Author: Jim Price
August 22, 2001
Board of Directors of the Allegheny Regional Asset District
Dear members of the board,
Please excuse me for not presenting the following comments in person at your
August 27, 2001 meeting. It is just impractical for me to attend, as much as I would like to visit Pittsburgh again.
By way of introduction, let me state that I was born in Pittsburgh in 1949 and enjoyed the many educational opportunities there until I left for college in 1967. One of those educational opportunities was the Buhl Planetarium, where I attended regular meetings of the Astronomy Club, participated in science fairs, and spent many additional hours there enjoying and learning from the exhibits, the world famous Zeiss planetarium, and the somewhat unique Siderostat telescope.
My life-long fascination with the natural world and my decision to pursue a career in science was based largely on my experiences there. The place holds special significance for me and even for some of my childhood friends who chose
non-science careers. I cannot imagine Pittsburgh without the Buhl Planetarium.
When I was last able to visit Pittsburgh, in 1997, I visited the north side especially to see the planetarium building again. Although the new science center is a wonderful learning asset for the city's youth, I was sorry to see the Buhl no longer in active use. Even compared against modern planetariums with their advanced electronics and optics, the images produced by the Zeiss projector are superb, and both it and the telescope are living examples of technological history that are rare to find now anywhere in the world. The gadgets themselves are an education in technology.
Through friends, I have learned about the proposed Pittsburgh Children's Museum, and I think it is a superb idea. I am writing this letter to implore you to find a way to accommodate the full needs and purpose of the new museum and simultaneously preserve the planetarium and telescope in their original, specially built facility. The child in me that still looks skyward some nights with the same thrill and fascination he enjoyed 40 years ago sitting in the Buhl Planetarium can see no incompatibility in doing so. Kids are natural explorers, and the planetarium and the telescope are means of exploration. They would be wonderful and educationally valuable components of the museum, which would in turn pay tribute to several generations of Pittsburgh's children who, in whole or in part, found their love of nature and
life-long careers at the Buhl Planetarium.
Thanks for your kind consideration, Jim Price, Haymarket, Virginia