SFO Museum

Victorian Wallpaper at SFO

Is SFO an airport or a museum?

Now that we’re back to traveling more, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to visit San Francisco International Airport (SFO), home to the SFO Museum, which is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

SFO is both an airport AND a museum. So, we always make sure to choose the longest layover we can when changing planes at SFO. Not just because we love airports, but because we also love museums. And the SFO Museum always has multiple exhibitions scattered throughout the terminals.

One of the newest exhibitions is The Victorian Papered Wall, which is on view in the International Terminal Main Hall.

Why have an exhibition about wallpaper?

From the press release:

From its inception, wallpaper imitated luxurious materials, providing a more affordable alternative to tapestries, fabrics, mural paintings, and architectural elements. Crafted in repeating rolls and pasted to walls, this decorative art has an ephemeral quality unlike any other. Wallpaper reflects the design styles popular at the time, and in the late nineteenth century during the Victorian Era (1837–1901), walls richly came to life. English “design reformers” insisted on abstract, flat patterns, opposing fashionable French three-dimensional designs. Meanwhile, the Aesthetic Movement, which burgeoned in England, emphasized artful interiors in the 1870s and ‘80s. Eclecticism prevailed—designers drew freely from world cultures and centuries past.

This exhibition features art wallpapers created by Bradbury & Bradbury, based in Benicia, CA. The company hand silkscreens hundreds of historic designs using oil-based paints. Their most complex paper, St. James, requires seventeen individually applied colors. In addition to Victorian-era patterns, the company makes wallpaper using patterns from the Art Deco era, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. We’re hoping to find the wallpaper from our childhood home in there somewhere.

Here are more samples of the wall and ceiling papers you’ll see in six Victorian-era room sets at SFO.

All images courtesy SFO Museum.

Museum Monday: Scientific Instruments at SFO

SFO Museum : Equinoctial inclining sundial  c. 1865

SFO Museum exhibits rare 19th to early 20th-century scientific instruments

SFO Museum: Double-scope theodolite  c. 1890–1910

The newest exhibition from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is filled with rare mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth-century scientific instruments.

At a glance, they are clearly works of mechanical know-how and art. But these objects also tell a story about the emergence of modern science and the specialized instruments scientists built and used to explore the world.

From the exhibition release:

When modern science emerged in the seventeenth century, scientists invented specialized instruments to explore the world and universe in a closer, more logical manner. These intriguing devices facilitated the careful study of almost all facets of life through the research and demonstration of ideas and theories. During the nineteenth century, new technologies allowed for the precision manufacturing of scientific instruments. An array of instruments assisted some of the most brilliant minds on Earth as scientists made early discoveries in the fields of electrodynamics and atomic theory.

This exhibition in the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 of the San Francisco International Airport displays a selection of antique scientific instruments and explores their uses. Dates: September 11, 2021, to April 3, 2022.  The exhibit is accessible to ticketed passengers but non-ticketed guests may get access by emailing curator@flysfo.com.

SFO Museum: Geissler tube rotator [with modern tube]  late 19th century
SFO Museum: Helmholtz resonators  c. 1890

Museum Monday: Math at the SFO Museum

All photos Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has kicked off yet another exhibition that might make you miss your next flight. This one is all about mathematics.

Courtesy SFO Museum

Mathematics: Vintage and Modern displays slide rules, early calculating machines, and other math-related objects from the past. Included are teaching tools that help students learn arithmetic, geometry, and calculus, as well as vintage children’s toys and games. To make brains work harder, several works of art in this exhibit demonstrate complex mathematics through sculptural forms. Examples from modern math—knot theory, topology, and ambiguous models—illustrate how math deals with the very dimensions of space. 

Klein Bottle by Cliff Stoll

Here are some more images from the exhibit.

Thacher’s calculating instrument  c. 1903
Millionaire calculating machine  c. 1904

Today we use our lightweight telephones as calculators. But in 1893, Swiss engineer Otto Steigler’s invention, the Millionaire, likely seemed miraculous.

“Made of brass and weighing sixty-seven pounds, this revolutionary machine could perform a direct multiplication,” the exhibit notes tell us. “With a single turn of the hand crank, it multiplied two numbers together and calculated results up to eighteen digits. For decades, banks balanced their books and figured compound interest on Millionaires. “

Rubik’s Cube and other mathematical puzzles

Mathematics: Vintage and Modern is located post-security in Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport through May 1, 2022.

The exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers but non-ticketed guests can arrange access by emailing curator@flysfo.com,

Short films, courtesy the SFO Museum

While travelers are returning to airports, not all amenities are back up and running quite yet.

That includes SFO Museum’s Video Arts screening room at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

But that doesn’t mean you can watch some great short films. The SFO Museum is curating themed programming from its archives that anyone can watch online – in the airport or not.

For the month of July, the short films are all about the importance of family. The four films in the series are below,

SFO Museum also has a great archive of its current and past exhibitions online, Flight Patterns – Airline Uniforms from the 1960s – 70s, Surf’s Up! Instrumental Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Early American Motorcycles.

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition Alisa Eagleston, Conservator

Airports celebrate July 4th and the freedom to travel

Like you, airports are celebrating the freedom to travel (again) and also marking July 4th.

And we’re gathering up some of the best July 4th messages airports are sharing.

Kicking us off: the patriotic water feature show in Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport. Also: a cool mural you can watch being made at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome featuring some celebrity travelers. And aviation-themed matchbooks from the SFO Museum collection at San Francisco International Airport.

And these great aviation-themed matchbooks from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)