Sparking imagination and inquiry through exposure to the awe and wonder inherent in astronomy is the goal of Griffith Observatory’s exhibit program.
Each visitor is cast in the role of an observer and provided with opportunities to see and do real observing in authentic environments. By exploring fundamental questions – what do we observe, how do we observe it, and why it is important – the exhibits prompt visitors to ponder their own relationship with the universe. Each major exhibit area focuses on a unique aspect of human observation of the sky and space.
Explore the Observatory
Putting Eyeball to Eyepiece
Griffith Observatory is one of the premier public observatories in the world. One of the principle reasons is the presence and regular availability of high-quality public telescopes. Griffith J. Griffith wanted the public to have the opportunity to look through a telescope, which he felt might broaden human perspective. Mounted in the copper-clad domes on either end of the building, the Zeiss and solar telescopes are free to the public every day and night the building is open, and the sky is clear.
Wilder Hall of the Eye
The Evolution of Human Observing
The Wilder Hall of the Eye illustrates the nature and progress of human observation of the sky and the tools used for that exploration. This exhibit gallery focuses on how people have observed the sky, and the often profound impact those observations have had on people and society. Each of the four Wilder Hall of the Eye exhibit areas charts the key developments that have further evolved our ability to help our eyes see farther, fainter, and beyond.
Ahmanson Hall of the Sky
The Sun, Moon, and Earth
The Sun and Moon dominate our sky and measure the march of time. Sunrise, sunset, and the passing of years and seasons – as well as the restless tides, monthly Moon phases, and awe-inspiring eclipses – occur because the Earth and Moon move in relation to the Sun and each other. The Sun is the most dynamic object in the sky. It warms our planet and makes life possible. As the closest star to Earth, it also offers us a glimpse into the nature of all stars.
Keck Central Rotunda
Artistry, Myth, Science, and the Observatory
At the nexus of the original Observatory building, the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda celebrates the intersection of science and mythology, Earth and sky, and the man whose vision brought the Observatory into being.
The Sparkling Ribbon of Time
Unimaginably vast and continuously changing, the universe has been growing larger for nearly 14 billion years. We are connected to the origin of the universe by the sparkling ribbon of time that reaches from the Big Bang to today, when we observe what the universe is, understand what it is doing, and appreciate how long all of this has been going on. Nearly 2,200 pieces of celestial jewelry form the Observatory timeline, thanks to longtime Friends Of The Observatory board member Kara Knack. The cosmic shapes and designs of the pieces symbolize astronomical objects and our connection with them.
Edge of Space
Understanding Space from Earth
The mezzanine overlooking the Richard and Lois Gunther Depths of Space exhibit gallery provides visitors with an experience that bridges the more familiar Earth-bound orientation toward the universe with a more cosmic perspective informed by the most sophisticated astronomical instruments ever built. The zone showcases samples of the universe that come to Earth from space or that we acquire through space exploration.
Gunther Depths of Space
Observing the Modern Universe
Space exploration transformed our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. As we learned more about the sky, our horizons broadened. What we once could detect only with our eyes, we now explore with technology. Today our telescopes and space probes reveal landscapes on other worlds and detect planets around other stars. Our observing tools have extended our vision out to the stars, to the earliest galaxies, and back to nearly the beginning of time. Now, we can clearly see our place in the universe. We can feel at home in the cosmos.
From Sun and Sky to Sea and Sign!
The grounds of the Observatory present compelling opportunities to observe the movement of the Sun and Moon and to walk a scale model of the solar system. Looming over the lawn is a monumental sculpture celebrating astronomers who gradually revealed the nature of the universe. The terraces offer vistas of Los Angeles, Griffith Park, Mt. Wilson, the Pacific Ocean, and, of course, the famous Hollywood Sign.
Creating an Exhibit Program
The renovation and expansion of Griffith Observatory from 2002-2006 offered the opportunity to rethink the building’s entire exhibit program. But even with 20,000 square feet of exhibition space in the expanded building, an exhaustive exploration of astronomy was neither practical nor desirable. Instead, the exhibit program is focused on human observation, how it has changed over the years, and what observation tells us about our universe. This aligned the exhibits with the Observatory’s principal mission: using the building to turn visitors into observers.