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Ecsite's history

  • February 2020
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Founding meeting of Ecsite in Paris in 1989 at Cité des sciences / ® B Baudin

Ecsite was founded in January 1989 by 23 organisations from the young European science centres scene. Over the past decades, the association has grown considerably in size and scope, adapting to its members' changing social role and organisational needs. 

Many of the science centres that opened their doors in Western Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s took inspiration from the North American interactive science-technology centres movement, in particular the world-renowned Ontario Science Centre and San Francisco Exploratorium. The idea to create a network to facilitate co-operation among European science centres emerged in autumn 1988 in Boston during a meeting of ASTC, the Association of Science Technology Centres. Ecsite's formal birth as an international non-profit organisation under Belgian jurisdiction followed in 1991.

Ecsite is the acronym of “European Collaborative for Science, Industry and Technology Exhibitions”, the organisation’s initial name. Over the years, Ecsite’s mission broadened and its membership widened to reach more than 320 organisations today. About a hundred professionals attended the first Ecsite Conference in The Hague in 1990… when the conference came back to the same city for its 25th anniversary in 2014, it brought together one thousand people!

More on Ecsite's history

  • Watch this film made to celebrate 30 years of Ecsite.
  • Browse through the "Ecsite memories" photo album.
  • Read a series of interviews with five people who played a crucial role in founding and building Ecsite, published in the Spokes magazine for Ecsite's 30th anniversary.
  • Learn more about the history of science centres and Ecsite's role in driving the European field forward in Vincenzo Lipardi's article "The Evolution and Worldwide Expansion of Science Centres", in Science Centres and Science Events - A Science Communication handbook, Bruyas and Riccio (eds.), Springer, 2013, pp. 49-61.
  • Read the 25th anniversary wishes that Brigitte Coutant, who was Treasurer, Chair of the Annual Conference Programme Committee and Vice-President of Ecsite over the years, wrote in 2014.
  • Discover a series of contributions to Ecsite's history from the mid 2000s. Includes words by: Walter Staveloz, Executive Director of Ecsite until January 2006; John Durant, President of Ecsite during 2001-2002; and many other science centre Directors


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