“No one can overestimate what this ambitious institution may in time accomplish.”

From the time the City of New York first committed to building a Hall of Science at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, it was with the understanding that a post-Fair expansion would be required to transform the Hall of Science from a World’s Fair pavilion into a major cultural institution on par with its peers in New York City. The particulars concerning that expansion were left for further consideration during the Fair. Memos and minutes of Board meetings from 1964 and 1965 show ongoing discussions about what types of exhibits should be in the expanded museum, who should build it, and how it would be financed. Plans began taking shape as the Hall of Science transitioned into a permanent museum and reopened in 1966. But before there could be new exhibits, there would need to be new buildings.  As a City-owned facility, capital funds would have to be appropriated by the Mayor and City Council.

Ceremonies and op-eds were deployed to build the base of support for expanding the Hall of Science. The New Yorker compared the 1966 opening to the original dedication in 1964. “Now, as then, the apparent purpose of the opening ceremony was to promote interest among civic-minded New Yorkers with money in the Hall of Science.”

An April 1967 Robert Moses op-ed in Newsday made the case for The Science Center at Flushing Meadow. “For several decades New York has sought a science museum or center. This field has somehow been neglected and, as the interest in applied science has skyrocketed with new discoveries and inventions in an expanding universe, the absence of a center for exhibit and education has become obvious and more and more of a reproach to a community which otherwise has well-endowed cultured collections.” As Moses saw it, “a museum, like a cathedral and a city, is not built in a day. It is subject to slow growth and the winds of change. It is no mere passing, generous impulse and no inspiration of the moment.”

the science center at flushing meadow

Mayor Lindsay dreamed of a Hall of Science that would “not only be one of the great science museums of the nation and the world, but also a major center for scientific research and training.” Lindsay predicted that once expanded the Hall of Science “will become a cultural center equal to the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center and other such great institutions.” In fact, soon after it reopened, news accounts credited the Hall of Science as the third most popular museum in New York City.

But getting city and federal agencies to appropriate funds is not the same thing as having those funds in hand.  The planned expansion was to be completed by 1969. That future never arrived.

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