Remember the slide projector? That relic of the ’60s and ’70s?
It turns out Schenectady’s miSci, known for decades as the Schenectady Museum, still uses the anachronistic technology for its planetarium shows. The museum has slides for a trip to the moon and Mars, a visit to Stonehenge and a ride along a space shuttle launch, among others. When the projector malfunctions, there’s no replacing it.
“We have to send it out for repairs,” said miSci Executive Director William “Mac” Sudduth. “Nobody makes them anymore, because why would you?”
This is just one of the reasons the museum is giving a makeover to its Suits-Bueche Planetarium. Last week, it learned that a final grant request had come through to fund new seating and a high-definition digital projector system for the planetarium. This will be the first major sprucing of the planetarium since 2006, when a new Goto star machine was unveiled.
“We have a wonderful planetarium,” said Sudduth. “But aside from the Goto, the rest is pretty original. When we installed new seating 20 years ago, it was used to begin with and now it’s pretty worn out. Some years ago, someone wrote down a list and said this is everything we need to do and the first thing was to get a new star projector.”
The Goto machine is impressive. When miSci got it, it was one of only a dozen in the country and the only one in the Northeast. It projects 8,500 stars, 26 deep-sky objects and 24 constellations — all from any location on Earth or within the solar system.
With the help of two grants, miSci will soon get to check off a few more items on its to-do list. Last week, the museum learned it had won $20,137 in Empire State Development funds through the state’s annual Regional Economic Development Council competition. Prior to this, it received $50,000 through the Wright Family Foundation for the renovation project.
“We have about $80,000 worth of stuff we want to do for the planetarium,” said Sudduth. “Eventually, we want to get new cove lighting. We want to switch from incandescent to LED lighting.”
The Suits-Bueche Planetarium, named after two prominent General Electric scientists, has been a treasured part of the Schenectady Museum experience. The museum and planetarium were built on Nott Terrace Heights in 1970. More than three decades later, an effort began to relocate the museum to a bigger facility in the county. Those plans were eventually scrapped and instead, the museum was rebranded last year as a regional science center.
Sudduth said that of the 100,000 people who will have visited the museum by the end of this year, two-thirds of them were there for the planetarium.
“It’s fairly busy,” he said. “It’s busy enough that we’re thinking of maybe adding one night a week for the planetarium and to see the stars. We’re also looking at possible adult events, like maybe being open one night a month for ‘Champagne and the Stars’ or something like that. One of the interesting things about the planetarium is it’s hosted a couple of fun dates. And every once in a while, someone will ask us is if they can propose in the planetarium, and so we’ll do up a special slide for them.”
Pretty soon, that “Will you marry me?” will be all digital.