Marie Drake Planetarium

Where the stars always shine in Juneau, Alaska

History of the Marie Drake Planetarium


Bill Overstreet became the Juneau School District's Superintendent. He presented to the school board the idea of adding a planetarium to the plans for the new Marie Drake Junior High School.


  • New Marie Drake Junior High School opened with a planetarium room sustaining a 30 foot dome with theater style concentric seating and a SPITZ star ball machine.The projector cost $36,000
  • The planetarium was the first in Alaska. It was built with the aid of a 50% federal matching grant under the terms of the National Defense Education Act.
  • A full time teacher, Albert Shaw, was hired to teach school classes and give public presentations. His title was planetarium director. He went to two summer trainings in the lower 48. He developed a planetarium program for k-6th grades given in the planetarium. He also did programs for higher grade levels in their regular  classrooms. He also gave public presentations. The school district paid  his salary and the planetarium had budget for things such as instructional supplies.


Last record of public shows was in 1975. Around this time the use of the planetarium fell and soon died out. The room was converted into an additional classroom and storage room.


Around this time theater style seating was removed from planetarium taken to the dump


  • A group of volunteers got planetarium going again. Volunteers started giving programs for the public and school classes.School district allowed use of room and paid for electricity and janitorial work. Occasionally, the school district paid for maintenance e.g. starball repair.
  • In November the school board visited the planetarium as part of its regular meeting. Volunteers asked board to make more use of the planetarium. Room being used as a computer room. They hoped it could be converted back into a planetarium when new middle school opens.
  • November 23rd - grand opening held with two shows. Attendance 55 people.


  • November 13th -- a long Juneau Empire article published. "Stargazing, Juneau Style - Marie Drake's Planetarium Makes a Comeback" by Sherry Simpson.
  • Spitz projector serviced (disassembled, cleaned and adjusted) by company technician and it was pronounced in good condition. Spare parts also purchased. This was done at District expense out of the maintenance budget.


  • Planetarium still used full time as a computer lab. School board asked by letter, "when the district considers how to use the Marie Drake building as the result of the new middle school, we recommend the planetarium again become a designated place for astronomy education as a part of the science curriculum. If other activities need to share that space, they should be compatible with the planetarium needs."
  • New 75 watt arc lamp ordered from Spitz at cost of $378.50.


  • Volunteers lead a coalition and  write to Facilities Committee recommending spending $43,500-53,500 from the Marie Drake Middle School Remodeling bond funds to "refurbish, restore and equip the Marie Drake Planetarium as an extraordinary multi-purpose facility, upon the completion of the new middle school."  I do not think any money was allocated.
  • Volunteers applied for a grant for multimedia recordings from the National Academy of Sciences. Grant not awarded.


  • In 1994 The Marie Drake Junior High School is replaced by a new middle school (DZ). The old school building is now called Marie Drake Building. This building continues to house the planetarium and classroom space now used by Juneau-Douglas High  School and Harborview Elementary School. 
  • No record of any shows at planetarium 1994 and 1995


  • Michael Orelove starts volunteering at the planetarium. He becomes unofficial unpaid director in 2001.


  • Spitz maintenance person comes from Seattle. Cost paid by Juneau School District and donations from public planetarium show audiences.


Summer Solstice (June 20) - Dedication of downtown community sundial.

Juneau Community Planet Walk created at Twin Lakes - Opening celebration September 1st.

Tidal Gauge created at downtown dock.

United States Map Created on downtown dock.

The Planetarium sign and logo created by Jesse Peterson. It is above the entrance to the Marie Drake building. Michael Orelove moves to Gresham, OR where he continues to be active in the community, including various astronomy related projects.


Volunteers give a presentation to the Juneau school board.


  • Sundial destroyed in late October, 2010 to as part of the Visitor's Center, Customs/Port Building Project.
  • Website updated and expanded. Email contact list started - has 40 people.


  • In June, 2011 The Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium (FOMDP) was formed. The board had five members.
  • Planetarium received a new computer overhead projector from the Lions Club in Juneau.
  • Enter Astronomy Magazine contest. The 2010 'Out-of-this-world Award' recognizes excellence in astronomy outreach. The winning group receives $2,500 to put toward their public programming. We did not win contest, but were given some free handouts.


  • Planetarium received $500 from Holland American for a new laptop computer.
  • Planetarium receives $2,500 from Douglas-Dornan Foundation grant foundation for new projector. This is first grant specifically for a new digital projector system.


  • Planetarium receives $1,000 donation from Lions Club.
  • Website changed to .org 
  • Planetarium has 125 people on its email list.


Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium recieve IRS non profit status. Took 18 months and cost $400.


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Planetarium has 360 people on email list

Facebook Page created. Marie Drake Planetarium. It has 70 likes by end of 2016

$200 raised at a garage sale


Facebook page has over 120 likes