earthquake.jpgVisitors to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will soon be able to shake, rattle and roll their way through a new exhibit that explores the science and history behind one of nature’s most powerful forces.

The new “Earthquake” exhibit, which was unveiled at a news conference this morning, opens to the public on May 26.

“This institution’s history was touched dramatically by two earthquakes,” said Dr. Greg Farrington, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences.

“The 1906 earthquake and fire basically destroyed the original academy in downtown San Francisco–it was then moved to Golden Gate Park, and was rebuilt,” he said.

Some 80 years later, the academy’s facilities had grown in need of modernization, and the events of October 17, 1989, would eventually help bring about the impetus for the complete overhaul and reconstruction of the museum.

“The Loma Prieta earthquake was actually a blessing, a catalyst; the damage wasn’t catastrophic, but something had to be done,” Farrington said.

Now that the new academy building has been open for several years, curators decided it was time to show the science that underlies earthquakes, and how they have had such a deep impact on the world as we know it.

The new exhibit features a model of the Earth 25 feet in diameter that explains plate tectonics; a brand-new planetarium show; and a simulator “shake house” designed to recreate what a major earthquake feels like.

In addition, there are sections devoted to earthquake preparedness–showcasing ways in which people can plan ahead to stay safe in the event of a future major temblor–and how both plant and animal life have been affected by quakes over time.

“Our hope is that visitors who come to see “Earthquake” will realize that these seismic phenomena are just one part of a much larger story, and that story is the story of plate tectonics, and the fact that we live on a remarkably dynamic planet,” said Elizabeth Babcock, dean of education at the academy.

“It really helps explain how the continents and the oceans are constantly on the move, and how that has impacted life and sustainability on our planet,” Babcock said.
An “Earthquake” premiere party takes place on May 25, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets range from $49 to $69. For more information, visit

Sean McCourt, Bay City News

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