Airports can seem a bit drab and deprived of cultural stimulation -- the massively high ceilings supported by steel beam colonnades of many of the world's airports can make these transit environments appear distant and cold.
But like everything else in San Francisco, our airport makes an effort to be different and it tries to bring a bit of Bay Area humanity and savvy into those hollow waiting rooms and terminal corridors.San Francisco International Airport has been bringing education and fun (yes, airports can be like this) for the past 34 years.
So while you're waiting to board your next flight, you can let your imagination take flight at the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum -- the first and only museum in an airport to receive accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.
According to the official museum biography, the San Francisco Airport Commission collaborated with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1980 to create an exhibition program at SFO. The first year was a public success, and the museum was founded to produce and curate frequently rotating exhibits that would "humanize the airport environment and reflect the cultural life of the San Francisco Bay Area."
In 2014, there are now more than 20 gallery spaces displaying a wide range of traveling exhibits dealing with art, history, culture, and science. But in the International Terminal, one will find the main aviation museum and library..
The museum is an architectural adaptation of a 1930s aerial passenger lobby with its aged wood paneling and vintage pattern title flooring. The permanent collection is geared toward West Coast aviation history and as expected, is buzzing with a plethora of made-to-scale model planes from different eras of flight.
The best part of the SFO museum is that you don't need a boarding pass to visit. It is completely free and open to the public -- also meaning that you don't have to patted down and groped by TSA either.
But this museum goes the extra (frequent flyer) mile: the main collections and artifacts are available online in a database format (more than 13,000 artifacts) for your viewing pleasure. Plus their Instagram account is pretty comprehensive, thus also making it into our top 10 San Francisco-based feeds to follow.
There are also five temporary exhibits as well, and the museum has graciously provided a map of where those displays are located.
So whether you crash land a visit in person or explore the museum online, just remember to enjoy the educational aviation ride and that it's Okay to leave your head in the clouds. Just remember to fasten your seat belts and locate the nearest emergency exit.