The West Chester University planetarium was built in 1969. The original dome and projector were made by Spitz, Inc. in Chadds Ford, PA. The projector was opto-mechanical - a Spitz Model A4. This is what most of us remember from our trips to a planetarium when we were in elementary school. It was a big, alien-looking thing that stuck up in the middle of the room. I once had a first grade boy declare very enthusiastically "That's the coolest machine I've ever seen in my whole life!" and that was before the presentation had even started. For 44 years the Spitz A4 served the West Chester students and community well.
In 2013, Dr. Sandra Mather - a WCU alumna and faculty emeritus - generously offered to donate half of the funds needed to bring our planetarium into the 21st century. The remaining costs for the project were covered by public donations and the College of Arts and Sciences. For the renovation, the entire room was gutted - including the dome - leaving only the original blue walls standing. Spitz installed a new, larger (32-foot), nanoseam dome. There is no overlap of the aluminum panels that make up the dome, leaving a completely smooth surface that results in a flawless image. Next came the state-of-the-art digital projector… the SciDome Touch XD. Consisting of two high-resolution projectors, the entire ensemble sits in a discrete black box in the middle of the room. Such a change from the space-age A4!
A 5.1 surround sound system was installed, especially nice for the full-dome movies that the digital system can display. New lighting, carpeting, and seats rounded out the renovation and the Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium opened for business on Oct. 3, 2013!