In 1949, Morehead Planetarium opened its doors on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Now Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the historic institution is celebrating a milestone in a 70-year history—reopening its doors after a $9.2 million renovation and an unexpected months-long closure due to the current public health crisis.
“We have inspired millions of schoolchildren and visitors over the years, but as we’ve grown, our building was no longer fit for purpose,” says Director Todd Boyette. “This renovation provides a cutting-edge facility that matches our innovative programs.”
The renovation project ushered in much needed ADA upgrades, reconfigurations of the exhibit spaces and the installation of features like the new box office (which won’t be used as such until 2021).
Visitors will now enjoy wide range of new temporary and permanent exhibits that highlight multiple STEM disciplines. Exhibits in the rotunda of the building focus on the history of Morehead and its astronomy roots. The Breakthrough Hub located at the exhibit level features interactive displays that help demonstrate research from UNC scientists working in biology, marine science, biomedical engineering, and more.
Pricing changes are also in store, including a new discount for UNC students that includes free admission and $4.00 planetarium show tickets.
For the near future, visitors will be able to take advantage of a $3.00 temporary price discount because of COVID-19 limitations.
“We want to be sensitive to the fact that we are facing a challenging time and that this may impact how you experience the new Morehead,” adds Boyette.
REOPENING UNDER COVID-19
North Carolina’s transition to Phase 3 of reopening came as encouraging news as Morehead had been developing safety protocols and preparing for a safe return to operations since June.
“While this has been a challenging time for everyone, our Reopening Task Force has diligently worked to develop an operations plan that will keep everyone as safe as possible,” says Boyette.
Like many other North Carolina museums and cultural institutions, Morehead is reopening with new safety protocols in place.
- Visitors will be required to reserve 2-hour timed tickets online ahead of time.
- All guests over the age of 2 will be required to wear a mask.
- The number of patrons will be limited to 20% or less of the building’s capacity at any given time.
- Physical distancing will be enforced throughout the building including in the 200-seat fulldome theater.
- New cleaning and sanitization procedures have been developed in accordance with guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are encouraging all visitors to read our new safety protocols in detail before planning their visit,” says Malenia Swinton, Marketing & Communications Manager and team lead for Morehead’s Reopening Task Force. “The safety of our visitors and staff remain our top priority and we hope that everyone appreciates the effort we have put into creating a safe and engaging experience.”
Morehead will also be providing fee-based virtual programming for those who cannot schedule a visit at this time.
School-aged children can participate in Virtual STEMville beginning October 27. The rotating weekly program will take place every Tuesday and Wednesday and requires pre-registration online. Program content will include live science demonstrations, virtual skywatching, Meet-The-Scientist workshops, and more. School groups and community organizations will be able to make group reservations for a more tailored experience.
About Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is a unit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Morehead serves North Carolina and beyond by bringing together the unique resources of UNC to engage the public for an improved public understanding of science, technology, and health. For more information, visit moreheadplanetarium.org.
About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 107 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools, including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s 341,972 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and 159 countries. More than 185,118 live in North Carolina.