Planetarium Society to disband

Former members transfer to the Bell Museum to carry on their vision.

by Zachary McKeague

Although the Minnesota Planetarium Society  will soon dissolve, its former members carry on its mission at the Bell Museum of Natural History.   

The society is officially disbanding as an organization, with some of its board members joining the Bell MuseumâÄôs advisory board.

The museum will also add more astronomy and physics programming and plans to raise a minimum of $80,000 to âÄúretrofitâÄù a classroom, said Susan Weller, museum director. 

âÄúThis is a good thing,âÄù Parke Kunkle,  a founding member of the society said. âÄú[The merger] equals a broader vision.âÄù

It also means the Planetarium SocietyâÄôs ultimate goal to build a full-scale planetarium in Minnesota might still be viable, said Nathan Laible, former chair and one of the board members to stay with the program in its new home.

Though the merger is in its infancy, the hope is to expand and update the museum to include space and astronomy science and âÄúhave the centerpiece of that experience be a planetarium,âÄù Laible said.

âÄúWe want to bring to the Bell stuff that they have not previously had âÄî which is our planetâÄôs fragile place in the solar system and in the universe,âÄù he said.

Right now, Minneapolis is the only metropolitan area in the United States other than San Juan, Puerto Rico, without a planetarium, Laible said.

The societyâÄôs original plan was to build one atop the  Minneapolis Central Library, but state funding was canceled last summer.

âÄúFor a lot of different reasons and difficulties we werenâÄôt able to achieve that goal. It was a hard pill to swallow,âÄù Laible said.

But with the merger, the University of Minnesota, through the Bell Muesum, might make the planetarium a reality, he said.

âÄúWe would like to have a permanent teaching planetarium here in the Bell Museum,âÄù Weller said. âÄúWe are working on a case as to why a renovated facility would serve the campus community and the general public.âÄù

But she said any definite plans are still far off.

âÄúItâÄôs not in the very near future,âÄù said Weller, the museumâÄôs director. âÄúWeâÄôre going to start with the teaching room as being the first step.âÄù