Let’s put on a show!

One of the major goals of our project is producing an historical exhibition, the physical component of which will be located in the VVO library. In essence, we’re building a small museum. We’re now at the stage of planning the displays themselves–layout of items, photos, and documents and writing of text–and realizing precisely the unique challenges imposed by working in a space whose layout will remain essentially unchanged throughout the process.

The student researchers and faculty mentors spent the day last Thursday (with a pesky astronomer) in the library, sketching out exhibits on “blank canvases” (the backs of old conference posters we scrounged up from around the observatory). Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos.

Caption 1

The team attempts to answer a challenging question: What is the first thing we want visitors to see?

Caption 2

A possible panel along the eastern wall.

Caption 3

It was an exhausting day. Student researcher Abby Shneyder gives the meteorite a needed hug.

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It’s about time

Photos of the interior of the Van Vleck Observatory are scarce beyond its two most photogenic locales: the library and the 20″ telescope dome. While this may not be too surprising, it has been somewhat disheartening as we try to imagine what it may have been like to, for example, work in the “computation room” in the 1920s.

This has made the recent discovery of a set of photos dated November, 1963, all the more remarkable. The set contains 9 photos, 8 of which are of these rarely photographed spaces. As you will see in this and subsequent posts, fifty years into its existence VVO still retained much of its original character, including a functioning dark room, transit observation room, and time services room. Some spaces still look remarkably similar as we approach the century mark, while others are quite a bit different.

On the left is the main office in November, '63, compared with July, 2015 on the right. Note how little has changed in 50 years!

On the left is the main office in November, ’63, compared with July, 2015 on the right. Note how little has changed in 50 years!

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This student office space in the basement (left) has been converted to a permanent office (right), now home to Professor Roy Kilgard. The bookcase immediately below the radiator is still in use!