SFO Museum

Visit an Airport Museum on Int’l Museum Day

New England Air Museum adjacent to Bradley International Airport (BDL)

May 18 is International Museum Day, which gives us an excuse to talk about some of the great museums in and adjacent to airports around the country.

Having a museum or museum program in an airport just makes so much sense. Millions of people pass through airports each year. Many passengers have plenty of downtime before their flights. And art or history exhibits in airports can connect passengers with a place, inspire them, educate them, or create those sought after moments of suprise and delight.

Here are a handful of airport museums and museum programs to look for on your next trip. Let us know if we missed your favorite.

Phoenix Airport Museum

The Phoenix Airport Museum at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is one of the oldest and largest airport art program in the country. You’ll find permanent artwork and temporary exhibitions throughout the sprawling airport facilities, including in the rental car center and at the Sky Train stations.

SFO Museum

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is accredited by the American Alliance of Museum (AAM). In addition to permanent public art and more than a dozen temporary exhibitions at a time, the museum maintains a video arts program , student art programs, and photography galleries.

While the airport’s wonderful Aviation Museum & Library is currently closed for renovations, temporary exhibitions throughout the terminals currently celebrate everything from Early Women Aviators and their Aircraft to Victorian Wallpaper.

Julia Clark (1880‚Äď1912) at the controls of a Curtiss biplane¬†¬†c. 1912. Courtesy SFO Museum

Mitchell Gallery of Flight at MKE

The free Mitchell Gallery of Flight at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) is located pre-security and open 24 hours a day. Exhibits include airplane models, aviation paintings, propellers, a scale model of the Milwaukee airport terminal as it looked in 1941, and sections dedicated to famous Wisconsinites in aviation history such as astronaut James Lovell and General Billy Mitchell, known as ‘the father of the U.S. Air Force.

You’ll find aviation-themed history exhibits and full-fledged aviation museums in and adjacent to many other airports too.

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina has a 350-square-foot museum in its Grand Hall. The Frontiers of Flight Museum is on the southeast corner of Dallas Love Field Airport. And the New England Air Museum is adjacent to Bradley International Airport (BDL), in Connecticut.

And there are lots more.

Courtesy New England Air Museum

More airport museums and museum programs not to miss

Take a few moments to look around next time you’re at an airport and it’s a very good chance you’ll spot art and history exhibits you may have rushed by in the past. Curators at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), New York’s Albany International Airport (ALB), Denver International Airport (DEN), Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), Miami International Airport (MIA), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), and many others do a great job filling the terminals and concourses with art and exhibits you’ll enjoy.

Quest by Bert L. Long, Jr

Fresh airport art from SFO, PHL, & Albany Int’l Airports

SFO Museum presents an exhibit about art from pineapple leaves

At SFO: From Pineapple to Pi√Īa: A Philippine Textile Treasure¬†

The newest exhibit from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is about textiles made from pineapple leaves.

Unique to the Philippines, pi√Īa is an extraordinary textile made by weaving the fibers of the leaves of the pineapple plant. This light, airy fabric was perfectly suitable to the tropical climate. The textile enjoyed a golden age during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly on the island of Panay, where it was made into shirts, women‚Äôs blouses, shoulder scarfs, handkerchiefs, and table linens.

A new exhibition at Albany International Airport (ALB)

Albany International Airport (ALB) will open a new Gallery exhibition on May 7. The Life Around Us, features recent paintings by Ashley Norwood Cooper and Heidi Johnson, as well as a new site-specific installation, Stream by Laura Moriarty.

Iced Coffee With Friends – by Heidi Johnson

Route pins from PHL Airport

And Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) recently handed out pins created by local artists to celebrate the return of several transatlantic flights. Great idea!

Video Arts Screening Gallery Open at SFO

After a 20-month hiatus, the video arts screening room at SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is open.

The gallery screens short-form documentaries, experimental films, and all forms of animation. It is located pre-security on the departures level of the International Terminal. Hours: daily, 5:00am to 10:00pm.

With a nod to COVID-19, this month, the gallery is showing the work of four filmmakers from around the world whose work reflects how the pandemic impacts our lives and our interactions.

You can see the films next time you go to SFO. Or you can see them here.

In Sorry for the Inconvenience, by Jane Chow, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker from Hong Kong, a lonely teenager tries to help her parents keep their restaurant afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles Chinatown.

In Air, Canadian filmmaker David Findlay presents an exploration of the critical importance of physical contact in our interpersonal communication.

Turkish illustrator and animation director Tuna Bora collaborates with London-based animator Jonathan Djob Nkondo in this excerpt from Solipsism.

The film tells the story of a young girl who, amidst self-isolation, becomes lost inside the world that surrounds her.

And in Dancers in the Loop, French filmmaker Julie Rohart identifies inspiration found in the isolation of Paris’ lockdown in the winter of 2020.

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‚Äď1901), walls richly came to life. English ‚Äúdesign reformers‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äė80s. Eclecticism prevailed‚ÄĒdesigners 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‚Äď1910

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