Get to Know Kurt Haunfelner

Kurt Haunfelner, wearing a suit and tie, stands at a podium for a speech.

As Senior Vice President for Exhibitions, Kurt Haunfelner leads and directs the exhibit development department at the California Science Center. Although he joined the team in early 2020, Kurt has been creating outstanding exhibit experiences for many years. He spent more than 15 years as the Vice President for Exhibitions at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Recently, Kurt and his wife had a necessity to return to Southern California to care for aging parents. The opportunity to join the Science Center team came about as a result of Diane Perlov's retirement, who, as the previous head of the exhibit development department, had been a valued colleague of Kurt’s for many years. Because the California Science Center is a world-class science center, the position was too enticing for Kurt to pass up!

Throughout the nearly 40-year course of his career, Kurt has been fortunate to work on some extraordinary exhibit projects. At Cape Kennedy, he led the design and production of the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The Apollo/Saturn V Center pays homage to the people and machines that made the improbable possible during the Apollo era, culminating with landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth.

Kurt also led the design and production of two award-winning exhibitions created by the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago—Smart Home: Green + Wired and Science Storms. Smart Home: Green + Wired featured a 2,500-sq.-ft. fully functional “eco-friendly home of tomorrow” constructed in the museum’s courtyard. This smart home was the first of architect Michelle Kaufmann’s modular designs. It used renewable construction materials and demonstrated sustainable strategies for energy consumption and food production. Science Storms gives guests the opportunity to investigate large-scale phenomena in the natural world using scientific concepts of chemistry and physics. Kurt has worked closely with some of the most talented architects, graphic and dimensional designers, and arts and software developers in the country. That said, his most gratifying experience has been mentoring and supporting the growth of so many young colleagues who have gone on to do great things in their careers.

Given Kurt’s previous work, it's not surprising that his favorite exhibit at the California Science Center is the Ecosystems Kelp Forest. Kurt admires how it successfully depicts the unique beauty of this aquatic environment and the delicate balance between humans and nature. In his view, "The daily interaction of our divers with the myriad of sea life represented is a wonderful way to inspire our guests to take a personal interest in caring for these fragile ecosystems."

At the California Science Center, Kurt establishes the exhibit development department’s priorities, guides the creative process, and ensures that the design teams have the resources they need to be successful. He works closely with our President/CEO and the executive staff to make sure that the exhibits the department develops fit with the institution’s needs and priorities. And he works closely with exhibit sponsors, content contributors, board members and community partners to make our exhibit development process as inclusive as possible.

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Kurt's take on science and technology

"Science is the catalyst that drives human progress. Without it, we'd still be lighting candles and communicating by Pony Express! Science explores the world with an open mind. It seeks to understand without bias. It is deeply creative and aspirational, and gives us hope in our capacity to build a better world. It is not perfect. It struggles with the same imperfections and frailties that define the human experience. But it is fundamentally optimistic and expresses the best in us...our capacity to reach beyond self-interest for the good of all. I'm grateful to play a small role in inspiring visitors, and especially our youth, to participate in everything science has to offer!"

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