Update: Buhl Planetarium – Summer Solstice, 2008

(Summer Solstice, the official beginning of the season of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs 2008 June 21, 0:00 Coordinated Universal Time or 2008 June 20, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time.)


Update -- Buhl Planetarium: When the Children’s Museum took over the original Buhl Planetarium for construction in 2002, several historic artifacts were moved to The Carnegie Science Center warehouse including the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector (oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!), 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope (at that time, second largest of its unique type), and the large Mercator’s Projection Map of the World (considered largest such map when installed at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York). Last September, Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Transit system approved purchase of this warehouse; they plan to demolish the warehouse to construct a light-rail transit station as the terminus of the “North Shore Connector” extension of the subway system from Downtown.


I have corresponded with the President of Carnegie Institute, Dr. David M. Hillenbrand, regarding the future storage status of the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts. In referring to the Zeiss Projector, Siderostat Telescope, and Mercator’s Map (the three artifacts with legal contracts for display and storage, between the City and The Carnegie), Dr. Hillenbrand replied, “Before the Miller Building is razed, we will move these items, along with many other assets residing in the Miller Building, to another facility where they will be stored until such time as we determine their ultimate disposition.” In April, I attempted to accompany an official Port Authority tour of the warehouse; The Carnegie Science Center refused me entry. I complained about this in a letter to Dr. Hillenbrand, in which I also noted that The Carnegie had agreed in contracts with the City that the “ultimate disposition” of the artifacts would be display in the Science Center. I also, again, asked about the status of other City-owned Buhl artifacts currently in the possession of the Science Center, of which there are no formal contracts. I have received no reply to this second letter. Enclosed is an inventory of all City-owned Buhl artifacts that were moved to The Carnegie Science Center.


In 2002, the Science Center had promised the City that the Zeiss and Mercator’s Map would be reassembled as part of a “Final Frontier” exhibit, to be built on the Science Center’s second floor near the planetarium theater by 2005; the Siderostat Telescope was to be reassembled following a $90 million reconstruction of the Science Center. In May of 2003, the $90 million expansion project was cancelled and the Zeiss reassembly was delayed a year; there was no mention of reassembly of the Siderostat or Mercator’s Map. To this date, none have been reassembled. In 2008 April, the Science Center announced that the largest robotics exhibit in the nation would open on the Science Center’s second floor in 2009. This leaves no space for the Zeiss Projector or a “Final Frontier” exhibit.


Until now, Friends of the Zeiss has been an informal organization, as we presently do not have access to the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts. However, as it is now obvious that The Carnegie Science Center has no intentions of displaying these artifacts, Friends of the Zeiss has decided to become a more formal organization, which will include raising funds for the preservation and possible use or display of the artifacts. We will then make the case to the City of Pittsburgh, legal owner of the artifacts, that we will work to provide public access to the artifacts, which The Carnegie Science Center has failed to do.


To be able to legally raise funds, it is necessary for Friends of the Zeiss to become an official non-profit corporation. So, this Summer I am starting the process that will lead to legal incorporation and non-profit IRS status of Friends of the Zeiss. In the past, we have had to decline donations, due to the fact we are not a legal non-profit organization. When our legal filings are complete and approved, we will be able to seek foundation grants and accept donations.


Other Buhl Planetarium-related News:


* Due to the fact that lighting from Pittsburgh’s new casino, which is under construction next-door to The Carnegie Science Center, may hinder astronomical observing from the Science Center, last year Science Center officials claimed that without casino lighting limitations, The Carnegie Science Center Observatory would have to be shut-down. This is despite that fact that, at the original Buhl Planetarium Observatory we were able to view the Moon, Mercury, Venus (including phase), Mars, Jupiter (including cloud belts), and stars down to third-magnitude in the daytime sky, in addition to sunspots and granulation on the surface of the Sun! After negotiations, the Majestic Star Casino agreed to lighting limitations.


* From 2007 October through 2008 May, The Carnegie Science Center hosted the very popular and very controversial “BODIES…The Exhibition.” Eleven-year Carnegie Science Center Education Department employee Elaine Catz resigned to protest the fact that the for-profit Premier Exhibitions company could not provide assurances that the real cadavers in the exhibit were not from Chinese political prisoners. While the Science Center hailed this exhibit as educational, it should be noted that Buhl Planetarium’s long-running human anatomy exhibit, “Transpara,” was sold-off by the Science Center to the Cleveland Health Museum in the mid-1990s, to be used as spare parts for their transparent woman exhibit!


* The Children’s Museum is proposing a complete reconstruction of Allegheny Square Plaza/Park. Located in front of Buhl Planetarium, it was reconstructed from Diamond Square into Ober Park at the same time Buhl was built in 1939; it was reconstructed again in the 1960s, with the construction of Allegheny Center. Although current plans are to remove the central fountain/amphitheater (to allow the park to be raised to the same level as the Buhl Planetarium building), the proposed underground parking garage has been eliminated from the plans. Also, it will remain a City park, with the Children’s Museum assisting in park maintenance.


* Children’s Museum renovation of the original Buhl Planetarium building included construction of a large window in the east wall of the first floor’s Great Hall. This resulted in removal, from the exterior wall, of a well-known astronomical inscription from the 19th Psalm of the Bible: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." This inscription became fragments, which were left, unorganized, on Buhl’s east lawn, providing borders for flower beds! Within the last couple of weeks, these inscription fragments have been removed from the east lawn. The Children’s Museum management has now accepted my suggestion that this inscription be reassembled in the rehabilitated Allegheny Square Park.


* News regarding two astronauts who credit the original Buhl Planetarium in their career decisions. – Last July, NASA introduced an interactive on-line tour of the International Space Station, hosted by Mike Fincke. In February, Space Shuttle Atlantis (Mission STS-122 to the International Space Station) was commanded by Stephen N. Frick.


* For the second year, The Carnegie Science Center is replicating an original Buhl Planetarium event: allowing admission to the Science Center on the Summer Solstice at the cost of a real snowball. Buhl Public Relations Director Jo Lee started this “Solstice Day” event in 1985.




Glenn A. Walsh              Internet Web Sites - History of Buhl Planetarium: < http://www.planetarium.cc >

P.O. Box 1041                                          Friends of the Zeiss: < http://www.friendsofthezeiss.org >

Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041  U.S.A.               Science News & Astro-Calendar < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >

Telephone: 412-561-7876                                    Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

E-Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >               Preserving Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.carnegielibraries.pghfree.net >