Morehead: Celebrating 60 Years of ServiceWe’re celebrating our 60th anniversary in May. The doors to what was then known simply as Morehead Planetarium first opened on May 10, 1949. We had one the first planetariums in the United States and the first in the world on a university campus. (Learn more about our history.) To celebrate 60 years of science and service, we’re going to offer up bargain-basement admission prices the for the anniversary weekend, May 9 and 10, 2009. So make sure to stop by, see a show and help us celebrate a North Carolina icon. Check back in a week or so on our home page for details.

And if you are a Morehead member, make sure to look for the latest edition of Sundial magazine in your snail-mail for an article reflecting on Morehead’s history. I especially love the quotes from designer and Chapel Hill native Alexander Julian who remembers interviewing astronauts at Morehead when he was in junior high.

Have you got any special memories of Morehead? We’d love to hear them.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Earth Action Day LogoSaturday (April 18, 2009) is supposed to be a beautiful day. If you’re planning on taking advantage of the weather with a trip to Chapel Hill, check out Earth Action Day. It’s here at Morehead, however, we can’t really take credit for it. The Town of Chaple Hill with help from Briar Chapel and Duke Energy are staging the event. While you’re here, stop by to see a show or visit the gift shop.

After you visit, feel free to come on back here and post a comment.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Dragonfly TV LogoIf you missed the celebration last Saturday for Morehead’s appearance on PBS’ “Dragonfly TV,” you missed a good time. But you can still catch the show itself. It airs today (April 3) on WUNC-TV at 4 p.m. The show features some local children (some of whom are Morehead regulars). This episode explores nanotechnology. News & Observer blogger Brooke Cain did a nice post on the show.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Earth, Moon and Sun\'s New CoyoteExciting news at Morehead. We’ve received our new portable planetarium and started taking it on the road last week. A grant from the Chatham Foundation helped us purchase the dome and is helping us pilot the portable planetarium program in western North Carolina in Wilkes, Alleghany, Surry and Yadkin counties.

It’s exciting for us to be able to deliver astronomy content with the portable planetarium program now. A lot of teachers won’t even consider bringing their classes to Chapel Hill because it’s too far away for a field trip (Imagine a group of third graders on a bus for four hours each way). This portable planetarium will allow us to take the experience to them.

By the way, you may remember Jay Heinz posting some info about our new production of “Earth, Moon and Sun” a while back. Well, that’s the show that we are featuring in the portable planetarium. Check out the new coyote from the new version. If you’ve ever seen the old version of EMS, you can see that he’s gotten quite the facelift. This new version of EMS will be available in our dome in Chapel Hill after we complete renovations and technological upgrades.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

We made page one of the Triangle Business Journal this week in a story about our renovation plans. I have some mixed emotions about that. On one hand, there’s the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity (Alex Rodriguez might beg to differ about now). On the other, I always fear jinxing plans by talking too publicly about them too early.

For those of you who are long-time followers of Morehead, you know that these plans have been years in the works.  This year, the project has made its way to the top of UNC-Chapel Hill’s capital projects priority list. I’m certainly biased, but I think it’s a great project — renovating one of the University’s iconic buildings and creating an infrastructure that supports Morehead’s role as a leader in science education in the process.

Of course, the catch is the timing. We’ve reached the top of the priority list just as the state faces the most difficult budget year in most of our lifetimes.  While the university and state government face serious budget cuts and private supporters grapple with reduced investment portfolios, there is still a lot of talk about the value of capital projects like ours as a tool for stimulating the economy.

And it’s true. This project could result in jobs today as well as support science education across the state that could result in jobs tomorrow. How does this all play out for Morehead? I don’t know, but I can tell you that we’re sensitive to the economic situation, appreciative of the support that we receive from all quarters and ready to put people to work if and when this capital project receives funding.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

16 Feb 2009
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My colleagues and I are on a lot of listservs for science center and museum professionals. An interesting item came through a few weeks ago on one of them. Someone on Capitol Hill saw fit to put language into and early draft of the stimulus bill that specifically prohibits stimulus dollars from going to zoos and aquariums. The zoos and aquariums were lumped in with a few other items like casinos and golf courses. I found that odd.

One can only assume that the writer believes that zoos and aquariums don’t stimulate the economy. However, the existence of venues like the Georgia Aquarium tends to contradict that assumption. The Georgia Aquarium cost $320 million to construct (jobs), employs more than 400 full- and part-time employees (jobs) and has helped spur a new wave of tourism-related growth in downtown Atlanta (more jobs). A Georgia State University study concluded that the aquarium’s impact on Atlanta’s economy would total between $1 billion and $1.5 billion during its first five years after opening in 2005. In addition, the aquarium encourages interest in science, a cornerstone of America’s 21st century economy.

All in all, I think we’ll be lucky if the stimulus package can produce projects with those kinds of benefits. By the way, that draft language prohibiting aquariums and zoos from being eligible for funding stayed in the bill that the House and Senate approved over the weekend and awaits President Obama’s signature.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

African-American scientists and mathematicians have made tremendous contributions in their fields of study, but you may not be familiar with their names and stories. For example, did you know that Daniel Hale Williams (1856–1931) was the first doctor to perform open-heart surgery in the United States? And that Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877–1963) invented both the gas mask and the traffic signal?

Just last month, Katherine Johnson (born 1918) received a Science Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with NASA, where — as a former Virginia schoolteacher who became a Langley Research Center mathematician — she worked on the teams that calculated flight paths for John Glenn’s mission in 1962 and Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk in 1969.

And Robert Satcher (born 1965), who earned his doctorate in chemical engineering, is an astronaut for NASA today. He has been assigned as a mission specialist for STS-129, which is scheduled for launch in October of this year. Dr. Satcher is featured in Morehead’s “Destination: Space” planetarium show — come see him on the Star Theater dome!

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

Morehead members are going to be sooooooooo happy this month. We’ve just added an online system to join and to renew existing memberships. You can find the link to it on our membership page.

This used to be available as part of our camp registration system, but when we changed systems a few years ago, we lost the capability. Members have missed it, and so have we! It’s wonderful to be able to offer this to you again.

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

I’ll admit it. I haven’t been very good about posting recently. In July, my duties were expanded to cover all external relations including development. That means I’ve spent a lot of time drinking from the fire hose in the past several months.

One of the biggest projects for the external relations team during that span has been Jupiter Ball, Morehead’s annual black-tie fundraiser. After months of planning, JB finally happened Friday night. I can’t take all — or even most — of the credit for the ball and its success. Terry Gunnels does tremendous work pulling it all together as does the Jupiter Committee. This year, Laura Ellgen chaired that committee.

The ball is really good for three things:

1) Fundraising. As a result of this year’s ball, we are able to fund fellowships for three student employees to develop special projects for the organization. The remaining funds will go towards the building’s renovation and expansion fund.

2) Developing relationships with our supporters. I like to say that it’s a great opportunity to get together with 300 of our closest friends and share our successes with them. I’m looking forward to following up with many of them in the coming couple of months. The interest in Morehead and its upcoming renovation and expansion project is very strong. I think that reflects the important role Morehead has played in the lives of so many people during its 60-year history.

3) Wringing the last bit of sanity out of our external relations team. If you’ve ever organized a party for 30 people, you know how quickly a simple event seems to turn into the Olympic opening ceremonies. Now, multiply that by 10! The devil is in the details. And trust me on this, when paper says it’s for laser printers, use it with an ink-jet printer at your own peril.

Happily, the 2008 ball is now in the books, and I can breathe again. Oh, I was never worried about the ball coming together. Let’s just say that I’ve gained a pound or two since I bought my tux, and breathing wasn’t much of an option Friday night for me. That reminds me. I need to hit the gym. Only 363 days until I need to fit in that darn thing again.

Jeff

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

More than 12,000 people will come to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for One-Stop Voting this month. What we’d REALLY like is for all of those people to bring their family and friends and come back to see a planetarium show!

So … from now until Nov. 9, 2008, if you wear your “I voted!” sticker into the Morehead gift shop, you’ll receive a 2-for-1 discount if you purchase planetarium show tickets for regularly-scheduled public shows. It’s even valid for the special “Scare-o-lina Skies” shows around Halloween.

And while you’re here to vote (via the west entrance), be sure to check out the “Zoom In” and “Ancient Carolinians” exhibits, which will be open whenever possible during “voting hours.” The exhibits are ALWAYS open during public hours on weekends. So is the gift shop. Check ‘em out!

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.


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