I had the great joy to visit and experience the Eise Eisings Planetarium, in Franeker, Netherlands, based on the recommendation of a Dutch friend. I will admit to not ever hearing about it before and was thus all too eager to explore.
Franeker itself is quite a lovely town, full of canals that the country is famous for, plus buildings that make America seem downright adolescent.
The Eising’s Planetarium is acknowledged as the oldest working planetarium in the world. As the description in the museum states – its moving model of the solar system was constructed between 1774 and 1781 by Eise Eisinga, a Frisian wool-comber, who it must be noted, left school at 12 years old.
The planetarium is still in its original state. Eisinga built the planetarium in his own home, along with a complex system of pulleys and levers to automate his creation, which also includes zodiac tracking.
I can attest to the truth of the placement of the planetarium, as it takes up a significant amount of space in Eise’s former home. In fact, it was fascinating to not only witness the planetarium itself, but to see how it was built as almost one with the home itself was equally impressive.
I have attached a few pictures I captured from within the home turned museum, but I found it almost impossible to capture the full working model that Eise built.
There are plenty of pictures and descriptions online, which I recommend reading and seeing.
And of course, I particularly recommend to anyone who is around the north Netherlands to visit the museum. Truly a hidden gem (at least its existence had been hidden to me), it serves as a wonderful reminder of the possibilities of humans’ ingenuity and fortitude.
–Brian Berg, Past AAA President (May 2020 – May 2023)