With members from over thirty countries around the world that represent schools, colleges, universities, museums, and public institutions of all sizes including both fixed and portable planetariums, the International Planetarium Society is the global association of planetarium professionals. Their primary goal is to encourage the sharing of insights and creative work among its members through networking, publications, and, of course, conferences. Held every other year in venues chosen by its members, their conferences are great opportunities for anyone to progress in their planetarium professional skills and knowledge.
This year’s conference was held in Warsaw, June 19–23. Given Frost Planetarium’s upcoming opening, we used this opportunity not only to learn about everything there is to learn about planetariums today, but to formally present our project to the industry. Furthermore, I had never been to Poland, and exploring is in my nature.
Standing by the Vistula River in east-central Poland, Warsaw is the capital and the largest city of the country. While it was founded in the 13th century, the city required painstaking rebuilding after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, which destroyed most of its buildings. Some know it as the “Phoenix City.” I will remember it as beautiful and liveable city. Plus, one you can safely ride around on a bike. I joined their bike share system the day I landed there, and had a great experience riding around.
Named after Nicolaus Copernicus—the famous Polish Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated the revolutionary model of the universe that placed the Sun instead of the Earth at the center—our host, the Copernicus Science Centre, represented a new type of institution in Poland when it opened its doors in November 2010. Nevertheless, it has quickly earned recognition as one of the most interesting and most innovative centers of its kind in the world, and has welcomed almost one million visitors each year since it opened. It definitely represents a source of inspiration for Frost Science given the significant role it plays in its community today. Through its exhibitions, laboratories, and events bridging science and art, it offers people a chance to become involved in creating culture rather than just passively consuming it.
The adjacent Heavens of Copernicus planetarium opened its doors in June 2011, and is one of the most state-of-the-art multimedia planetariums in the world. Like Frost Planetarium will, it features live astronomical shows, popular-science fulldome shows related to astronomy and other fields of science, and initiatives exploring the bridges between science and art.
During the conference, I had a chance not only to take a look at the latest technological advances, and network with colleagues, but also to engage in very substantive discussions with fellows from all over the world that are facing challenges similar or complementary to the ones Frost Planetarium is facing. I was able to look at well-known issues from different points of view, and draw together ideas for problem-solving and rising to new challenges.
After an inspiring week, I came back from Warsaw with a greater understanding of what Frost Planetarium, as an essential component of Frost Science, can and will represent for our local and global community, and eager to open our doors.
Keep looking up!