Reading Nature, Observing Science: Examining Material Practices in the Lick Observatory Archives and Kenneth S. Norris Papers

Case 3: Illustrating and Photographing the Cosmos

Illustrating the Cosmos

Click the above link to read more about this topic. The images on the top shelf of case 3 display a selection of astronomical illustrations from the Lick Observatory archives. Notably,  the archives contain sketches and correspondence from famous astronomical illustrator Étienne Trouvelot. Did the ideas and images offered by artists like Trouvelot have an impact on the way astronomers at the Lick perceived the cosmos? Can astronomical illustrations count as factual data? When observing the cosmos, can objectivity be disentangled from aesthetic experience?  

Photographing the Cosmos 

Click the above link to read more about this topic. The middle and bottom shelves of case 3 display documents, images, and objects related to the early astrophotographic work of the Lick Observatory.  Is it possible to obtain "objective" representations of celestial objects like galaxies and nebula when their details are invisible even in the telescope? How were Lick astronomers' ideas about the objectivity of the camera filtered through the aesthetic concern to produce visually stunning photographs? How is our idea of the reality of the cosmos--then, as now--a matter of aesthetic expectations--certain standards and conventions of representation? 

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