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$24 Per Person!, California Academy of Science

At $24 per person, the California Academy of Science is setting a tone before you enter the door, two adults and two children, $78 dollars!  for a public institution.  This is a violation of the trust between a learning institution and the public.  That is before we even discuss if the experience is worth it and I would say it is not.

Disney is all about exceeding expectations, a couple of years ago I was at Disney for their Electric Carnival parade.  I was spending time with a friend’s son a just going along with whatever happened, then the parade started and I was wowed, fireworks, water works, performers and every time I thought the show was over, there was more to come.  That is what it means to exceed expectations, as a passive visitors I was turned into an advocate, a person that is telling friends “you got to go see this”, that is the definition of viral marketing.

When doing consulting work I often use a restaurant analogy as a point of discussion with a group, “what kind of restaurant do you want to have?”,   “What is your relationship with the dinners?”

To answer my own questions I was underwhelmed by my experience at the Academy of Science and would say the Science Center is the Masa of the Science Center world, we know best, and don’t care what you think.  After forty five minutes I was out of things to do, the touch tank, is hidden in the basement, there are next to no interactives and the graphics are preachy; Polar Bears on melting icebergs?  An interactive  I can control where the polar bear go?  The roof is a beautiful structure, but it all seems ironic paying $24 dollars to visit a center that is saving energy by using a green roof on a $500 million dollar center.  I would rather go to the Exploratorium, with a leaking roof and learn about how I can make a difference, “it’s about me stupid, not you the institution!”  We are here to empower visitors not to shock and awe them.

P.S. Paying $4 dollars for one dumpling in the restaurant only adds insult to injury.

About Mark Walhimer

Mark is Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum planning and exhibition project management firm of interactive educational environments for Science Centers, Children's Museums and Natural History Museums. You can reach Mark at mark@walhimer.com.

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