Building full of Einstein's treasured possessions to open to public

Albert Einstein's archives will move into 2-story planetarium on the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew University.

Anyone who's ever had the opportunity to walk into the Albert Einstein archives at Hebrew University has walked out thinking, "Man, I wish more people could see this."

That sentiment is now becoming a reality. The archives, currently housed in a handful of second-floor offices in a classroom building on the school's Jerusalem campus, will now be getting their own dedicated building – and it will be open to the public. Hebrew University, a school that Einstein helped establish, has just announced that it will be building the Einstein House (the term "museum" was never a favorite of the genius).

Several architects submitted proposals for the tourist attraction, but the winning design came from Israel-based Arad-Simon Architects.

A section of the building will house books from Einstein's personal library. A section of the building will house books from Einstein's personal library. (Photo: Arad-Simon Architects)

An architectural rending of the new Einstein House. An architectural rendering of the new Einstein House. (Photo: Arad-Simon Architects)

The Einstein House will take over an old planetarium on campus, which seems appropriate considering Einstein's predictions are continuing to rewrite the laws of astronomy. It will include a visitors center, a research area, conference rooms, a hall for events and space for rotating temporary exhibitions. The current administrative offices of the archives will also move into the building.

And, of course, thousands of Einstein's papers will also be housed there. (Ever see the original theory of relativity?) One of the main attractions on display will be the actual books that Einstein kept in his personal library. The eclectic collection includes the expected physics tomes, but there's also a coffee table book of photos from Australia, a set of books by Leo Tolstoy and a history of Western philosophy. Not to mention a book called "Prison and Chocolate Cake."

A collection of Albert Einstein's personal books includes a copy of "Prison and Chocolate Cake."A collection of Albert Einstein's personal books includes a copy of "Prison and Chocolate Cake." (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

The Einstein house will be two stories tall and encompass more than 3,000 square feet. Since the school will use the existing planetarium building, which already blends nicely into the campus, the architects have decided to dig underneath the building to create additional space, as you can see in this video:

The sun will flow from the planetarium’s dome roof through 12 “wells of light” into the building’s lower level. According to the architects, the sun’s movement during the day and throughout the year will result in varying light displays, a design element meant to evoke the meaning of time.

The building's top floor will still retain aspects of the original planetarium. The building's top floor will still retain aspects of the original planetarium. (Photo: Arad-Simon Architects)

Lying down on the museum's lower floor will let visitor's experience the ceiling of the planetarium. Lying down on the museum's lower floor will let visitors experience the ceiling of the planetarium. (Photo: Arad-Simon Architects)

The larger, dedicated space to Einstein's work has come as welcome news. The current setup of the archives is not the most conducive for the curators and archivists to give tours; the small rooms are open to the public, but by appointment only. Historian Walter Isaacson, who wrote the definitive biography of Einstein in 2007, spent countless hours holed up there conducting research for his book. "Godfather" actor James Caan spent the afternoon there on a recent trip to Israel.

During a visit last year, the staff was already talking about the grander goals. "I think at some point we'll have to move out of here and get a dedicated building," Roni Grosz, the curator of the archives, told us at the time. "Here, we're just disappearing under the radar." Grosz hopes the new building will not only be a museum, but also a venue to host classes and conferences. "We can do many things."

Roni Grosz, the curator of the Albert Einstein Archives holding original documents written by Einstein related to his prediction of the existence of gravitational waves.Roni Grosz, the curator of the Albert Einstein Archives in Jerusalem, shows original documents written by Einstein. (Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the many people helping with the project is Shuki Levy, the co-creator of the Power Rangers. Levy – whose work in TV includes everything from "Inspector Gadget" to "He-Man" – credits Einstein with being a source of inspiration in his Hollywood career.

"To hear Einstein say things like, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge,' really connected with me strongly because everything I've done in my life until now, it's where I am in my imagination," Levy said. After a visit to the archives, Levy decided he wanted to help them find a bigger location, not only to house some of Einstein's most treasured relics but also to increase the public awareness of Einstein's many achievements.

The Einstein House is just one of many places around the world that are dedicated to the world's favorite genius. The city of Bern, Switzerland – a town where the Nobel Prize winner once lived – is home to the Einstein Museum, known as the world's largest Einstein exhibition. The Historical Society of Princeton displays some furniture and other memorabilia from Einstein's home. And for those leaning towards the macabre, Einstein's brain is on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.

So when will the new Einstein House open in Israel? Construction has yet to commence at the planetarium site, but should hopefully begin soon. "If everything goes well, we are talking about three years before opening," Hanoch Gutfreund, the academic director of the Einstein archives, told From The Grapevine. Which is not that far away, relatively speaking.

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