Reading Nature, Observing Science: Examining Material Practices in the Lick Observatory Archives and Kenneth S. Norris PapersMain MenuIntroduction to the Lick Observatory ArchivesThe Lick Observatory: Imaging the CosmosThe Lick Observatory: Eclipse ExpeditionsEclipse Intro page (first in a path)Introduction to Kenneth S. Norris PapersKenneth S. Norris Papers: Natural History in PracticeKenneth S. Norris Papers: Pedagogy and ConservationConnections: In Relation to NatureThese images demonstrate the different constructions of nature in the two archivesConnections: Materials of ObservationVisualization of the ConnectionsVisualizes the connections between all the contentReading Nature, Observing ScienceCaptions and information for the cases of objects on display at UCSC Special CollectionsAlex Moore6cd84a9f7efd71803c15562e48a509db9e0bb5a6Christine Turkb279a3dcf419860f915007f04f08e6fc0f8662ceDanielle Crawford22ce6a14f83c9ff73c3545a665951a092258f08e
Untitled illustration of the illusion of a woman in the moon, artist unknown, 1892.
12016-06-07T18:55:33-07:00Christine Turkb279a3dcf419860f915007f04f08e6fc0f8662ce91842This image was photographed and made into a glass plate. It was found filed in the archive's glass plate collection. Where it came from and why it was collected in this manner is unknown.plain2016-06-07T18:56:44-07:0020090126221140+0000Christine Turkb279a3dcf419860f915007f04f08e6fc0f8662ce
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12016-06-07T19:32:38-07:00Objectivity and Aesthetics4plain2017-06-01T18:31:39-07:00Academic researchers have recently started to question whether scientific study can ever be purely objective. The documents and images in the photographic collections of the Lick Observatory provide an interesting case study for this question. For the Observatory's early astronomers, observing the cosmos seems to be an inherently aesthetic experience which colors even their most objective efforts at observation and representation. Their desire to generate public interest through visually stunning images often mediates their efforts to produce objective pieces of data.
We see astronomers working between two methods of recording the cosmos--illustration and photography. In their scrapbooks and copybooks, we sense an aesthetic impulse to record the beauty of the cosmos alongside its mathematical and physical properties. In their letters to photogravure companies, we see them constructing ideas about what celestial bodies should look like, often speaking of the images they want to produce in terms of aesthetic expectations and preferences. Accordingly, we see that these supposedly objective photographic images often embed an affective reaction to the cosmos, such as awe, or the experience of sublimity described by nineteenth-century philosophers of nature. These documents and images also speak to the way in which the ideal of pure objectivity is negotiated by the material conditions and limitations of the camera and of the printing process.