Fresh look for Mississippi planetarium before 2023 reopening

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A planetarium in Mississippi’s capital city is undergoing renovations and is expected to reopen at the end of 2023 with a fresh look and more extensive exhibits.

This is the first renovation in decades at the Russell C. Davis Planetarium in downtown Jackson, the Clarion Ledger reported.

Mike Williams, the planetarium manager, said the city is creating a world-class center for science and technology.

“This is going to be something we can present to the world that is in diametrically opposed to a lot of the negative ideas people may have about our state,” Williams said.

Williams said visitors will see interactive exhibits, including some using augmented and virtual technology. Exhibits will showcase recent space missions and projects by NASA and space travel by private companies, he said.

He said he hopes new and updated exhibits will inspire students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers.

“It’s a total investment in our kids and the people of our state,” Williams said.

The planetarium closed in April 2018 because of a roof leak and interior damage. After the roof was repaired, the city announced in June 2020 that the planetarium would undergo renovations.

Renovations are expected to cost $12 million to $12.5 million, and plans include establishing a $2 million operational endowment, said John David Lewis, deputy director of cultural services for the City of Jackson.

The project has received support from local and state government and continues to seek private donations, Lewis said. Since renovation plans were announced, Jackson has allocated about $4.5 million to the planetarium, Lewis said.

The Jackson City Council voted Tuesday to issue a $5.5 million bond for renovations and to repair the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the Arts Center of Mississippi, which is next door to the planetarium and eventually will be connected to the planetarium through an atrium, he said. The project has received support from local and state government and continues to seek private donations, Lewis said.

The planetarium has received $1 million from a 2020 bond bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature. Lewis said the city plans to request another $1.5 million next year. Hinds County supervisors in August approved an interlocal agreement with Jackson to support the renovations. The city requested $1.5 million from the board.

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