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Charles Hayden Planetarium Records

Identifier: A2018-02-01

Content Description

These records document the planning, funding, construction, and operation of the Charles Hayden Planetarium and related projects overseen by the Planetarium Department. Topics with significant coverage in these records include: the construction and renovation of the Planetarium building; the construction, installation, and maintenance of the Korkosz projector; and the planning, scripting, implementation, and marketing of Planetarium shows. Types of materials include: show scripts, correspondence, reports, and other text documents; photographic prints, negatives, and slides; flyers, posters, and other printed ephemera; press clippings; and audiovisual assets. More detailed Scope and Content information can be found within the series and subseries.


  • 1934 - 2019


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research with the exception of certain files that are listed as restricted. Certain files which contain sensitive legal, financial, or personal information are restricted.

As a preservation measure due to the fragile condition of some materials, access may be restricted to where only Archives staff can handle the materials.

Conditions Governing Use

The Charles Hayden Planetarium Records contains materials that are still under copyright, including photographs and publications. In particular, the Museum of Science maintains copyright over many of these materials. The records also contain works whose copyright is held by other organizations. The researcher assumes all responsibility for identifying copyright holders and attaining permission for reproduction.

Biographical / Historical

Since its opening in 1958, the Charles Hayden Planetarium has been a beloved and engaging part of the Museum of Science. Plans for the Planetarium date over a decade prior and predate the selection of Science Park. At the urging of Museum Director H. Bradford Washburn, Jr. in 1947, the Board of Trustees resolved that a planetarium should be among the first features of the physical location to be opened to the public. Lacking the immediate funds for a permanent planetarium, Museum leadership decided on a temporary solution to bring astronomy education to New England audiences: a small, portable theater known as the Traveling Planetarium. Museum staff member Clyde Albee designed and fabricated the Traveling Planetarium as eight separate pieces that were transported in a small trailer. The setup was completed with a portable projector built by Armand Spitz, Director of Education at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Between November 1948 and May 1949, the Traveling Planetarium visited schools, churches, and other venues across New England, providing 148 shows for over 6,000 visitors. In 1950, the Traveling Planetarium was installed at Science Park at first in a temporary structure and later in the newly constructed East Building. At Science Park, it was renamed the Little Planetarium and operated with a projector built by the Peerless Planetarium Company, until the structure was sold to Natick High School in 1953.

While continuing to operate the Little Planetarium, the Museum began to plan for a permanent Planetarium to be constructed at Science Park. To fund this project, the Museum approached the Charles Hayden Foundation, which had previously supported a variety of courses and programs. In 1950, the Foundation pledged $250,000 toward the construction of a planetarium. Supplemental gifts from the Foundation during the 1950s brought the total to $500,000, about half the cost of the new Planetarium. Additional funds were raised through a variety of means, including “The Sky’s for Sale” campaign, in which stars, planets, and other celestial objects were “sold” to the public. With about half of the necessary funds secured, construction on the Planetarium building began in 1952. In 1951, the Museum contacted Frank Korkosz, an engineer from Springfield, Massachusetts, to build the projector for the new Planetarium. Korkosz previously designed and built a custom projector for the Springfield Museum of Natural History, where he worked as the Director of the Planetarium since 1937. Korkosz and his brother John began construction on the new projector in 1953 then completed and installed it in 1958.

On October 20, 1958, the new Charles Hayden Planetarium opened to the public. Over the years, the Charles Hayden Planetarium has undergone several major renovations and equipment upgrades. After years of waiting for the Korkosz brothers to complete a functioning planetary projection system, the Museum contracted with Carl Zeiss, Inc. in 1968 for a new projector to better suit the Planetarium’s needs. The Charles Hayden Foundation largely funded this new projector in the 1950s. After a 13-week closure in 1970, the Planetarium reopened with a new Zeiss Model VI projector and new seating. From 1981 to 1982, the Charles Hayden Foundation again greatly funded the next major renovations. During this time, an automated all-sky projection system was installed which consisted of over one hundred slide projectors centrally controlled, along with other audiovisual equipment, by computer. Another extended closure in 1995 allowed for extensive interior renovations and new audio and video equipment. The 1995 project also included the construction of the Gilliland Observatory atop the Museum parking garage. The Planetarium Department managed the Observatory until 2018, when Exhibit Hall Interpretation absorb the responsibility. In February 2011, the Planetarium reopened after a year of extensive renovations including new seating, a new dome, a new digital projection system that supplanted the slide-projection system, and a new Zeiss Starmaster projector – once again funded largely by the Charles Hayden Foundation.

The staff of the Planetarium has always produced its full dome shows using star projectors, visual and audio effects, and both live and recorded narration. Early shows relied heavily on the Korkosz projector, although additional effects were regularly added to supplement the star field. Planetarium staff designed and fabricated some, while other effects were produced with equipment purchased from manufacturers. These shows extensively relied on paintings that were photographed and transformed into 35mm slides that were then projected onto the dome. Planetarium staff painted landscapes, astronomical objects, historical scenes, spacecraft, and many other subjects until as late as the 1990s, when digital animation became the preferred imaging medium. Beginning in the 1970s, more elaborate effects, including laser projectors, were added, allowing for the production of a wide variety of content. Automation also became an increasingly significant aspect of Planetarium shows during this period. “The Skies of Vasco de Gama” (1971) marked the first time a show was entirely pre-taped and included no live portions. As of 2018, the Planetarium produces a mix of shows: some are led by a live instructor while others are entirely pre-recorded full-dome movies.

Planetarium shows have explored a wide variety of astronomy topics. Manned space exploration has been a common theme that connects early shows like “Man on the Moon” (1962) to modern offerings like “Destination Mars: The New Frontier” (2018). Other commonly explored topics featured include the search for extraterrestrial life, the structure and composition of other planets, seasonal changes in the night sky, and the ties between modern astronomy and ancient cultures and mythologies. In addition to full-dome star and video productions, the Planetarium has always been involved in a wide variety of educational programming. Multi-session astronomy courses for children and adult audiences were offered beginning in the 1950s. Courses offered from the 1950s through the 1990s included: “Introducing the Heavens,” “Astronomy for Teachers,” “Celestial Navigation,” “Naked-Eye Astronomy,” and many others. The Planetarium also has a history of hosting public astronomy lectures by experts in the field. In 1975, the Planetarium cosponsored a lecture series, titled “Man and Cosmos” with the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard. In 1976, the Lowell Institute funded a repeating series which became the Lowell Lectures on Astronomy until 2013. The Lowell Institute continues to sponsor periodic lectures at the Museum on a variety of topics. Since 1949, the Planetarium staff hosted special events for solar and lunar eclipses including eclipse-viewing events at Science Park. In addition, the staff organized or participated in eclipse-viewing trips to locations such as Kenya (1973); Baja, Mexico and Hawaii (1991); and India (1995).

Lastly, the Planetarium dome has hosted many non-astronomy shows. Laser music shows and live musical performances became a regular offering in the 1970s. This type of alternative offering has expanded in the 21st century as the Planetarium has partnered with other Museum departments and other local institutions to host a wide variety of live, multimedia performances that use traditional Planetarium technologies in nontraditional ways. Explore the Planetarium's timeline history at:

List of Directors of the Charles Hayden Planetarium: 1948-1952: Charles Federer, Jr. 1952-1968: John Patterson 1968-1987: John (Jack) Carr 1987-2000: Larry Schindler 2000-2010: Robin Symonds 2010-2017: David Rabkin 2017-Present: Danielle LeBlanc


20.37 Linear Feet (5 half letter document boxes; 615 folders; and 1,110 artworks) : Physical Details-Various paper materials, bound publications, photographic negatives, photographic prints, and moving image items (film and magnetic)

1.11 Terabytes (79 digital folders)

Language of Materials



These records are arranged into ten series, one of which is further divided into three subseries. Materials are arranged chronologically except where otherwise noted.
Series 1: Construction and Renovations, 1951-2011
Series 2: Traveling Planetarium and Little Planetarium, 1948-1953
Series 3: Projectors
Subseries 1: Korkosz Projector, 1934-1971
Subseries 2: Zeiss Model VI Planetarium Projector, 1968-2010
Subseries 3: Zeiss Starmaster Projector, 2006-2018
Series 4: Administrative Records, 1950-2019
Series 5: Courses, Lectures, and Special Events, 1949-2018
Series 6: Publications, 1951-2019
Series 7: Marketing and Publicity, 1949-2012
Series 8: Painting Collection, circa 1953-1993
Series 9: Photographs, 1950s-2018
Series 10: Shows, 1951-2019

Related Materials

Additional archival materials relating to the Charles Hayden Planetarium can be found in: the H. Bradford Washburn, Jr. Papers within Series 1, Subseries 1: Subject Files. Some related materials are in the unprocessed exhibit records and education records. Records relating to the operation of the Gilliland Observatory are with unprocessed live presentations records.

Processing Information

Prior to 2018, portions of the Charles Hayden Planetarium Records were inventoried or partially processed by Collections Department staff. Oversized items such as show posters were catalogued in the Collections department database EMu. Between 2014-2015, Collections staff photographed and inventoried the Planetarium paintings with the intention of making retention and disposal decisions. Also, in 2015, many 35mm slides, including slides produced for Planetarium shows, were rehoused and inventoried.

Comprehensive processing was done in 2018-2019 by Archives Fellow Benjamin Covell. The project began with a survey of identified materials including documents, photographs, audio-visual materials, 35mm slides, oversized items, and digital assets. In the absence of a usable original order, a new arrangement was created to reflect the primary activities and events documented in the different series. Original folder titles were changed, if necessary, for clarity or consistency, particularly in Series 10: Shows. Folder contents were not rearranged, with the following significant exceptions: photographs throughout the series were rearranged by topic and date, correspondence in Series 3, Series 1 was rearranged by date, annual reports were placed in individual folders by date, and flyers and other ephemera (which had previously been scattered among numerous folders of miscellanea) were rearranged by topic or event.

Physical processing of the Series included: removing paperclips and other bulky fasteners, weeding superfluous copies, separating oversized items, separating negatives, rehousing materials into archival folders and boxes, rehousing slides into archival-quality sleeves, and interleaving photographs.

The large number of 35mm slides required significant processing in order to be integrated into the series. Most of these slides were created to be used as special effects and visuals for Planetarium shows; some shows had dozens or even hundreds of individual illustrations that were projected to animate the narrative. These slides included Planetarium-related slides inventoried in 2015, several boxes filled with unsorted slides that had been left over after that project, and several additional boxes of unsorted slides accessioned from Planetarium staff in 2017. First, slides relating to other departments or projects were removed from this group. Next, the Archives staff proceeded to weed out duplicate material and slides without identifying information. Without context, slides were of little value to staff or researchers; anonymous images and text that are not useful to researching or recreating a show were separated. Staff decided it was not necessary to retain every slide from every show because in the absence of key contextual information it would be impossible for a researcher to faithfully reconstruct a show as it would have been projected. Therefore, extensive weeding was done so that a representative sample of 20 slides was retained for each show file. Planetarium staff provided useful identifying information throughout this process and approved the weeded and duplicated materials.

The paintings were given a new intellectual arrangement according to a subject-based card catalog and index created by Planetarium staff sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. Each painting was assigned a four-digit identification number, the existing digital photographs of the paintings were renumbered according to this new system, and new photographs were taken of the 29 paintings that had not been included in the 2014-2015 inventory. Finally, an updated inventory spreadsheet was created along with a .PDF document containing all the digital photographs in order.

Born-digital assets were sorted into their corresponding series or subseries and basic metadata was added to the finding aid to facilitate discovery. Born-digital assets have not been sorted at the item level and original filenames have been retained.

In 2021, Archives Fellow Meghan Green began data clean-up of the finding aid folders. In 2022, Senior Archivist Brittany Contratto ingested the finding aid into ArchivesSpace. Minor updates were made to the finding aid along with the inclusion of the artwork inventory.

Charles Hayden Planetarium Records
Benjamin Covell (Archives Fellow), 2019; Brittany Contratto (Senior Archivist), August 2022
August 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and finding aid creation generously funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, 2017-2022.
Edition statement
Second Edition

Repository Details

Part of the Museum of Science, Boston Archives Repository

One Science Park
Boston Massachusetts 02114