“Here we shall teach the smallest child to enjoy the toys of science…”

Celebrating 50 years since the Hall of Science opened at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, we have launched the NYSCI Archive. We’ll share a half century of memories: how the Hall of Science came to be and became what it is today. We’ll see how the Hall almost met its end and how Yankee Stadium was to blame. We’ll meet the heroes and heroines who brought us back from the brink.  We’ll rediscover a history that features nuclear reactors, paper airplanes, pipe bombs, pop stars, tornado sculptures, and more than one science circus among other things.

Unlike most of the World’s Fair pavilions, the Hall of Science was always intended to live on as a permanent museum. After a year of refurbishments, on September 21, 1966, with dedicatory speeches from Mayor Lindsay and Robert Moses, the Hall of Science had the first of what would turn out to be several re-openings. And in a scene that became commonplace around the Hall, grown-ups gave speeches while schoolchildren headed straight for the exhibits.

As the New York Times recounted it:

“Even as more than 200 official guests were upstairs in the cathedral-like concrete-and-blue glass building downing their catered cocktails and stand-up lunch following the ceremonies, children from seven city schools were joyously trying out exhibits on the ground floor.”

More about the exhibits, the opening ceremonies, the unceremonious weather, and those catered cocktail-sipping guests in future posts. For now, the last word goes to Robert Moses. We’ve uncovered more than a few dedicatory speeches and articles from the early years of the Hall of Science. A tendency toward exuberance was prevalent in those post-Fair days, and these remarks are certainly of that era in several ways:

“Here we shall teach the smallest child to enjoy the toys of science instead of Montessori blocks, the teen-ager to substitute computers for Beatles, women to plan for atomic housekeeping and men for hobbies to beguile leisure, the clergy to lift their eyes above the hills and conventional heavens to the planets and limitless space, and statesmen to beat swords into ploughshares. The Old Romans on such occasions used to say ‘Quod felix austumque sit’ which translated into the vernacular, meant ‘May this dedication be a happy augury of future triumphs.”

 

The image at top of this post is the logo of the Hall of Science of the City of New York, from the late 1960s – early 1970s.

See all posts in the NYSCI Archive here.