Last night, 11 residents said the request to the Allegheny Regional Asset District for the 2002 budget would include the dismantling of two historic instruments in Buhl Planetarium -- the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and a 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope.
The expansion cost of the Children's Museum and Center is approximately $25 million. The project is to start next spring.
Glenn A. Walsh of Mt. Lebanon led the charge against the expansion money, which will be presented by the Children's Museum at a budget presentation Sept. 6 at 6:05 p.m.
Walsh worked for Buhl Planetarium from 1982-92 as lecturer, astronomical observatory coordinator and curator of the embryology exhibit.
He said the loss of the planetarium's two most visible resources would be catastrophic to the children of Pittsburgh.
In a prepared statement to the RAD board, Glenn said the Zeiss II is the world's oldest operable major planetarium projector. It was the first to be placed on an elevator to allow greater flexibility in the "Theater of the Stars."
Also, the Siderostat-type refractor telescope is the second-largest of its kind in operation.
"We can't lose a piece of our history," he said.
Glenn said the equipment, if dismantled and reassembled, would 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," he said. "Will future technicians know how to reassemble something as complex as the Zeiss II projector?"
Glenn also said he's willing to be an unpaid volunteer and give occasional demonstrations to the public on how the historic equipment works.
He asked the RAD board to deny the funds until it is assured county residents can still benefit from the historic equipment at Buhl Planetarium.
Francis Graham, another former planetarium employee, also disagreed with the budget request and insisted the equipment remains very functional.
Judy Madden, a former Buhl volunteer with two children, said dismantling the equipment is taking away an education tool.
"I benefited a great deal from the Buhl Planetarium and to lose that piece of history would be bad for the planetarium as well as the children," she said.
Mark Mintak(Note: this is a mistake; the reporter is really referring to Timm Barczy.) summed it up by saying losing the equipment at Buhl equates to Philadelphia losing the Liberty Bell.
"The Zeiss II and Siderostat are the icons of Pittsburgh," he said. "They are old, but very functional and operable."
Board Member Gerald Voros said he understands the concerns. He said it's a city problem, however, and RAD may have no say in the matter.
"We've heard you," he said. "I'm not sure what can be done, but you have been heard."
History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh