September 2012

Dear Planetarium Professional:

As current president of the Great Plains Planetarium Association, I hope that you will join your colleagues in our profession by becoming a member of our organization. You may have once been a member, or attended a conference. If so, we hope to entice you back to enjoying the advantages of professional communications and interaction.

You work in a Planetarium, so I know I don't have to emphasize to you the struggle some of us face with ever-tightening budgets and often hostile administrations or colleagues within our institutions. In general, most planetaria struggle daily to exist, in competition with fancy large format film theaters, in reaching schools bound by new national educational standards (which downgrade astronomy) and lack of staff, lack of budgets and probably lack of sleep. I have found in my 40 years in this profession, that the most efficient and effective way to survive and better my operation, is through contact with others in the profession. "Why re-invent the wheel" should be a major motto for us, since there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in the people who teach and run these unique theaters.

In the Great Plains region, most planetaria are small and there are few even of medium size. It is just these types which benefit most from communications and fellowship in the profession. Large theaters can afford staff which specialize while we have to know it all - or at least be familiar enough with many different facets of operation to meet the challenges of teaching and performing shows at the turn of the century. I have had more flexibility that some, so I have made it a practice to attend meetings of other regions. Some of them have remained viable and active through not just size, but the creative spark of membership. We can do this in the Great Plains.

There are going to be those who say that they have great teaching responsibilities - in the college or public school classroom. There are going to be those who say they have small facilities with no budgets - and they only do simple shows. I would suggest that if we are to be the most effective in our teaching, we can't just stay stagnant and never change the way we teach in over 30 years. GPPA is an inexpensive organization. We have the lowest dues of ANY planetarium region in the world. Today you can get a GPPA membership for less than a cost of a good pizza and a coke. That's not bad. Through networking and sharing of experience, we can do better shows and better programs in ANY planetarium.

And today's digital revolution in projection systems for planetariums is a real challenge. Our domed theaters need to present an experience that students and the public can't get via the Internet or home theater. But we have to keep the costs reasonable - a tough job. But we can help through GPPA.

We hope you will join GPPA. You can do so by filling out and mailing the membership application to GPPA. The cost will be minimal - but the rewards will be many. You can even pay via credit card or PayPal here:

Clear Skies,

Jack A. Dunn, President - Great Plains Planetarium Association
Mueller Planetarium - University of Nebr. State Museum

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