Explore the adaptation, behaviors, ecology, and environments of animals with the museum's animal residents.
Science Live!
Talk about live scientific discoveries
Science Magic
Science recreates some favorite magic tricks.
Science Snapshot
Latest scientific and technological developments in our lives are talked about.
Current Science and Technology Center (CS&T)
The Current Science & Technology Center's live presentations are in a constant state of development, keeping up with the cutting edge of science & technology news, and offering several very informative and interesting "Updates in Science & Technology" presentations every day.

Notable past exhibits

The Museum of Science spans the length of the Charles River Dam, including a dedicated parking garage at far left. The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge is visible in the background

Computing exhibits

A disk containing the source code for the Morris worm was located in the museum's Computing Revolution exhibit.

Although the history artifacts of The Computer Museum (TCM) were moved from Boston to Silicon Valley to become the core of the current Computer History Museum, some former TCM educational exhibits and objects were transferred to the Boston Museum of Science where two new computing and technology exhibits were created. The Computing Revolution, an exhibit no longer on display at the Museum of Science, related the history of computing through a variety of hands-on interactive exhibits. Cahners ComputerPlace, located in the Blue Wing, Level 1, houses displays ranging from educational video games to an interactive AIBO ERS-7 robot.

Other attractions

See also


  1. "Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  2. "Museum of Science history". Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  3. "Computer History Museum | Backgrounder". Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  4. "Planetarium History". Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  5. Boston Fab (April 2, 2013). "Boston and Cambridge City Councils Unite Around Retention Issues". Retrieved July 5, 2013. The same day that Mayor Menino shared the end of his 20 year reign, Boston and Cambridge city councils led by Tito Jackson (Boston) and Leland Cheung (Cambridge) met on neutral ground – the Museum of Science – to talk retention of talent in both cities.
  6. Ross, Casey (January 29, 2013). "Museum of Science gallery to overlook Charles". Boston Globe. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  7. "Hall of Human Life". Museum of Science. Museum of Science, Boston. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  8. Shirley Leung (October 18, 2016). "With $50m, Bloomberg thanks Museum of Science". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 18, 2016. (registration required (help)).
  9. "Museum Map" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  10. "Field Trip Activities". Museum of Science. Museum of Science, Boston. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  11. "Clark Collection of Mechanical Movements". KMODDL. Cornell University. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  12. "Live presentations". Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  13. "Ramses II Visits a Boston Museum". Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  14. "Ramses the Great Will Shift His Weight". Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  15. "Fuel for Wizards". Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  16. "New US Rooftop Wind Turbine Lab". Renewable Energy World. 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
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