Ontario Science Centre (OSC) is a science museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, near the Don Valley Parkway about 11 km 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.
At the time the OSC was famous around the world for its hands on approach to science, which was later duplicated in San Francisco's Exploratorium and Detroit's Museum of Science and Technology. Unlike the traditional museum where the exhibits are there to be looked at, the majority of the exhibits at the OSC were interactive, while many others were live demonstrations (metalworking for example). Its Communications room was particularly well-loved, containing a number of computerized displays, including a very popular tic-tac-toe game run on a PDP-11.
The centre was a huge attraction in the 1970s, but by the early 1980s visiting rates had dropped considerably. Most of the displays were the originals, and were now either outdated, worn out, or broken. During the 1990s these issues were addressed by opening the OSC to corporate funding. In 1996 the province's first OMNIMAX theatre opened in an expanded entranceway area, and additional changes soon followed. The most recent of these changes is the $40 million Agents of Change project, the final phase of which opened in June 2006.
The Centre has several hundred interactive and passive exhibits throughout the buildings. They feature everything in science and nature. 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 now been refurbished and reopened to the public, featuring Toronto's only operating planetarium, as well as one of the few Moon rocks on public display in the Canada.
The OSC has a main area just in from the entranceway that is often used to demonstrate travelling shows, which sometimes spill out into the adjacent outdoor areas. Special shows in recent years have included:
As originally built, the OSC 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 become the main centerpiece of Exploration Plaza (Teluscape), which opened to the public 2006 September 20th. The new fountain is also a hydraulophone (and a hydraulic-action pipe organ) in 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 division (north division and south 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 three inch diameter water line, as well as air from three Ingersol Rand four cylinder air compressors, each having a 25 horsepower 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.
For the winter of November 21, 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 woodwind instrument.
Many special events extend the operating hours. For example, during the BodyWorlds exhibit, the exhibit hall was open 24 hours a day. More recently, during Star Stories, the 2006 Halloween party (story telling, stargazing, etc.) the Centre was also open late. All of the outdoor lights were shut down to help increase visibility in the night sky. The event also included readings of ghost stories, and a children's costume party.
Even when there are no special events, Teluscape, the outdoor exhibit space, remains open on a 24 hour basis.