LOCAL PLANETARIUM PROMISES EDUCATION, FUN FOR YOUTH.
What is a planetarium? This is a question which would be easier to answer in conversation than in writing. Why? Well, partly because only in conversation can the real enthusiasm of a person who has actually seen a planetarium show come across. And partly because as one learns about what a planetarium is, many questions would arise in his mind that will require answers.
Nevertheless, to say it as plainly as possible, a planetarium is a space science classroom, which contains instruments for stimulating the brilliant shows which occur in the earth's night sky. Robert Johnson is acting director of Chicago's Adler Planetarium states the general philosophy of public service by the institution: "The planetarium must be an authoritative source of scientific information and concepts, a site of pleasurable education, a place for constructive use of leisure time, and the medium through which one may be inspired by the 'theatre of the night sky.' "
In a planetarium one can see the night sky as it would appear if he were gazing at it from the middle of the Sahara Desert - or from the ice peaks of Alaska. One could also see the sky as it appeared to the shepherds on the night of Christ's birth or to Galileo when he investigated the Milky Way.
The awe-inspiring spectaculars that can be presented by these versatile instruments are endless. Thus a planetarium can both entertain and educate those who participate in its activities.
Because of the adventures of our astronauts and the "space race that constantly goes on, the average adult has become aware of his great lack of knowledge in this area. The planetarium in Lafayette will serve to increase adult knowledge by dispelling the mystery that surrounds the heavens without destroying the majesty. It will provide "space classes" which are expected to account for a tremendous boost in space-science knowledge for area children. In many areas where planetariums have been in existence, men and women credit them with having been the inspiration that led them into space science as a career.
Across the nation these, these "space - science classrooms' provide varied services. New York's Hayden Planetarium is typical of the nation's major installations of this type. For boating enthusiasts, courses are presented in dead-reckoning and celestial navigation. Hayden's course in "Astronomy for Engineers" is designed to give physicists and engineers engaged in aeronautics and space exploration an orientation to various aspects of astronomy. Community programs in science education are conducted for outstanding high school students, with the National Science Foundation cooperating in the project. With the backing of the same foundation, Hayden also conducts an in-service institute for elementary school teachers.
Griffith Planetarium in Los Angles devotes its morning "sky shows" to pupils in surrounding school systems. Some 2,500 students a week receive basic instruction in astronomy from professions. At Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh almost 1,000 youngsters turn vacation time into a "learn while playing" situation by enrolling in special 10-week courses because - as officials put it "science is fun at Buhl Planetarium." Demonstrations, lectures, festivals, science fairs all bring Pittsburgh's children closer to their "space-science classroom."
Thus, then is a planetarium - a circus which provides fun; a classroom which supplies knowledge; and an awesome display which inspires wonder. In less than two years Lafayette's adults and young people will experience all of this first-hand with the opening of the Planetarium & Youth Museum of Lafayette.
Lafayette Daily Advertiser 4/17/1966.
PLANETARIUM SET FOR LAFAYETTE
Situated less than a hundred miles from the Gulf Coast, Lafayette is in the center of one of the best areas in the country for a natural history museum.
Waters teeming with fish, forests filled with almost as many varieties of bird and animal life as there are trees and marsh lowlands which yield a wealth of game, rice, sugar and oil.
The aim of the natural history museum, proposed for location in Lafayette, is to enable the people of Southwest Louisiana to enjoy their natural environment and introduce them to an appreciation of it, not only through exhibits in glass enclosed cases, but initiating field trips to places of vast nature study contained in this relatively small area.
The $300,000 Natural History Museum and Planetarium, undreamed of 10 years ago, is finally becoming a reality for Lafayette following voters' approval last year of the city's ($16 ments) bond issue.
Money for the museum was included after Mayor J. Rayburn Bertrand's favorable reaction to the idea as presented to the idea as presented by museum and planetarium promoters, members of Les Deux Douzaines.
Les Deaux Douzaine's a woman's organization, got the idea from their work in science enrichment with Dr. Harley Smith for gifted and handicapped children. The opening by members of another organization, Les Vingt Quatre, of a science museum spurred the idea and the plans were made in 1956 for the erection of a small $5,000 structure.
Les Vingt Quatre offered land behind the Lafayette Museum and in the meantime allowed times, free of charge, when USL professors could hold classes in the museum on nature study and art for children.
When news of the club's project was released, Maurice Heymann, local philanthropist and Oil Center developer, offered the group property behind the Municipal Auditorium on the corner of Girard Park Drive and Auditorium Place, on the condition that the club enlarge on its plans.
Architect Neil Nehrbass, who had worked up plans for the $5,000 structure, began thinking in terms of $100,000.
In the meantime, studies were being made into the experiences of other museums and planetariums in areas of money-raising, charters and hiring employees such as a director, taxidermist and carpenters. Also, in 1962, a museum expert of 40 years experience visited the city to discuss the project with its planners. His advice was "You are not thinking big enough."
The project still did not get past the planning stage until Mayor Bertrand was approached last fall. His ready acceptance to include the museum and planetarium in the bond issue was partly based on his own experience of visiting a similar institution as a boy. "Living in a small community, the trips to the museum and planetarium of a nearby large city impressed me. Perhaps with one here, it could do for other children what it did for me."
After the nine to one passage of the entire bond issue, Nehrbass again revised his drawings, this time basing them on $300,000 allotted by the public for the museum - planetarium construction.
Set up as a non-profit organization the museum will have as its governing body, a commission appointed by the mayor. Donations of funds and exhibits will be handled through a board of directors of the Lafayette Museum Association. Membership in the association will be open to the public which will also provide volunteers to the museum to help in some of the work.
According to Les Deaux Douzaines club member, Mrs. Ewing Latimer, the museum is now a public project and the success of it will depend largely on public response to future requests for help.
Local talents of professors, hunters and other citizens will be needed to provide exhibits for the natural history museum. Mrs. Latimer said exhibits will be accepted from individuals or organizations which construct them to the required standards.
Continuing their efforts to get as much information as possible on the successful operation of a museum and planetarium, the club wrote to Rep. Edwin Willis requesting him to have research done in the Library of Congress about methods of operation.
After sifting through the material aspects most promising for Lafayette were chosen and these museum sites were visited by the architect.
According to Nehrbass, "These contacts are helpful in establishing our museum because we now have a backlog of people willing to help because they want to see museums and planetaria established in new communities."
The planetarium, equally valuable as an educational aid, will direct the gaze of onlookers to the stars away from the familiar scenes of environment offered in the museum.
With special equipment, the movement of stars and planets, which normally take years can be depicted in the dome-shaped structure in less than an hour with a switch on the lecturer's control console.
As the huge projector is put through its paces, the annual courses of the sun, Mars, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter against the fixed background of stars become clearly comprehensible.
"The club is aware that the $300,000 allotted in the bond issue is a lot of money and is also aware of the vote of confidence given it by Lafayette voters," Mrs. Latimer says. "And since it has been appropriated, we have been planning the best way to use the money wisely to give give the city a fine installation."
Planned for over the past 10 years and anticipated by not only by the club, but by an interested public, completion of the museum and planetarium will provide further indication of the progressiveness of Lafayette citizens.
Lafayette Daily Advertiser 3/18/1966.