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History of the Planetarium

The Montréal Planetarium under construction, 1960s.
Photo: Archives de la Ville de Montréal
Aerial view of the Montréal Planetarium.
  • Aerial view of the Montréal Planetarium.
  • Dr Gendron hands over key to the Planetarium to Mayor Drapeau.
  • Key to the Montréal Planetarium.
  • Curious passerby.
  • Montréal Planetarium.
  • Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

The Dow Planetarium (1966-2011)

A planetarium for Expo 67!

The Montréal Planetarium – formerly known as the Dow Planetarium – was inaugurated on April 1, 1966 by Jean Drapeau, who was Montréal’s mayor at the time. This event marked the culmination of more than three years of planning and hard work by Dr. Pierre Gendron, who was founding Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa, and an avid amateur astronomer. At the time, Dr. Gendron was also president of the board of directors of Dow Breweries, which later became O’Keefe Breweries (since then absorbed by Molson Breweries). It was through his impetus that Dow Breweries decided to endow Montréal with a world class planetarium, add to the city’s touristic appeal, and to the Montréal Universal and International Exposition of 1967, Expo 67.

Plans for the Planetarium were developed by the architectural firm of David-Barott-Boulva. The innovative design echoed an astronomical theme, evidenced by the exterior of the dome, which resembled Saturn surrounded by its rings. The Planetarium was built at a cost of $1.2 million and located on Chaboillez Square, which once served as a parking area. The building and projection equipment were completed in February 1966, and the inaugural show, New Skies for a New City, premiered on April 4, 1966.

A resounding success

  • Between 1966 and 2011, some six million spectators attended over 250 original productions created by the Planetarium to bring the fascinating universe of astronomy and space exploration to the masses.
  • Some 50 lecturers and educators shared presenting duties for more than 58,000 shows in the Star Theatre.

The Montréal Planetarium ceased its public activities on October 10, 2011, two years before the inauguration of the new Planetarium.

2013, a new direction: the Planétarium

In the 2000s, a renewal of the Planetarium became necessary to modernize its facilities and equipment in order to incorporate the latest technological innovations. Another imperative was added: to move the Planetarium closer to the institutions of the Space for Life in order to consolidate this museum complex. Furthermore, the Space for Life commitment to sustainable development demanded a building constructed in accordance with these principles.

When it opened in April 1966, the Dow Planetarium offered the people of Montréal and Québec a revolutionary approach to astronomy. In April 2013, the Planétarium, built close to the Biodôme, picks up the baton and innovates again, breaking new ground in terms of its architecture, technology and visitor experience. In keeping with the movement initiated by the Space for Life, the Planétarium boldly forges ahead with a view to bringing humans closer to nature.

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