It's the time of year when many of us are racing through SFO, either eager or reluctant to see those benighted family members who don't live here in paradise. One of the few upsides to waiting in the TSA line for a ritual scanning or groping, though, is the chance to see the amazing range of art and other exhibits that SFO Museum offers beyond the security checkpoints. Because we're staying local for the holidays, Curator-in-Charge of Exhibitions Tim O'Brien invited SFist for a visit behind the scenes.

SFO Museum was created back in 1980, and in 1999 it became the first and only accredited airport museum in the country. Today with a staff of 30 artisans, curators and other museum professionals, they mount around 40 shows each year, covering subjects including fine art, history, aviation, pop culture and more. The gem that drew our recent attention is a Terminal 2 exhibit of fascinating old San Francisco maps and other images from the Gold Rush to the 1906 Earthquake, drawn from local cartographic guru David Rumsey's historical maps collection. But even without a plane ticket or an official laminated "visitor" badge to get you behind the TSA curtain, there is an incredible range of goodies to see "pre-security." In the International Terminal alone there are eight different exhibition areas, including the fantastic Aviation Museum & Library, and of course two different food courts.

So if you're headed through SFO be sure to add some extra time to enjoy the exhibits, or if you'll be here through the holidays hop on BART with us (SFO is easier to get to than the Legion of Honor for many). We can make a day of it. (More pictures here.)