Planetarium drawing in the crowds


More than 22,000 tickets have been purchased for shows at the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium since it opened seven months ago, Otago Museum director Ian Griffin says.
Dr Griffin said it was an impressive feat for a 51-seat venue.
The tickets were for general admission and did not include after-hour screenings or education sessions.
The shows — two of the three which started with the official opening in December 2015 — were still running at at least 60% full.
He said they had had a ‘‘positive response’’ to the shows, with many audience members leaving favourable reviews on international travel review website TripAdvisor.
While the Marama a-Whetu show had been replaced by the Spacetronauts show, it would be returning for several screenings this weekend in celebration of Matariki, Dr Griffin said.
He said staff were happy with the films playing at the moment and while there were ‘‘other shows in the background’’, they would be sticking with the current successful programme for the near future.
Planetarium staff would be working with a Maori astronomy specialist in the next few weeks, to develop a talk which would also use some of the video footage in current planetarium shows, he said.
There were also plans for a collaboration between the planetarium and the University of Otago’s computer science department, as well as the development of the Far From Frozen: Antarctica and Us show, with an experienced Antarctic film-maker, researchers and museum staff.
As well as its successful crowd numbers, the planetarium won the Philips Selecon special award at the Museums Aotearoa NZ Museum Awards in May, Dr Griffin said.
The museum also won the Metropolitan Taonga Maori Award for the exhibition ‘‘‘Hakui: The Women of Kai Tahu’ and its Beautiful Science gallery — which uses laseractivated technology — won the Metropolitan Science and Technology Award.
Dr Griffin said the public interest in the night sky had also stretched further than the planetarium to the Dunedin Astronomical Society, whose membership numbers had increased in the last few months.
Dr Griffin said planetarium producer Oana Jones was at present in Warsaw, Poland, for the International Planetarium Conference, so he hoped she would return with lots of new ideas.
He said there was about 2000 planetariums around the globe and five in New Zealand — Dunedin, Auckland, Wellington, Napier and Mount Cook.
Outside the planetarium, Otago Museum staff were busy with the redevelopment of the Discovery World area, which was expected to be completed next year.
They were also planning a one-off exhibition about South Island wildlife through the eyes of Maori, which would go to the Shanghai Natural History Museum in May next year.
They also had the ‘‘quite ambitious’’ plan to renovate the 1877 building — which houses Animal Attic and the Maritime history gallery — but return it to its original state, removing the middle of each floor to return it to an atrium.