Q&A with Griffith Observatory curator Laura Danly

laura-danly-westways.jpgThe only Griffith Observatory figure we usually hear about is Edwin Krupp, the longtime face of the institution who has done a thousand interviews if he's done one. Westways goes another way for its May Space issue and offers a conversation with Laura Danly. As curator, the Ph.D in astronomy helps develop the exhibits and astronomy events, the educational programs and of course the planetarium shows — at one time, and possibly still, a ritual of Los Angeles life for elementary school kids. Excerpt:

How is the music selected for the planetarium shows?

We’ve done different things for different shows. We’ve had composers write original scores. We’ve gotten licenses to use music from libraries or recordings. For the planetarium’s new show “Time’s Up,” we have an original score composed by Michael McCuistion.

What’s “Time’s Up” about?

The show explores time. What is time? What is our place in cosmic history? Will there really be an end of time? Will it be December 21, 2012? What is our preoccupation with doomsday endings? The show opens in May. We think it has some really fun elements to it—things you may not have seen in a planetarium show.

In addition to the planetarium, what other cool things are there at the observatory?

Our historic Zeiss telescope is available to the public every night the observatory is open. More people have looked through the eyepiece of this telescope than any other telescope in the world. We also host several free lecture programs in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, most noticeably our monthly space and astronomy news review, “All Space Considered.”

Also: I assume that one of Westways' most popular features is its monthly photo from the Auto Club's extensive archives of Southern California. This month, archivist Morgan P. Yates shares a nice image of the old Plaza that I've never seen. LA's original social networking site, he says of the Plaza.


The shadows cast by the park bench indicate late morning in this 1933 scene of the Plaza in the historic heart of Los Angeles. Breezes rustle the tree branches in this garden setting, including those of the Moreton Bay fig (one of four planted in about 1878 that prominently anchor the Plaza today) in the center of this view.

Located within the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District (also known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument), the Plaza has served as a hub for immigrant communities, starting with the city’s founding by 44 pobladores (settlers who migrated from colonial Mexico) in 1781. The Plaza has also been at the center of the area’s cultural and economic activity, including the nearby Mexican street market on Olvera Street, which was created for tourists in 1930.

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