“Planetariums are at a singularity. Digital rendering and display technologies have both made planetariums more capable, but at the same time, they have threatened planetariums with a proliferation of personal screens with instantaneous access to astronomical news and data. Planetariums are challenged as social events in the way cinema has been changed by on-demand video. Yet if we consider a planetarium as a device to model and map the known universe, it will indeed survive, but in what form? Digital planetariums can display non-astronomical data, thereby extending our visition to many other realms both scientific and artistic. Finally, planetarium buildings are also like contemporary scientific cathedrals where we can contemplate humankind in our relation to the cosmos. It is now time for a broadened, fresh and inspiring designs for the planetariums of the 21st Century.”
James Sweitzer, Ph.D. (U. Chicago, 1978, Astrophysics) began his career at the Adler Planetarium, Chicago, where he served as Assistant Director. After 10 years as a museum professional, Jim returned to the University of Chicago to help create the Center for Astronomical Research in Antarctica. In this role, he made two trips to the South Pole. In 1996, Jim became the Science Project Director for the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. There he directed the renovation of the Hayden Planetarium, which opened on the Millennium. Returning to Chicago in 2002, he directed DePaul University’s Space Science Center, representing NASA’s Space Science missions in a seven-state region of the Midwest. In 2004, Jim launched Science Communications Consultants (SCC), a firm that advises on the building and renovation of planetariums, museums and science centers around the world. In 2007, Jim joined the Climate Reality Project where he was trained by Vice President Al Gore. Jim has taught courses including astronomy, astrobiology, energy policy and cosmology at Columbia College Chicago since 2004. Since 2016, he has been teaching astronomy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well.