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

Astronomical Illustrations in the Lick Observatory Archives

The Lick's first director, Edward Holden, held that photographic images were much more objective and factual than illustrations--pieces of data, as opposed to subjective representations. Yet he still created sketches and illustrations in his own scrapbook, even though he deemed them as having "no artistic merit." The archives also contain several illustrations created by other astronomers at the Lick Observatory and collected from observatories abroad; displayed here are illustrations and sketches by Frederik Kaiser, Samuel P. Langley, James M. Keeler, and J.M. Schaeberle. ​Consider the richness of detail in some of these illustrations, as compared to the photographs on the next page of this page.

Can illustrations be more "objective" than photographs? How does the material practice of sketching and illustration speak to a desire to experience the cosmos aesthetically and directly, through one's own senses and even through one's own hands--to have an experience unmediated by the eye of the camera and the process of photographic development? 

Related content: Connections: Materials of Observation

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