Speaker: Glenn A. Walsh
Statement Before the Board of Directors of the
Allegheny Regional Asset District
Regarding the Future of the Historic Equipment of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science
2001 August 27
Good evening. My name is Glenn A. Walsh; I reside at 633 Royce Avenue in Mount Lebanon. From 1982 to 1992, I held several positions at the original Buhl Planetarium, including Planetarium Lecturer, Astronomical Observatory Coordinator, and Curator of the Embryology Exhibit where chicks were hatched each weekend.
In their 2002 budget request, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum is asking the Allegheny Regional Asset District for four million dollars, to aid in the construction of an expanded Pittsburgh Children's Museum and Center, which would include the dismantling of two historic scientific instruments in Buhl Planetarium:
1) Zeiss II Planetarium Projector--the oldest operable, major planetarium projector in the world !
housed on a rather unique Westinghouse "worm-gear" elevator; the Zeiss II was the first projector in the world to be placed on an elevator, to allow greater flexibility in the "Theater of the Stars."
2) 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope--second largest operable Siderostat telescope in the world !
The proposal, by Carnegie Science Center Planetarium Director John Radzilowicz, to duplicate the original "Theater of the Stars," for use of the Zeiss II projector at the Science Center building, is disingenuous. Ten years ago it cost $600,000 to build a 50-foot diameter domed theater for the new planetarium; this theater did not include an elevator pit. This cost also did not include $300,000 for the Digistar I Planetarium Projector or $66,000 for the new telescope and observatory. As the Zeiss II projector requires a 65-foot diameter domed theater for proper operation, the cost to build such a new theater, today, would be nearly a million dollars. Considering that the Science Center already has a state-of-the-art planetarium, it is highly unlikely that the Science Center Board of Trustees would approve such an expensive project.
Thus, if the equipment is ever reassembled--and, this is a big "if"--they will be reduced to unusable artifacts. Pittsburgh will lose the oldest operable, major planetarium projector in the world, which still provides a superb display of the stars. And, will future technicians know how to reassemble something as complex as the
Zeiss II projector ?
The Buhl Planetarium building has five exhibit galleries, which can be used by the Children's Museum. There is no reason to convert the historic "Theater of the Stars" into an additional exhibit gallery as they plan to do. With the Zeiss II projector below floor level and out-of-the-way when not in use, they can use the theater for other assemblages.
The Zeiss II projector and the Siderostat telescope must remain operational in the Buhl Planetarium building. As an unpaid volunteer, I would be willing to give occasional demonstrations of this historic equipment to the public. I, respectfully, ask that the Board of Directors of the Allegheny Regional Asset District provide no funds for construction of an expanded Pittsburgh Children's Museum and Center, until it is assured that Allegheny County residents can still benefit from the use of this historic equipment in the Buhl Planetarium building.
History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh:
< http://www.planetarium.cc >