Look to the Stars: History of Astronomy Collections from Adler Planetarium

Photo Credit: Emily Gorman

It’s been a few months now since the ALA Annual Meeting in Chicago, and I am still thinking about the Adler Planetarium! A group of librarians from the Science & Technology Section were lucky enough to get a tour of the Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy, which manages the Adler’s collections. The collections include rare books, historic photographs and scientific instruments, and much more. It was amazing to see some of these beautiful and fascinating materials up close.

The good news is you don’t have to live in Chicago to explore this collection yourself! The Webster Institute has digitized many of their materials and made them available online through searchable databases. The currently available collections are:

Webster Signature Database: Many creators of historic scientific instruments signed their works. This database contains information about those individuals who have signed instruments in collections worldwide, not just at Adler. Available at http://historydb.adlerplanetarium.org/signatures/.

John Herschel Database: Sir John Herschel was a famous English scientist who did a lot of work in astronomy. This database indexes his correspondence, based on the book Calendar of the Correspondence of Sir John Herschel edited by Michael J. Crowe, David R. Dyck, and James J. Kevin. Available at http://historydb.adlerplanetarium.org/herschel/.

Dioptrice: This database contains information about early (pre-1775) telescopes. It describes physical objects located in global collections and contains images from early texts and art. Adler’s rare book collection is included in this database, which is managed by researchers from several institutions. Available at http://www.dioptrice.com/.

Coming soon – Celestial Cartography Digitization and Historic Photography Collection: The Webster Institute is currently working on two digitization projects, which will make their collections of celestial maps and historic photographs electronically available through their catalog. Learn more about these initiatives on their website: http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/collections/.

All in all, the Webster Institute’s digital collections are a great resource for anyone interested in the history of astronomy. If you are ever in Chicago, I suggest visiting this wonderful museum and planetarium! Many thanks to Pedro Raposo, curator, and Sara Gonzales, archivist and librarian, for sharing their passion and expertise during our tour.

Emily Gorman, School of Pharmacy Librarian, University of Maryland Baltimore

We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you have a resource that you would like to see highlighted please leave us a comment.

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