The last remnant of the 1915 World’s Fair re-opened its doors to the public in February 2015 as the Innovation Hangar. The exhibition has been organized to showcase some of today’s greatest mind at work and to help reconnect innovators and visitors to the hand-on aspect of the 1915 World’s Fair.
This groundbreaking museum brings together technology enthusiasts, hands-on educational activities and phenomenal exhibitions to not only honor the 100 year anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Exposition, but to also recognize today’s great thinkers and provide them with an abundance of tools and space to exhibit tomorrow’s technology.
“The innovation hagar is a place where innovators, doers, makers and thinkers can come together into a physical space and share with each other, as well as the public, what they are doing,” said Operations and Programs Manager Luke Monroe.
In today’s digital age, innovators and creators are hindered by the lack of physical space available to showcase their work. The innovation hangar has created a special space for ideas and investment that have struggled to grow since the emergence of the virtual world.
“[We want to show] the public what the future holds, what the future city is going to look like, and how different technologies are going to affect our lives in the futures,” said Monroe.
To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Exposition the Innovation Hangar and the California Historical Society have collaborated to provide visitors the rich history of the 1915 World’s Fair and the Marina District.
Prior to the exposition, the Marina District was nothing more than a swampy marshland. In response to the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco decided to honor the Panama Pacific International Exposition and host the 1915 World’s Fair in an effort to help the city reemerge from destruction.
The exposition ran along the waterfront, stretching from the Presidio to Fort Mason for ten months and was then demolished in December 1915. Because infrastructure had been laid to house the exposition, the land was soon developed after the fair was torn down.
“People seem to be interested in what is going on around here,” said writer and member of the California Historical Society, Nicole Meldahl. “Locals want to know where their house is so we have a big map that has a city grid on it so you can find your house. Tourists are just baffled by the whole thing; they think it’s European.”
The Palace of Fine Arts Exhibition Hall will forever be a historical landmark, but today it is also a think tank for today’s creative minds. In addition to technological advances, the hangar also houses international, innovative artwork.
“We have [Cuban] artwork upstairs that just came in [and] for some of the artists it’s the first time their work has been shown outside of Cuba,” said Monroe.
While the Innovation Hangar encourages all outlets of creativity, the technological age his emphasized in the exhibit.
“We are moving toward technology and what the future holds,” said Monroe. “We are going to have a future tech organization…[and] we are trying to develop a space where people that live in the Marina, Cow Hollow, I mean anywhere in San Francisco, can come and see…innovative things that are happening.”
Although it has been a challenge to fill the 120,000 square foot space, the last eight months have been extremely successful.
“As with every startup, there’s twists and turns,” Monroe said, “but I think we are getting there. We’ve been told we [are] further along than some other museums that have this much space to fill, so I think we are doing pretty good.”
Prior to the Innovation Hangar, the Exhibition Hall housed the exploratorium for 43 years. In 2012, the museum moved to Pier 15 leaving the hangar empty. Although it was continuously used, there was nothing open to the public.
“When the Exploratorium came in, things got really busy and really active,” said Meldahl. From what I have heard from residents who come in, they very much appreciate that it’s less busy here now.”
“A lot of people are excited there is something interactive back in the neighborhood, and especially since a lot of the area is open to the public, free of cost,” said Monroe.
In addition to the free, self-tours open to visitors, the Innovation Hangar will continue to hold events, including the Hunger Games Exhibition in the new year. In addition to organized exhibitions that rent out space in the hangar, the museum often conducts its own events such as Maker Workshop on Saturdays and Tang on Sundays.
“I love it, it’s beautiful,” said Patricia Fazzino, a tour guide at the Innovation Hangar. “I like this museum [and] I like it’s attitude.”