A Seamless Vision

Article excerpt

As this issue of Natural History goes to press, we here at the American Museum of Natural History are putting the final touches on one of the most spectacular and ambitious projects in the Museum's 130-year history@the new Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. This facility embodies a new vision of what it means to be a museum in the twentyfirst century. To put it simply, we seek to perpetuate and extend dramaticallythe role of the Museum in communicating science to the public and advancing science literacy throughout the nation.

The Rose Center consists of a completely rebuilt and reimagined Hayden Planetarium, as well as the new Cullman Hall of the Universe and the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth (which opened to great public and critical acclaim in June 1999). It addresses areas of science-astronomy and astrophysics-that are experiencing a true -golden age" of discovery.

When the first Hayden Planetarium was built in 1935, we had not seen quasars, pulsars, or black holes, nor did we even know that such curious objects could exist. In 1935 we had only fuzzy photographs of the planets of our Solar System; since then, we have walked on the Moon, sent robot probes to planets in the outer reaches of the Solar System, and discovered more than two dozen extrasolar planets. With the Rose Center, we seek to make astrophysics and cosmology-exceedingly complex, abstract areas of science-accessible and comprehensible to the public, and to bring the frontiers of outer space and discovery to the people. …