A New Museum Devoted to Albert Einstein Will Open in Jerusalem

The Einstein House will be aptly located in an abandoned planetarium.

Albert Einstein, photographed while exiled from Germany and in the United States to give a series of lectures to advanced students at Princeton University. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem has announced the creation of a museum dedicated to Albert Einstein, which will be established in the university’s abandoned planetarium building. The museum will be outfitted with personal items and archives that belonged to the late genius.

The university, which looks after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist’s archive, has been pushing for the construction of the museum for several years but was forced to shelve the plans due to budgetary constraints. Finding a place to display Einstein’s archive was one of the major goals of the late Israeli president Shimon Peres, who even met with Jewish-American architects Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind to discuss the project. But the estimated $20 million price tag for the new building kept it from coming to fruition.

University CEO Billy Shapira eventually decided to place the museum within existing planetarium building after considering the lower construction costs of $5 million, its proximity to Jerusalem’s museum row, and enhanced accessibility thanks to the city’s new light railway.

Shapira held a competition, soliciting design proposals for the museum. Out of four entrants, he chose architecture firm Arad Simon. Salma Milson Arad, an architect at the firm, told Haaretz that her winning proposal sought to dig beneath the 500-square-meter planetarium to create more space.

“Although the historic building has not been designated for strict preservation, it’s modest and blends into the campus, and therefore we decided not to build above or next to it, but rather to dig beneath it,” she said. “The significant change in the façades will be opening a window in the eastern façade, which will offer a view in the direction of the Old City and the Knesset, an element that expresses Einstein’s connection to Jerusalem.”

When complete, the refurbished building will house a visitor center located in the building’s dome and the physicist’s archive in the rectangular part, while the entrance and lobby area will accommodate visitors, archival staff, and researchers. A gift shop and administrative offices will be situated adjacent to the lobby.

No start date for the conversion of the planetarium has been announced.

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