Thanks to the generosity of local entrepreneur Fred Collin, future visitors of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (AAHOM) will be inspired by seeing how astronomers explored and discovered the secrets of the cosmos over 90 years ago.
A $200,000 gift by Collin will enable the Museum to restore a decommissioned 1926 Warner & Swasey Company 10-inch refractor telescope to original working specifications. This telescope, used for decades at the University of Michigan’s Department of Astronomy's renowned Angell Hall Observatory, is provided to the Museum by the U of M under a long-term loan.
Nearly 14-feet long and looking much like a star attraction out of a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novel, the Warner & Swasey refractor is a precision telescope. Its original appearance was nearly jaw-dropping as it sat 8 feet above the ground on a large pier. Operated by an ingenious clockwork-drive mechanism, this telescope was a gateway to science for countless students for many years. Today, we have the chance to restore the telescope to its original, useable condition and place it in the AAHOM lobby as an astronomical inspirational piece like no other. The telescope will be surrounded by other features that will transform the lobby of the Museum. The restoration, along with improvements to the Museum lobby, will take approximately two years to complete.
The lobby is only the initial location for the telescope, though, and the hope is to locate it at a site near Ann Arbor where it will once again be used to view the stars and planets by more generations of youth.
According to Collin, “AAHOM is a great place for people of all ages, especially children, to interact with science in fun and meaningful ways. I believe it’s critical for our community to awaken curiosity, stimulate exploration, and encourage a lifelong appreciation for science in all its forms, and no one does it better than the Museum.”
Throughout the years, one of the leading requests made by Museum visitors has been for astronomy and space activities. According to Dr. Alex Filippenko, researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the most cited astronomer in the decade between 1996 and 2006, “....most kids won't go on into astrophysics, but what they'll do is they'll study science and technology and they'll go into fields that are more immediately useful to society, such as applied physics and engineering and computer science and medical physics, but the bug that bites them is often astronomy.”
According to Research Professor of Astronomy Patrick Seitzer, who arranged the loan of the telescope: "It gives me great satisfaction that this telescope has found a new home, and will once again see starlight. Congratulations to all for making this possible".
AAHOM offers related exhibits—ViewSpace, a large-screen video experience from the International Space Station; the Planetary Gravity table, a magnetic facsimile of gravitational strength on different
planets in our solar system; Geakiac, an A through Z definition of astronomical terms activated through a mix of mechanical operation and computer integration; and Explore Your World, an immersive version of Google Liquid Galaxy that provides data on the moon and Mars.
According to Mel Drumm, Museum Executive Director, “After 35 years of experience in informal science education, one thing is clear to us: there is great value to inspirational, artistic representations of concepts just as there is to hands-on learning.” It is difficult to overstate the importance of figuring out why, how, and for whom creative ideas to societal problems fire the soul and inspire the idea actualization process.” Thanks to Fred Collin, the Museum will soon have an amazing eye to the sky.
About the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Offering more than 250 interactive exhibits, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum attracts over 295,000+ visitors annually who discover the wonder of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEaM). In addition to exhibits and public programming, the Museum offers award-winning distance learning and outreach programming to schools, libraries, and community centers statewide and around the world. Visit www.aahom.org or call 734.995.5439 for more information.