Full Dome Digital Theater is coming to the Mid-South and it will revolutionize the viewer’s planetarium experience. The viewer will be completely immersed in imagery and sound like never before.
Comments from those attending a sample presentation of Full Dome Digital Theater in the Sharpe Planetarium were consistently positive. A great deal of focus was placed upon not only its entertainment value but also the educational opportunities it will present.
"Wonderful concept - I can imagine how it will ignite the imagination of our students. It will particularly be a great resource for our educators. I agree that the greater variety of programs will result in greater community participation. Thanks for staying current."
"The Full-Dome Video was breathtaking! My children (4 and 8) weremesmerized watching the galaxies whiz by. It was so much easier for the kids to actually see the vastness of space than just hearing a description read to them. I really like the variety of programs. WE CAN'T WAIT!!!!"
"Very informative and entertaining … a totally different look … like a step into the future."
"Very innovative ... Kids will love the action and movement. The body, astronomy, under the sea - who knows what else - will make this format interesting to so many ages and segments of society. Thanks for the preview so that we can pass the word and speak positively about what's coming to Memphis."
"The show was excellent. What promise for educating school children and adults - make us use our imaginations as we explore our universe as well as all facets of education.”
"Great plan! As an astronomy teacher at U of Memphis, I would love for this to be accessible to my students as well as students of all ages, like my 6-year-old son!"
A Planetarium for Memphis
In November 1953, a group of high school boys formed the Memphis Astronomical Society. They gathered monthly at the Memphis Museum to hold astronomy programs and then look at stars from the museum lawn. Their programs were open to the public and anyone over the age of 12 could join the club. One of the members, Mike Snowden, wanted to take the club’s passion to a new level and get a planetarium for the city.
The Astronomical Society hosted two meetings at the museum in March 1954 to see if there was enough interest in their idea. At the second meeting, Spitz Laboratories sent a man to demonstrate the Spitz projector on a portable canvas dome in the museum’s club room. Former mayor Walter Chandler and Park Commissioner H.S. Lewis attended the demonstration and left in favor of procuring a planetarium. Early conversations suggested putting the new attraction at the fairgrounds, Memphis State, Southwestern (now Rhodes College) or the museum. The museum won and museum director Ruth Bush got to work turning the religion exhibit gallery, which was located on the landing of the grand staircase, into a planetarium. She had the walls painted black, installed tilting chairs around the perimeter of the room and fireproofed the canvas dome.. The projector was installed in October 1954, opened to the public in December and was air conditioned the following August. The total cost of the project was $6,500.00, and shows were initially free for visitors.
Since the museum did not have the funds to hire a planetarium director, the boys of the Astronomical Society hosted the shows. John Buhler, Michael Peck and Ned Lawrence presented shows on the weekends, but the planetarium closed during the week because they were in school. They pointed out constellations, talked about the Christmas star and did any other programming that they felt was needed. Eventually, the museum was able to hire staff to run the planetarium.
The U.S.S.R. launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957adding a “space race” to the Cold War. The space age had begun. These events triggered broad public curiosity about space and astronomy. Because of the persistence of a group of teenaged boys, the Memphis Museum had a planetarium to feed that interest.