The next step in Roanoke's future: The Eye

The Hopkin’s Planetarium has been an iconic part of Roanoke’s history for over 30 years. Yet, the once ground-breaking technology is no longer relatable to the digital world in which we exist. As our region continues to evolve, it is vital that we design and invest in spaces that contribute to our community’s overall innovative identity and serves as an economic asset to the region.

With that in mind, the Science Museum is excited to introduce the concept for our newest exhibit “The Eye” – an upgrade of the existing planetarium to a fully immersive digital environment. The Eye significantly expands the traditional planetarium experience – becoming a superior educational resource for our students, a collaborative community space, and an investment in the future of our region.

Key highlights:

      • The Eye uses similar technology as The Cube at Virginia Tech and will be the only such space open to the public on the East Coast.
      • The Eye can take content that is projected onto the dome and bring it out from the screen, creating what looks like a hologram.
      • The Eye will become one of the most high-tech classrooms in the country and make significant steps in creating a science-literate workforce for the 36,000 students educated in the museum each year.

The Cube at the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology at Virginia Tech’s Moss Art Center.

The Campaign

The Eye is a half-million dollar renovation and our fundraising efforts have resulted in almost $200,000 in corporate and foundation contributions. We are looking to our community to help us raise the remaining funds needed to move forward with the renovation and bring The Eye to the community.

Additionally, we have been generously offered a $100,000 matching grant by a family foundation in Richmond, Va. This means that every donation made to this campaign will be doubled up to $100,000 and will bring us close to completing the initial funds required to purchase the technology, renovate the space and give us the opportunity to make additional enhancements, such as a community lab space where visitors can create their own content for The Eye.

Breakdown of funding and enhancement goals:

      • $150,000 = technology and renovation of the space
      • $210,000 = technology, renovation and a lab space for the community to use to learn to create and develop content to be displayed on the dome
      • $250,000 = technology, renovation, community lab and a Program Director to run the lab and create a continuous stream of locally sourced innovative programming for The Eye

Words from our community

Education benefits

Science-oriented careers offer the most opportunity for future employment, social and financial advancement, and for the long-term growth of our region. The Eye engages students in a way that is relatable to the digital world in which they exist and becomes a uniquely effective tool for communicating current scientific research. This technology will provide the 36,000 students who visit the Science Museum each year the chance to learn in the most high-tech classroom in the country and identify the career path that is right for them.

Corporate and institution benefits

The Eye’s uses are far from limited to the advancement of student learning. Our local businesses will benefit from the space by having a platform to present ideas and research to an audience in a superior way. Firefighters can canvas a building safely and investigate hazards, and architects will be able to examine the structural integrity of a structure before it is built. A resource like The Eye offers our region’s business the opportunity to step into the future with us and flourish over the competition.

Community benefits

Making Roanoke a destination location, The Eye becomes a significant economic asset for the city by attracting tourists for hundreds of miles. Local businesses will thrive and nearby institutions will see an increase in perspective students and faculty, creating a stronger regional workforce. Our community is full of creative minds that could utilize the futuristic technology by creating their own content and then having a platform to display their projects.

Our History:

The Science Museum of Western Virginia was chartered in 1970 by a group of school teachers who saw the need for an informal education facility to help engage students in important subject outside of the classroom. Whilst being the first science museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the museum does not receive state funding and has only been able to thrive and develop through the loyalty and support of our community. Our mission is to inspire a curiosity in a subject that creates a desire to learn more and for our younger visitors to follow a promising career path that excites them. Southwest Virginia is home to many institutions that develop innovative research every day, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia offers a public platform the 36,000 students who come through our doors to experience this research.