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The Scarlet & Black

NASA sponsored Drake space exhibit informs all ages

By Emily Bajet

From Jan. 15 through March 26, the Drake Library will host a NASA- sponsored space extravaganza: Visions of the Universe. The exhibit, which is designed with small town libraries in mind, presents a number of space-geared programs and talks seeking to further educate and inform people removed from a museum.

“NASA’s goal was to get information about astronomy into specifically small, rural communities,” said Monique Shore, Drake library’s systems administrator. “The idea being that if people—children specifically—lived far away from museums they’re not exposed to some of the great new discoveries in astronomy.”

To wrap up the national year of astronomy, this American Library Association coordinated event passed through 40 different libraries across the country, finishing its run at the Drake Library. The main goal of the exhibit is to publicize the accomplishments of the Hubble space telescope. NASA provides a stipend of $500 for astronomy related materials, an educational sequence of panels with information on the Hubble space telescope and a list of contacts for possible speakers during the 10-week event.

“[NASA] put[s] us in touch with a couple of NASA based programs that provide free speakers,” Shore said. “Several of the Thursday night speakers are a part of a NASA sponsored program called solar system ambassadors who similarly do educational programs throughout the country.”

The talks, which are held at 7 p.m. every Thursday, include presentations by professors from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and resident Grinnell College professor Bob Cadmus, Physics, who has an upcoming talk on March 11 entitled “Songs of the Stars.”

“The focus of it is going to be how the underlying physics of stars and musical instruments is the same…and part of it will also be about the lives of stars how they were created, what their lives were like, and how they got to be dying stars and what’s going to happen to them,” Cadmus said. “So it will be a little bit of the lives of stars, a little bit of connection to musical instruments, a little bit of what I actually do but clearly oriented to public library life.”

Besides the Thursday night talks, the library offers an after-school astronomy club and other weekend activities, such as a talk and book signing this Saturday by author Abigail Foerstner as she speaks on her biography of Iowa native James Van Allen, which she refers to as the “father of space science”. Shore believes that talks such as Cadmus’ are what give the exhibit its life, and not simply the panels or numerous offered books on the subject matter.

“The exhibit is not just the panels,” Shore said. “The panels themselves are interesting and show a fascinating amount of information but it’s really the programming that I think is making the exhibit a big success.”

In addition to showcasing astronomical development, the exhibit also allows the newly finished Drake Library to showcase itself. The event organizers sought additional funding from Humanities Iowa and Grinnell Tourism in order to ensure the event is as successful as possible.

“I think they’ve tried and succeeded to do something that really reaches out to the community,” Cadmus said. “This is a new library, so they saw this, I think, as…something that would bring lots of members of the community to the library early in its life.”

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