Birth of a Planetarium Exhibit - Introduction

Howdy folks.  I've got some exciting stuff in the works, and I thought I'd take a moment to share one of the projects I'm working on.  I'm fortunate enough to have the privilege of collaborating with the Fiske Planetarium here in Boulder and it has all sorts of changes on the way.  The traditional analog star projector is currently being replaced with a state-of-the-art 8K digital system, which will be able to render the sky in incredible detail.  At the same time, the dome and parts of the lobby are being renovated to match all the technical shininess.  Fiske is the largest collegiate planetarium and one of the five largest in the country, so this is no small undertaking.

Large TV screens will eventually replace the static pictures in this image.  Please excuse the mess!

In conjunction with the theater overhaul, I've gotten the opportunity to work with their education programs manager to design a new, digital exhibit for the lobby.  The ultimate goal is to replace a set of static pictures (seen in the accompanying image) with a series of dynamic, interactive electronic displays.  I've always loved museums and find their inner workings fascinating, so I thought I'd provide a behind-the-scenes look at how something like this comes together.

Over the next few months, I'll be making a series of posts chronicling the journey of this project from concept to (fingers crossed!) completion, so let's take a look at the basic process which underlies this work. The goal is to design a display which can support three main tasks carried out at Fiske:

  • Provide context for planetarium shows
  • Provide visuals for public talks in conjunction with Science on a Sphere
  • Provide rotating exhibits for planetarium visitors

One goal of the exhibit is to provide accompanying information for Science on a Sphere.  (Image credit: Fiske Planetarium)

For each of these tasks, we'll be creating a set of images, video, and short explanatory descriptions that will ultimately be displayed on a series of large TV screens mounted around the space.  This creation process will roughly follow six steps:

  1. Choose an overarching theme
  2. Craft the story we want to tell the visitors
  3. Select media which supports this story
  4. Write descriptions of the media which fill in the details
  5. Arrange the images and video in a logical and visually-pleasing manner
  6. Adjust the display based on visitor feedback

I'm happy to say that step one is already complete!  Unveiling the new facility this fall is sure to be a big event on campus, so we've decided to highlight the contributions of the University of Colorado in astronomy and space exploration. This is a broad canvas that will allow us to tie together many different aspects of space science into one cohesive presentation.

Choosing the theme was the easy part - over the next month or two I'll be drafting the narrative and selecting images, videos, and animations which will make up the meat of the exhibit.  I'm excited to get started with this project and I look forward to sharing with you!