Schenectady County

Historic observatory set to join forces with miSci

A collection of astronomical artifacts will resurface after a long period of storage as the Dudley O

A collection of astronomical artifacts will resurface after a long period of storage as the Dudley Observatory moves into the Museum of Innovation and Science.

The observatory’s exhibit will feature astronomical devices, telescopes, star globes and much more of their extensive collection, according to miSci Executive Director Mac Sudduth.

“There are so many opportunities for families and kids with STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education in our area, but they’re all fragmented and looking for ways to collaborate. With the Dudley Observatory, coming here works better. It needed a home,” Sudduth said.

Prior to its move into miSci, the Dudley Observatory was housed in office space at the Schaffer Heights Senior Apartment complex. The partnership will allow the organization adequate space to put its collection back on display, as well as store its library of astronomy books and materials in a climate-controlled area properly equipped for preservation, according to a news release.

“The Dudley Observatory has been seeking a more permanent location that allows better public access to our collections and programs, and miSci has been expanding its science and astronomy focus. We’re happy to be part of that,” Dudley Observatory board President Heidi Newberg said in the release.

The Dudley Observatory is the oldest independent organization in the United States supporting research and education in astronomy and the history of astronomy. It was chartered by the state of New York in 1852. The first observatory was built in North Albany in 1856, while a second was built in 1893 and remained in operation until 1965.

During that time, Dudley astronomers achieved world-class status with their accurate determination of the positions and motions of more than 30,000 stars, and the organization amassed one of the world’s finest collections of historically significant astronomical texts.

The Dudley’s History of Astronomy Library & Archives, which includes early editions of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Gauss, will be housed with miSci’s archival collection of more than 1.5 million images and artifacts.

Sudduth said the partnership will give the museum access to another level of expertise. Some board members of the organization are academic astronomers from local universities like Union College and RPI, according to Sudduth.

“We welcome the Dudley Observatory and the opportunity to work together to offer their long history of high-quality astronomy programs to miSci’s public and school audiences, which are growing rapidly due to our exhibits from San Francisco’s Exploratorium and blockbuster Butterflies and Dinosaurs! exhibits,” he said in the release.

In addition to the new collection on display, the Dudley brings with it a number of out-of-museum experiences. They host “star parties” in which volunteers set up telescopes to give children and their families the opportunity to see planets and star formations.

This works in conjunction with the Dudley’s Rising Stars program, which is geared to high school students with an interest in astronomy and aerospace. The students are provided with telescopes and are trained to run the star parties.

The Dudley also is bringing its own portable planetarium to miSci as well. The inflatable air dome has traveled across the Capital Region, but miSci’s partnership with local schools will bring the teaching tool to an even greater number of future astronomers, according to the release.

Sudduth said the Dudley’s exhibit should open within the next two weeks, but some artifacts are already on display. The two organizations plan on combining their meteorite collections and incorporating the Dudley collection into existing miSci exhibits.

“We just added one of their astronomical clocks, which uses a pendulum, to the Notion of Motion exhibit. We’re always trying to incorporate things to show people how scientific principles apply to real life,” he said.

Categories: News

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