The NRC cancelled funding for the Centre of the Universe (CU) visitors centre at the DAO in June of 2013 and the community reacted. During a meeting between the NRC president, John McDougall, Sandy Barta, and Don Moffatt in August of 2013, the NRC president suggested that a non-profit could potentially take over the public programming at the CU. MLA Andrew Weaver suggested the involvement of Science Venture to the NRC President later in August.
At the stakeholders meeting sponsored by Saanich MLA Lana Popham in November of 2013 the NRC Vice President, Dr. Dan Wainer, stated that while the RASC and Science Venture could potentially run programming in 2014, the Council preferred to deal with a single organization representing the entire community.
Short term and long term working groups were formed at the Stakeholders meeting. The Short term group chaired by Don Moffatt focused on working with all parties to see as much programming restored in 2014, beginning with the Saturday night programs, which predated the Centre of the Universe, and new summer camps run by Science Venture. The Saturday Star Parties, as they came to be called, are organized and staffed by volunteers from the RASC. Short term committee member Lauri Roche of the RASC put in a tremendous effort towards negotiating agreements and organizing those first Star Parties in 2014, while committee member and Science Venture Director Melisa Yestrau put in a similar effort in a very short span of time towards making the first summer camps happen.
Don Moffatt began pursuing the idea of a non-profit in April of 2014, particularly with the assistance of Pal Virag who helped make significant contacts within the space science community and promoted the blending of art and science. Malcolm Scrimger of the RASC also expressed early support. The Facebook site was created in June of 2014.
By September of 2014, at a joint Short Term / Long Term Committee meeting with invited representatives from the RASC and Science Venture that looked at “Lessons Learned” from the Saturday Star Parties and Summer Camps, it was decided to proceed with the formal creation of the Friends of the DAO. Long Term Committee members Catriona Johnson and Ben Dorman volunteered to rework the proposed constitution and bylaws created earlier by Don Moffatt. The Friends of the DAO was formally incorporated in June of 2015 with three Directors, Ben Dorman, Catriona Johnson, and Don Moffatt.
Our goal is to fund the reopening and reinvigorate the Centre of the Universe and its programming.