Under Connecticut Skies examines the history of astronomy at Van Vleck Observatory, located on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Since its dedication in June of 1916, Van Vleck has been an important site of astronomical research, teaching, and public outreach. Over a thousand visitors pass through the observatory each year, and regular public observing nights happen year-round in cooperation with the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford. Our research team is planning a historical exhibition to help commemorate the observatory’s centennial that will open to the public in the spring of 2016. During the summer and fall of 2015, we are working to collect, document, and interpret this history through objects, archival documents, oral histories, photographs, and more.
Our project explores the place-based nature of astronomical research, the scientific instruments, labor, and individuals that have connected places around the world in networks of observation, and the broader history of how observational astronomy has linked local people, amateur observers, professional astronomers, and the tools and objects that have facilitated their work under Connecticut’s skies over the past 100 years.
We are also collecting memories from the community to enrich our exhibition. If you have a story about the Van Vleck Observatory you would like to share with our researchers, you can give us a call at (860) 740-2123.
Under Connecticut Skies is made possible through the generous support of the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, a Public Presentation Planning grant from the Connecticut Humanities Fund of Connecticut Humanities, a Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, and Wesleyan University.
At the top: Astronomers gather outside the Van Vleck Observatory on January 23, 1925, the day before the solar eclipse. Vertical Files Photograph Collection, Box 38, Special Collections & Archives, Olin Library, Wesleyan University.
On the home page: The Van Vleck Observatory, viewed from the south, in the early 1930s. Vertical Files Photograph Collection, Box 38, Special Collections & Archives, Olin Library, Wesleyan University.