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Museums Making a Summer Splash

June 14, 1998

Aiming to catch the summer tourist wave, several major museums are opening or expanding this month. Among them:

* Central California: The $10.3-million National Steinbeck Center, opening June 27 in Salinas, aims to re-create the sights, sounds and characters of native son John Steinbeck's books. It has exhibits where visitors can crank up a 1917 Model T; stroll through a re-created tent city and laborers' cabins a la "The Grapes of Wrath"; view films based on Steinbeck's books; and check out the author's camper from "Travels With Charley." Adult admission $7. Information: telephone (408) 753-6411.

* Maine: The $10-million Center for the Wyeth Family, opening June 21 in a remodeled 1870s church building at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, features Maine scenes painted by N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth of the famous painting dynasty. Although the inaugural exhibit, "Wondrous Strange," comes from several sources, the new center will eventually display selections from 4,500 works recently provided by the Wyeth family. Adult admission $9. Information: tel. (207) 596-6457.

* Germany: The Gemaldegalerie (picture gallery) at the Kulturforum, opened last week in Berlin, displays about 1,300 mostly German and Dutch artworks from the 13th to the 18th centuries, including works by Rembrandt, Holbein and other masters. It reunites a collection that was split between East and West Berlin when the city was divided after World War II. Adult admission about $4.80. Information: tel. 011-49-30-20-90-5555.

* San Diego: The Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center has changed its name to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, more than doubled in size and opened five new galleries in Balboa Park. Current exhibits let visitors take a "virtual trip" to Mars, play mathematical "brain games" and "tour" the human heart. In addition, the IMAX theater, cafe, store and educational space have been expanded and upgraded. Adult admission starts at $4. Information: (619) 238-1233.

* Canada: The $13-million "African Savanna" exhibit, opened June 2 at the Toronto Zoo after 10 years of work, displays cheetahs, lions, giraffes and other wildlife in a re-created, 30-acre African landscape. It includes a bazaar of African crafts, group campsites and a restaurant. Adult admission about $9. Information: tel. (416) 392-5900.

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