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Exploratorium Website Provides Interactive Museum Experience - 2004-09-02

San Francisco's popular hands-on science museum, The Exploratorium, was one of the first museums to go online, way back in 1993. VOA's Art Chimes reports that a visit to the website, like visiting the physical museum in California, is an interactive experience.

"Like the physical museum, the goal of our website is to make people think and become curious about the world around them," says Noah Wittman, director of the Exploratorium's Educator Online Network.

Unlike many museum websites, with ".org" domains, this museum chose a ".edu" web address, like a university.

"Well, I think the .edu in our name reflects our emphasis on educational material, on reaching out to teachers and educators, not only in the United States, but all over the world," he says.

More than 18 million visitors come to each year, many times more than visit the museum itself in San Francisco, and about one-fourth of the online visitors come from outside the U.S.

So what's featured at the site? There's an online exhibit on the science of cycling, another timed for the Cassini mission to Saturn focuses on that spectacular, ringed planet. One popular section offers what the Exploratorium calls "snacks," little bits of experimental, bite-size science.

"And what these are, are instructions for building miniature versions of exhibits that we have on the museum floor with cheap, easy-to-find materials," he notes. "For example, you can learn how to create a tornado, suspend an object in mid-air, or produce amazing optical illusions."

Many of those experiments are suitable for use at home or, like much of the content here, in the classroom. Also on line are a virtual microscope to study embryos of various organisms, and a feature on the science of music.

"If you've ever wondered why sad music sounds so sad, or why some music gives you goosebumps, or why your recorded voice often sounds so strange, well then you can find out the answer to these questions and more on our online exhibition on the science of music," he says.

Like the rest of, the science of music exhibit has lots of interactive features. You can even create your own music. For more education that's fun, or for more fun that's educational, surf on over to