The Saint Louis Science Center was first established as a planetarium in 1963 on the southeastern corner of Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. The following year, it was renamed the James S. McDonnell Planetarium (above), after the co-founder of the St. Louis-based aerospace manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. And in 1978, it reopened under its current name. The original plan, however, called for a planetarium, science museum, and natural history museum.
In 1983, the city’s Museum of Science and Natural History purchased the Planetarium. The following decade, in 1991 as part of a $34 million expansion, a new building opened across from the Planetarium, with which it is connected via a Skybridge. This expansion featured new exhibits devoted to Earth science, emerging technologies, the life sciences, physical science, and chemistry, increasing the size of the Science Center by a factor of seven! So today, with over 750 exhibits in its over 300,000 square foot complex, it is among the largest of its type in the United States. And within just two months after its expansion, the newly remodeled St. Louis Science Center became the most visited science center in the world!
The Planetarium, with its unique hyperboloid shape, was designed by Gyo Obata, who would later be tasked with designing the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Another one of the most recognizable features of the new St. Louis Science Center is its 5-story domed OMNIMAX theater, which shows a variety of educational films, documentaries, and sci-fi films. And in 1997, an air-supported building known as the Exploradome was also added to the main building, intended as a facility for traveling science exhibitions, such as Star Trek: The Exhibition.
- Visited: 1993