San Francisco, CA

In San Francisco, the Airport is a Museum!

Roz Warren

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Museum Exhibit at SFO.photo by author

If you love museums and your travel plans include flying through the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) you’re in luck! 

Thanks to the SFO museum, there are a number of concise, beautifully-curated exhibits scattered throughout the airport’s four terminals on topics ranging from from motorcycles to hair styles. Fine arts, history and the history of culture are all included. Want to know more about Victorian Silver Plate? The history of overnight flight? The role commercial airlines played during the Vietnam war? 

If you've arrived at the airport early or have time to kill between flights, you can enjoy learning a little more about all of these things.

Hairstyling History

I recently arrived at SFO early to catch a flight back to Philadelphia. Wandering through Terminal One in search of something interesting to do, I came upon a terrific exhibit about -- hairstyles! An alcove containing a series of large glass display cases were packed with information about the way American women’s hair styles have changed over the past century, with lots of photos, plus examples of the many gadgets women (and their stylists) have used of to achieve those styles, from early curling irons and hair dryers to afro picks and one-of-a-kind hair sculptures. The exhibit also featured historical tools, hair products, and novelty items. 

The exhibit was both fun and informative. Not only did the exhibit make me think about hairstyles as an important part of popular culture, it made me look around at the hairstyles of my fellow travelers (many of which were quite elaborate) with new appreciation. 

What is the SFO Museum?

SFO Museum, a division of San Francisco International Airport, is a cultural organization, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, that provides rotating exhibitions on a wide variety of subjects throughout the terminals. The exhibits are concise and well-curated. The material is clear and well-presented, very accessible and fun to experience.

Unlike a regular museum, which can be overwhelming, these "mini-museums" are a wonderful way to focus on just one aspect of history, culture or art. 

The SFO Museum also provides travelers with exhibits of Student Art from Bay Area schools, and Public Art.

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Public art at SFOwebsite photo used with permission

Thank you SFO Museum!

According to its website, the SFO Museum’s mission is “to delight, engage, and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport.”

My own San Francisco International Airport experience was definitely enriched by the exhibit I enjoyed — even if it was a little disconcerting to see the hairdryers I remember using in the 60s displayed as “historical artifacts.”

From now on, when I travel to the Bay Area, I plan to get to the airport early enough to enjoy all the latest SFO Museum exhibits. Maybe I’ll see you there! 

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

Bala Cynwyd, PA
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