In 1819, Thomas Jefferson sketched plans for a planetarium spanning the dome of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda Library. Due to ballooning costs, insurmountable technical hurdles, and delays in the Rotunda’s construction, however, Jefferson’s proposed celestial dome was never realized.

Rotunda Planetarium revisits this inaugural vision. An array of digital projectors will transform the Rotunda’s dome room (UVa’s architectural centerpiece and a UNESCO world heritage site) into a vast enlightenment planetarium. A paired exhibition, “Rotunda Planetarium: Science & Learning in the University of Virginia’s First Library,” will display books, instruments, specimens, and artifacts from the Rotunda’s early history. This exhibition will highlight the Rotunda’s original function as a site for interdisciplinary discovery, while also bringing renewed attention to the stories of those who built, worked, taught, and learned under its dome.

A scholarly symposium and weekend of public events will mark the launch of the Rotunda Planetarium (November 1-2, 2019; see Launch Symposium). Regularly scheduled events will follow through summer 2020. The Celestial Dome projection will be open to the public on the following dates, from 6-10PM: November 30, December 6, December 19, January 11, February 1. We invite members of the University and the Charlottesville community to participate and attend. Contact us and follow along at our project Blog.

Join the discussion and share your experience on social media: #RotundaPlanetarium

Rotunda Planetarium Curators: Madeline Zehnder, Samuel V. Lemley, Neal D. Curtis (Photo: Adam Ewing)