Born in Cochin, India, I have gravitated to museums, science centers and aquariums throughout most of my professional life. Trained at the Smithsonian, I studied at BITS Pilani, University of Toronto, Yale and the Getty Leadership Institute. I was more interested in setting up museums than working in them, which led me to more than 100 design-build opportunities in 11 countries with a portfolio exceeding $450 million. These included museum assignments on a range of academic disciplines, including science, math, life-sciences, paleontology, entomology, astronomy, art, design, nature conservancy, racing cars, space and rocket science, marine biology and philately, to name a few. Each provided creative learning opportunities at a personal level and generated a public presence that ultimately served a larger societal purpose.
While pursuing museum assignments, I also kept up a speaking circuit around the world, sharing my experiences with graduate students specializing in museum studies and inter-disciplinary fields. Most recently, I was tapped to be the President and CEO of a non-profit watershed conservation group in the San Francisco Bay Area, that includes the Aquarium of the Bay – the only Smithsonian-affiliated facility of its kind in California, on Pier #39 and the Sea Lion Center on K-Docks.
The aquarium that currently holds 23,000 animals in 750,000-gallon saltwater tanks and tunnels is long due for a complete makeover. This presented an opportunity to re-think the premise. The Embarcadero gets over 15 million tourists each year–3 million more than the Golden Gate Bridge! Working quickly with an international team of experts, we conceived the BAY ECOTARIUM–a living museum dedicated to climate and ocean conservation with an enhanced aquarium and deep ocean exploration launch and learn center at its core. The vision for the $200 million environmental edifice was unveiled last fall, with the iconic iridescent landmark institution to address climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, renewable energy, current research, ocean ecosystems, marine life, endangered species protection, environmental policy and a grass-roots movement for cutting-edge exhibit technologies and content delivery platforms. The project has a 2022 opening date. To learn more, visit www.bayecotarium.org.
George Jacob is the President & CEO of Bay.Org, the largest watershed conservation group in the Bay Area with a mission for environmental sustainability from Sierra to the Sea, through its six branches and staff of 200. He is the author of seven books on the future of museum planning and design and has delivered over 100 museum projects in his career. He serves on the Boards of International Council of Museums Canada and ICOM-ICTOP, Paris, among others.