Penn State Behrend will operate the Erie Planetarium beginning in October, when it moves to a room in the School of Science complex. The system, which includes a projector and a 30-foot fiberglass dome, will be moved from the Watson-Curtze property on West Sixth Street, where it has operated since 1959.
The planetarium’s current director, Jim Gavio, will continue to develop astronomy programs for the system. He will be a Penn State employee.
The Erie County Historical Society purchased the Watson-Curtze property in 2000. The planetarium, housed in a carriage house, never quite fit within the society’s larger mission, which is to preserve Erie County history, said Caleb Pifer, the society’s executive director.
“Nothing’s more dangerous for a nonprofit than straying outside the outline of your mission,” Pifer said. “And the planetarium just isn’t a good fit for us.”
He plans to repurpose the carriage house as part of a $1.2 million renovation of the society’s museum and archives. That work should be completed by 2015.
An on-campus planetarium will boost the science programs at Penn State Behrend, said John Magenau, interim senior associate dean for academic affairs.
“It’s a great fit for Penn State Behrend, where we already have a strong astronomy program,” he said.