The Strasenburgh Planetarium at the Rochester Museum & Science Center will hold a video game championship this weekend.
The video game demo and championship is part of Super City Saturday, a part of Rochester’s first annual multi-venue pop culture festival that includes cosplay, comics, cartoons, music, movies, wrestling, artists and more. The three-day festival—which also includes a Super Bar Crawl on Friday and Sidekick Sunday—was founded by Jason Hilton of POP ROC cereal bar and comic shop.
The Strasenburgh Planetarium portion of the Aug. 24 event will feature video game demos by Rochester Game Developers Group and tournaments run by A Gamers Nostalgia. The event will culminate in the tournament finals played on the four-story dome at RMSC’s recently renovated planetarium.
Other event venues include the Little Theatre, POP ROC and Anthology. The three-day event will include an “Artist Alley” that will feature local artists such as John Magnus Champlain and Shawn Dunwoody, as well as national guests Guy Gilchrest, Jim Henson’s Animator, and Danny Fingeroth, a long-time Marvel and DC writer and Spider-Man group line editor. Event coordinators also will attempt to set the world record for the most cosplay and costumed people in one area (1,700).
“Our mission is to break out of the classic ‘con’-style event and flood the streets with pop culture enthusiasts and activities that highlight our great city,” Hilton said in a statement. “Why limit the fun to a single convention center?”
The “non-con” is sponsored by the Rich Ide Family of Dealerships. Most of the activities and exhibitions will be free and open to the public.
An Ogden native, whose first trip to the Rochester Museum and Science Center was so impactful that she went on to earn a degree in space sciences, has been selected as RMSC’s next president and CEO.
When Hillary Olson was 11 years old, her elementary school class took a field trip to the Strasenburgh Planetarium. The trip changed her life, Olson said, because she became fixated on the size and scale of the solar system.
“It was an obsession. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I earned a degree in space sciences and I still don’t fully grasp the scale of our universe, but I’ve spent each day since that field trip thinking about it,” Olson said.
Olson brings to the role more than 24 years of experience working at science museums and informal learning institutions across the U.S. Most recently she served as vice president of audience and community engagement at the Milwaukee Public Museum, a natural and cultural history museum that includes the largest planetarium in the state.
“Hillary brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record in leadership, strategic action and program development that will benefit the RMSC as it looks to the future,” RMSC Chairman Tom Mitchell said. “When we embarked on this search we identified the ability to leverage the institution’s many assets to promote audience development and revenue growth, and the ability to create and sustain community partnerships, as essential leadership skills for this role. We are confident we have found that person in Hillary.”
Olson takes the helm from long-time President and CEO Kate Bennett. Olson and Bennett will work together in the coming months as Bennett transitions to special fundraising projects for the museum. Olson will begin at RMSC in November.
“I am humbled and honored to take the helm from such an impactful, dynamic and beloved leader,” Olson said. “For the past two decades, Kate has guided RMSC to the vital role it holds today as a resource for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and lifelong learning for the entire region. I look forward to continuing that work and finding new opportunities to make RMSC accessible to the communities it serves.”
Prior to joining MPM, Olson held leadership positions at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Long Island Children’s Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Griffith Observatory. She holds a B.S. in earth and space sciences from Stony Brook University, an M.S.Ed. in museum leadership from Bank Street College in Manhattan and was a 2016 Fellow at the Getty Leadership Institute.
“Connecting museum and nature center visitors of all ages to the wonders of exploration in science, natural history and our shared cultural backgrounds is my passion,” Olson said. “Everyone has something to learn at RMSC, the Strasenburgh Planetarium and the Cumming Nature Center. I’m excited to be coming back home and to make a difference in the place that first inspired me.”
Rochester’s Strasenburgh Planetarium will have a new look next year, when renovations are completed on the 50-year-old Star Theater.
Rochester Museum & Science Center will close the planetarium on Sept. 4 for extensive renovations that include a state-of-the-art full-dome projection system and new open floor plan with movable seats. The project is slated for completion by the end of 2018.
“The Strasenburgh Planetarium is in need of vital upgrades and renovations, as we celebrate its 50th anniversary there is no better time to take this bold step forward,” RMSC CEO Kate Bennett said in a statement. “The planetarium made headlines when it opened in 1968 as the first venue of its kind to use a computer to control its projection equipment, and modernizing the planetarium will once again put us at the forefront of innovation.”
RMSC selected Evans & Sutherland’s Digistar 6 as the projection system for the theater. The powerful system will give staff the ability to bring a new sense of wonder to the planetarium’s star shows using current NASA data and brilliant color to transport visitors around the Earth and other planets, as well as through space.
“The renovated Strasenburgh Planetarium will be a powerful, flexible instrument for scientific and artistic exploration,” said the planetarium’s director Steve Fentress. “Our new technology will allow audiences to fly around Earth and through the universe as we create shows and simulations using recent scientific data.”
The new seating will allow staff to experiment with seating arrangement and experiences it hasn’t had in the past, Fentress said.
Funding for the project primarily is through private donations, including a major gift from an anonymous donor and two fisheye projection lenses for the projection system by Rochester-based optics manufacturer Navitar Inc.
The New York State Economic Development Program provided a $500,000 grant for the renovations.
“The Strasenburgh Planetarium is a truly one-of-a-kind community asset that provides children, families and people of all ages a front-row seat to a show unlike any other, and an opportunity to experience and celebrate the magic and mystery of our universe,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, who was instrumental in obtaining the grant.
In addition to the new seating and projection system, the renovation will include new carpeting, new LED lighting with programmable color mixing and an upgraded input portion of the sound system. Outside the theater, the planetarium lobby will have a new food and beverage service bar for special events, improved lighting and electrical service and remodeled public restrooms for better accessibility.
The architectural design for the lobby work was done by LaBella Associates DPC, while construction is under the management of DGA Builders Inc.
The Strasenburgh Planetarium was a gift from Edwin and Clara Strasenburgh, announced in 1964. The planetarium’s first show was on Sept. 9, 1968, and was presented to the construction workers and their families. Speakers at the 1968 dedication ceremony included NASA Administrator James Webb and astronaut Pete Conrad, who walked on the moon 14 months later.
“For the past 50 years we have invited audiences to journey across the universe with us; this renovation will provide opportunities to ignite an interest in astronomy and a passion for learning and discovery in a new generation of explorers,” Bennett said.
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