Plans to Project Rotunda Planetarium began with discovery in Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Figures of constellations projected on the inner dome of the UVA Rotunda

According to an article in UVA Today, a plan by Ph.D. candidates Neal Curtis, Samuel Lemley, and Madeline Zehnder’s to project an early 19th century chart of the heavens on the inner dome of UVA’s Rotunda began when they discovered Thomas Jefferson’s proposal to depict the night sky inside the Rotunda in an 1819 notebook in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Jefferson’s suggestion that someone be hoisted close enough to the ceiling to place the stars there by hand “in their position and magnitude copied exactly” was accomplished at the November 1st symposium by running digital images from computers through 5 projectors.

At Friday’s symposium, Library research archivist Ervin L. Jordan joined professor of religious studies Jalane Schmidt, associate history professor Kirt von Daacke, and Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History Richard Guy Wilson in a panel discussion “The Rotunda, Revisited,” moderated by Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach and architectural history professor.

The Rotunda Planetarium will be displayed in the evenings, Sunday through Tuesday during student study hours. The Dome Room will be open to the public from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on November 30, December 6, December 19, January 11, and February 1. The Ph.D. candidates hope to offer additional dates throughout the spring semester.

For more about the Rotunda Planetarium, please read “Ph.D. Students Transform Rotunda Into Planetarium, Realizing Jefferson’s Vision” (UVA Today 10/31/2019)

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