[FOTZeiss] Zeiss II Projector Exhibit at CSC

Glenn A. Walsh siderostat1991 at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 10 16:31:36 EDT 2010

On 2010 July 1, The Carnegie Science Center opened an exhibit featuring the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector from Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Unlike earlier exhibit proposals where the Zeiss II would have had limited movement and possibly display a small star field on a nearby projection screen, the Zeiss II in this exhibit is completely static, a "sculpture" of original planetarium technology.

I visited this exhibit over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

The exhibit is titled, "70 Revolutions and Counting," reminiscent of the title of Buhl Planetarium's 50th anniversary exhibit on the Mezzanine in 1989, which was called "50 Revolutions and Counting."

The exhibit is located at the extreme western end of the Science Center's first-floor Atrium Gallery, near the entrance to their "Science Stage" theater. As the Science Center ramps "wrap-around" at this point, this does give visitors on the ramp, between the first and second floors, the opportunity to get a close-up view of the top star-ball; visitors on the upper two ramps can look down on the projector. Although I had had the impression some of the Zeiss-related exhibits might be on the first ramp, all Zeiss-related exhibits are in the Atrium Gallery on the first floor.

On the west wall, between the Zeiss II and the window, hangs a portrait of Henry Buhl, Jr. Of course, Henry Buhl, Jr. was co-founder of the North Side's former Boggs and Buhl Department Store, and the Buhl Foundation, formed from his bequest, funded construction of the original Buhl Planetarium. I am surmising that this may be the portrait that hung in the Buhl Planetarium Library. As some may recall, a second portrait of Henry Buhl, Jr. hung at the Buhl Planetarium Information Desk, along with a portrait of his wife Louise. The portrait of Louise is not included in this Zeiss II exhibit.

Below the Henry Buhl, Jr. portrait is one set of three red planetarium theater seats, seats that were used in Buhl Planetarium's Theater of the Stars for the last decade of planetarium shows in that venue.

In front of the planetarium seats is a zoetrope, which shows moving images of the Zeiss II being raised from and lowered into the Zeiss Pit. Due to poor lighting in this area, the images are not easy to see. To view these zoetrope images, you should have your back to the window, so the light from the window can illuminate the photographs.

There are three exhibits along the railing that encloses the Zeiss II:

1) "Time Machine" computer, which displays "Great Moments in Buhl Planetarium History" and simultaneously "Great Moments in Space Science History" for any year from the 1930s through the present. A few examples of the "Great Moments in Buhl Planetarium History" include:

1940 - Opening of first Pittsburgh Regional School Science and Engineering Fair at Buhl Planetarium.
1941 - Dedication of 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope in the "People's Observatory," and showing of the sky show, "By Rocket to the Moon."
1942, 1943, 1944 - U.S. Army Air Corps pilots trained in Celestial Navigation at Buhl Planetarium.
1945 - Buhl lecture explains workings of atom with actual demonstration of atom-smashing by Westinghouse-built apparatus.
1946 - "Science Smorgasbord" - "Easter in the Stars" planetarium show; demonstration of RADAR with the U.S. Navy; public health nursing exhibition.
1965 - Beginning of shows with Transpara the Talking Glass Lady.

The second railing-mounted exhibit is a large planisphere, showing the stars and constellations for different times and dates.

The third railing-mounted exhibit, "Meet Jake," includes a close-up display of one of the last 1,000 watt, incandescent projector bulbs and a close-up display of one of the small "star-balls" used to project ecliptic, equator, or meridian grids to align the star fields.

On the wall behind the Zeiss II is a display of the Biblical inscription from the west exterior wall of the Buhl Planetarium building. This is the inscription that still exists on the building, although it is difficult to read today, due to the construction of the Children's Museum's "Nightlight Building." Coincidentally, this inscription was also used in the musical tribute to Buhl Planetarium, which was part of a musical tour of the North Side funded by the Grable Foundation a half-week before the opening of the Zeiss II exhibit. At this link, you can see a photograph of the Biblical inscription of the west exterior wall of Buhl Planetarium:


You can learn more about the new Zeiss II exhibit at this link:


Originally, the Zeiss II and the large Mercator's Projection Map of the World


were to be part of a "Final Frontier" exhibit, which was planned for outside the current Science Center planetarium entrance, to open by the end of 2005. When the proposed $90 million expansion of The Carnegie Science Center was cancelled in 2003, the Science Center informed the City that the "Final Frontier" exhibit would be delayed by a year.

The years 2006 and 2007 went-by with no word of any new exhibit including the Zeiss II. In 2008, the Science Center announced that they would open the nation's largest robotics exhibit in 2009, in the second floor gallery, part of which had been allocated for the "Final Frontier" exhibit. With the robotics exhibit taking all of the space where the Zeiss II and Mercator's World Map were supposed to be displayed, there was no word about what would happen with these historic artifacts.

In the meantime, the Science Center warehouse, across North Shore Drive from the Science Center, was demolished for construction of an elevated light rail transit station, an extension of the downtown subway. Although Carnegie officials refused to tell me where the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts were now being stored, I have good reason to believe that they were moved to a warehouse in Etna.

Last year, the Science Center announced that they had secured a $100,000 grant from the Buhl Foundation, for display of the Zeiss II in the Science Center's Atrium Gallerly sometime in 2010. There continues to be no word on future display of the historic Mercator's Projection Map of the World, which, when first displayed at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City, was considered the largest such map in the world.

Display and use of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope continues to depend on a future expansion of the Science Center, according to Science Center officials.

The exhibit that opened on July 1 is the result of that $100,000. According to a July 2 article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (which includes quotes from me), "teams of four people worked for three weeks last month to reassemble the projector." However, Science Center Director of Science and Education and Planetarium Director John Radzilowicz stated that considering the projector's age, it would be costly to restore it.

I would have thought that $100,000 would have been enough to restore the Zeiss II to some use, particularly considering that it was usable all the way until it was dismantled in 2002. If $100,000 is only enough to reassemble the projector, then it seems that $100,000 does not go that far anymore!

Friends of the Zeiss has always felt, and continues to feel, that a projector, such as Buhl's Zeiss II with such exquisite German craftmanship from the 1930s, is still quite usable in today's world.

It is great that, after all of these years, the public finally gets to see this wonderful machine. However, it continues to pain us that people today still cannot experience what the Zeiss II does best: display the planets and stars from anyplace on the Earth at any time, past, present, or future.

Yes, the new Science Center planetarium equipment can do much of what the Zeiss II does, and can do things the Zeiss II was never designed to do. However, 1930s German craftmanship made Buhl's Zeiss II second-to-none in its crisp starfield display.

Although return to use as a planetarium projector at this time does not seem feasible, Friends of the Zeiss continues to work for the day when the public will, again, be able to see the Zeiss II educate children and adults inside a planetarium theater, preferably the original Buhl Planetarium Theater of the Stars.


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://friendsofthezeiss.org >
Electronic Mail - < siderostat1989 at yahoo.com >
  < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: 
  < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: 
  < http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com > 
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh: 
  < http://incline.pghfree.net >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >


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