Museum FAQs

What is SFO Museum?

SFO Museum is a multifaceted cultural program located within San Francisco International Airport. The Museum features rotating exhibitions on a variety of subjects in galleries located throughout the terminals; interactive play areas; and a distinct museum and library dedicated to the history of commercial aviation, with exhibitions, research services, and educational programs provided to the public free of charge. 

Why does SFO have a museum?

SFO Museum exists to enhance the Airport environment and provide a rich cultural and educational experience for approximately 50 million travelers visiting SFO each year and approximately 30 thousand people who work at the Airport. The program is a reflection of the priority given to art and culture in San Francisco, and it is an important aspect of the Airport’s industry-leading efforts to provide the best possible passenger experience.

When was SFO Museum launched?

SFO Museum began in 1980 as a collaboration between the San Francisco Airport Commission and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. From relatively modest beginnings with a single exhibition space, the program quickly expanded with galleries located throughout the terminals. The program was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1999, becoming the first and only accredited museum to be located in an airport.

What does being “an accredited museum” mean?

Accreditation means that a prospective museum has met or exceeded a rigorous set of standards governing its ability to safely borrow, transport, handle, and exhibit a variety of material. Once conferred, accreditation provides assurance to potential lenders that they can confidently loan material and trust their exhibition partner with its care, handling, and curatorial treatment.

How many galleries are there?

There are twenty-five galleries located throughout the Airport’s terminals.

How often do the exhibitions change?

Most galleries typically feature new exhibitions every six months, while those dedicated to photography and student art rotate every two to three months. A few of the Museum’s sites feature permanent exhibitions dedicated to an aspect of commercial aviation history. A current schedule of what is currently viewable may be found by clicking here.

Can I visit a gallery without a boarding pass?

Yes. Of the twenty-five gallery sites, only nine are located beyond security checkpoints.  Exhibits and public art located beyond a security checkpoint can be viewed without a boarding pass by prior arrangement with SFO Museum. Please contact for additional details and to schedule a visit. A map of galleries and public art is below:

Who produces the exhibitions?

SFO Museum’s staff of dedicated professionals are responsible for all aspects of exhibition production: curators who conceive exhibitions, select objects, and write gallery labels; registrars who arrange the objects’ transportation and supervise their care and handling while at our facilities; designers who create the visual layout for each exhibition; and preparators who produce custom mounts and furniture, and carefully install the art in galleries located throughout the Airport’s terminals.

Where do the exhibited objects come from?

Most exhibited objects belong to our exhibition partners, both private and public, and are borrowed only for the duration of each exhibition. 

Does SFO Museum keep a permanent collection of objects?

Yes. SFO Museum maintains a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts and books relating to the history of commercial aviation, with an emphasis on the West Coast and the Pacific Region.

Where does SFO Museum exhibit its permanent collection?

SFO Museum presents rotating exhibitions from its permanent collection in five galleries located within the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. This facility is located prior to security checkpoints on the A side of the International Terminal Main Hall. Click here for link to hours and directions.

Are the fine arts on permanent exhibit part of SFO Museum?

The paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations at SFO belong to the collection of the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC). SFO Museum partners with SFAC to maintain more than eighty works on permanent exhibit in locations throughout the Airport’s terminals. View map below for locations of public artworks throughout the terminals.

Gallery and Public Art Map
How do I contact SFO Museum?

SFO Museum welcomes comments and suggestions from the public. We can be reached by email at or by telephone at 650.821.6700. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 8097, San Francisco, CA, 94128. Inquiries specific to the aviation library and museum may be sent to