Future of the Observatory remains unclear

Braden Smith – Culture editor. When the Observatory closed and merged with the Catty Shack at the beginning of the year, a number of Linfield students were angry, or at least upset. It was obvious that students wanted something to be done, although they may not have known exactly what.
Now, the issue has been directly addressed during the last Associated Students of Linfield College Senate meeting on Nov. 9. Senior Duncan Reid, campus improvement committee chair, brought the state of the Observatory to the Senate’s attention and opened up the discussion for possible ideas of what to do with the vacant building.
Ideas included changing the Observatory back into a convenience store, retrofitting it into an actual observatory or using it as a book exchange center where students could buy and sell used textbooks from each other. It was also noted that turning the building into an actual observatory would not be possible because its location receives too much light.
No formal conclusion was reached, as the idea was simply introduced, but some of the latest Senate reports sent out included notes encouraging students to e-mail their ideas about the Observatory to Reid.
“Basically, we are putting together a survey to see what people want,” Reid said.
While progress is being made regarding efforts to resurrect the closed Observatory, there have also been talks within the physics department of building a new, functional observatory on campus.
The only mention one might find of this is on the research page of the physics department’s Web site, www.linfield.edu/physics/research.php.
According to the site, “due to the proximity of new dorms, the historic Linfield observatory was converted into a convenience store in 2002. Planning is currently under way for the construction of a new observatory.”
The Observatory, originally built in 1894, cost $2,500 and boasted a six-inch refracting telescope, provided by the A.W. Kinney Estate. (Kinney was a member of Linfield’s Board of Trustees from 1874-79.) It was moved to its present location in 1964.
However, because of the expanding campus, the Observatory came under threat of demolition in 2001. In general, an observatory cannot be located close to densely populated areas because of light pollution.
In response, rather than tearing it down, the Observatory was converted into a convenience store the next year. The aim was to provide students in the Hewlett Packard apartments, along with other students in the area, a place to purchase snacks and other assorted items.
Since this conversion, planning has taken place to build a new observatory. The initial problem has been simply finding the right location: The building needs to be close enough for students to use it, but not too close so as to be at risk for light pollution from the city.
“We have spent a lot of time and study to identify a new site,” Bill Mackie, professor of physics, said.
After finding the right place, planning was underway.
“Formal plans were drawn, and we had the start of donations: some cash, as well as commitments for materials,” Mackie said. “I have a copy of the plans in my office. Unfortunately, nothing has happened.”
Members of the physics department were not available for further discussion on the subject, namely explaining why nothing has since happened.
Although seemingly at a standstill, progress has nonetheless been made, so students can expect a possible observatory in the future, as well as a revival of the closed Observatory.
However, if the Observatory is turned into something new, and an actual observatory is built, the question remains: Which one will be “The Observatory”?

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