Ontario Science Centre

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Ontario Science Centre
Ontario Science Centre Logo.svg
Current (and original) OSC logo
Ontario Science Centre is located in Toronto
Ontario Science Centre
Location of the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto
Established September 26, 1969 (1969-09-26)
Location 770 Don Mills Road
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates 43°43′00″N 79°20′18″W / 43.71667°N 79.33833°W / 43.71667; -79.33833
Type Science museum
Director Maurice Bitran, CEO
Brian Chu, Chair
Website http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/
A view of the Ontario Science Centre in 2006, including the Teluscape plaza in front of the building
An alternative view of the Centre

Ontario Science Centre (French: Centre des sciences de l'Ontario) is a science museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, near the Don Valley Parkway about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) northeast of downtown on Don Mills Road just south of Eglinton Avenue East. It is built down the side of a wooded ravine formed by one branch of the Don River located in Flemingdon Park.


Planning for the centre started in 1961 during Toronto's massive expansion of the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1964, Toronto architect Raymond Moriyama[1] was hired to design the site. The design, consisting of three main buildings connected by a series of bridges and escalators, follows the natural contours of the Don River ravine, into which the Centre descends. Construction started in 1966 with plans to make it a part of the city's 1967 Canadian Centennial celebrations. It was first officially named the "Centennial Centre of Science and Technology". However construction was not complete in 1967, and the Science Centre did not open to the public until two years later, on September 26, 1969.[2]

At the time, the Science Centre was a pioneer for its hands on approach to science, along with San Francisco's Exploratorium and Detroit's Museum of Science and Technology. Unlike a traditional museum, where the exhibits are for viewing only, the majority of the exhibits at the Science Centre were interactive, while many others were live demonstrations (metalworking for example). The Communications room contained a number of computerized displays, including a very popular tic-tac-toe game run on a PDP-11 minicomputer.

The centre was very popular during the 1970s, but by the mid- to late 1980s, visiting rates had dropped considerably. Most of the displays were the originals, and had become either outdated, or worn out. During the 1990s, these issues were addressed by opening the Science Centre to corporate funding. The most recent of these changes is the $40 million "Agents of Change" project, the final phase of which opened in July 2006.


A rock from outer space displayed at Ontario Science Centre.

The Centre has several hundred interactive and passive exhibits throughout the buildings. They feature geology, the science of nature (in the west wing), astronomical science, how to play music and technology in the south wing, human anatomy, communication and bias, and some miscellaneous artifacts of science.

The astronomical wing, which was closed for renovation since Pluto's demotion in August 2006, has been refurbished in the late 2000s and reopened to the public, featuring Toronto's only operating planetarium, as well as one of the few Mars and Moon rocks on public display in Canada. Canadian astronaut Julie Payette recorded narration for several of the exhibits (some of which were updated to reflect the fact Pluto was no longer considered a planet).

The Great Hall is home to a massive, computer-controlled kinetic sculpture, Cloud, by Toronto installation artist David Rokeby.

The Centre hosted Harry Potter The Exhibition, a collection of props from the film series. The exhibit opened on 9 April 2010 and ran until Labour Day 2010.[3] Recent major exhibitions have included Body Worlds. Opened between late 2011 and early 2012, a temporary exhibit was Leonardo da Vinci's Workshop, featuring physical models of da Vinci's inventions, built from drawings in his Codices. It also included interactive touch-screen digital reproductions of his Codices, the Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper. The latest temporary exhibition is Game On 2.0, a video game history exhibition, running 9 March – 2 September 2013.[4]

Agents of Change[edit]

In 2001 the Centre embarked on a capital project called Agents of Change, which focuses on innovation and will renew about one quarter of the Centre’s public space, including the creation of seven new experience areas. Up to March 31, 2011, the Centre has received approximately $43 million of contributions, $16.5 million of which was received from the government of Ontario and the remainder from private sector companies or individuals.[5]

Ontario Science Centre Science School[edit]

The Ontario Science Centre Science School (OSCSS) offers credited grade 12 University Preparation courses in 3 of the following of the student's choice: Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, and Advanced Functions. Students from all over Ontario apply and are selected to spend a semester at the OSCSS. The OSCSS offers enriched learning in small and informal classes of no more than 30 students. While at the Science Centre, students earn practicum hours through volunteering and interacting with the visitors.[6]

Ontario Science Centre Aquatic Play Fountain[edit]

Musician playing on the South Fountain
World's largest outdoor hydraulophone which is publicly accessible 24 hours-a-day
Playing range of the 45-jet hydraulophone

As originally built, the Science Centre had a large fountain area directly in front of the entranceway, located to create a traffic roundabout. The original water fountain has been rejuvenated to provide a more welcoming and accessible entrance to the Science Centre. The new plaza, named "Teluscape Exploration Plaza", was designed by Reich + Petch Architects and EDA Collaborative. It opened to the public on 20 September 2006, and is accessible at all times.

The new fountain is also a hydraulophone designed by installation artist Steve Mann. It is a hydraulic-action pipe organ which anyone walking into the space can play . Blocking the flow of any one of the 57 water jets in the fountain forces the water across to a corresponding organ pipe, where it makes a loud sound as the water is forced out through the speaking mouth of the pipe. The lowest 12 notes in each pipe division of the organ are visible as pipes arranged in a circle. The North Division consists of stopped hydrapaisons (similar to diapaisons but running on water rather than air), whereas the South Division pipes are open at both ends (sound emerges from the ends rather than from a mouth as with the North pipes). The North organ console consists of 12 water jets, whereas the south console consists of 45 water jets.

The organ is supplied with water from three Pentair pumps, supplying water at a rate of 130 gallons per minute, each by way of a 3 inches (7.6 cm) diameter water line, as well as air from three Ingersol Rand four-cylinder air compressors, each having a 25 horsepower (19 kW) motor. Since the instrument runs on both air and water, it may be regarded as a hybrid hydraulophone and pneumatophone, but because it is played by blocking water jets rather than air holes, it is principally a hydraulophone.

The fountain must be shut down and drained to avoid freezing damage during the cold season. On 21 November 2007, the aquatic play facility was temporarily switched from water operation to air operation, effectively becoming perhaps one of the first pneumatic-play facilities, where visitors can frolic in a fountain of air jets. In this mode of operation, the fountain becomes a wind instrument. The hydraulophone may not be present during the winter months.


In 1990, it was revealed the Ontario Science Centre had signed a contract with Oman to design a children's museum. The Ontario Science Centre had agreed to boycott Israeli goods and services while under contract.[7] The Ontario Science Centre later amended the contract to specify that all goods sold to Oman would be produced in North America.[8] The centre's Director General Mark Abbott was later sacked for knowingly signing the original contract.[9]


The OSC is affiliated with the CMA, CHIN, and Virtual Museum of Canada. The OSC is a member of the international Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).


  1. ^ "Moriyama & Teshima". Mtarch.com. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  2. ^ "40 Years of Innovation". Ontario Science Centre. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  3. ^ "Harry Potter™: The Exhibition to cast a spell on the Ontario Science Centre". Ontario Science Centre. Retrieved 2014-05-31. 
  4. ^ "Ontario Science Centre Hosts World’s Biggest Video Game Celebration with Canadian Premiere of GAME ON 2.0". Ontario Science Centre. Retrieved 2014-05-31. 
  5. ^ "Crossing Boundaries 2010/2011". Ontario Science Centre. Retrieved 2014-05-31. 
  6. ^ "Ontario Science Centre: Science School". Ontariosciencecentre.ca. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  7. ^ Eggertson, Laura (15 November 1990). "Science Centre's Oman contract boycotted Israel". Kitchener - Waterloo Record. 
  8. ^ "Cohon rejects blame for science centre deal". Toronto Star. 21 November 1990. 
  9. ^ Brennan, Pat (20 November 1990). "The Ontario Science Centre's fired director-general says he should have been sacked in July if a controversial contract he signed was wrong.". Toronto Star. 

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