From AstronomyOutreach network
Griffith Observatory is one of the most famous and visited landmarks in southern California with nearly 2 million visitors a year. Created by Griffith Jenkins Griffith to make astronomy and observation of the stars accessible to everyone. Over the decades many millions of people of all ages have been touched by the dream of "Colonel" Griffith, and to the many scientists and public servants who worked to fulfill his vision.
Today, Dr. E. C. Krupp is the Director of Griffith Observatory. Krupp had been hired in 1970 as a Planetarium Lecturer, then became the Observatory Curator in 1972, and then finally its Director in 1974. Krupp embraced both the history of the Observatory and its need to share knowledge being generated by large telescopes and the space program.
"Colonel" Griffith had visited some wonderful public parks on some of his tours through Europe and was inspired to create a "Great Park" for the public in Los Angeles, in order for it to become a great city. To make it happen, he donated over 3000 acres to the City of Los Angeles. Griffith said "It must be made a place of rest and relaxation for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people, I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happy, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered."
Outreach and Exhibits
Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith's will which has allowed millions of people from all walks of life to be exposed to astronomical science and space exploration.
The first exhibit visitors encountered in 1935 was the Foucault pendulum, which was designed to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The exhibits also included a twelve-inch (305 mm) Zeiss refracting telescope in the east dome (specifically built by Zeiss for public outreach, it is one of two in the United States, the other is installed at the Franklin Institute), a triple-beam coelostat (solar telescope) in the west dome, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon's north polar region.
Telescope and Planetarium
Griffith requested that the observatory include a display on evolution which was accomplished with the Cosmochron exhibit which included a narration from Caltech Professor Chester Stock and an accompanying slide show. The evolution exhibit existed from 1937 to the mid 1960s.
Also included in the original design was a planetarium (an invention that did not appear until 1920) under the large central dome. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses. In addition to public outreach, the planetarium has been used to teach celestial navigation to the military, and to train the Apollo astronauts for the first lunar missions. In 1964, a Zeiss Mark IV projector was installed, improving the overall planetarium performance.
Renovation and Expansion
Griffith Observatory closed in 2002 for renovation and a major expansion of exhibit space, and reopened to the public on November 3, 2006. The $93 million renovation, restored the building, as well as replaced the old planetarium dome. The building was expanded underground, with completely new exhibits. One wall inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed, called "The Big Picture", depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm's reach or through telescopes in the exhibit space, this is just one of many stunning exhibits at Griffith Observatory.