It was quite disappointing back in 2008 when Dudley Observatory officials backed out of an agreement to partner with the Schenectady Museum — apparently just because the museum’s board president had made the announcement too early. With the museum in the process of transforming itself from a general museum into one that focuses on science and technology, and with the Dudley’s focus on astronomy education, they seemed a natural fit. We’re happy to see they’ve patched up their differences and are finally going to get together. Schenectady and the entire Capital Region will benefit.
This time the announcement was authorized. It came last week from Mac Sudduth, the new director of the museum, which has a new name to reflect its now-finished transformation: miSci. Sudduth says that it was he who approached the Dudley, which has been housed in a small office at Schaffer Heights; and that after exploring other possible locations in Troy and Albany (where the observatory first began as a private, nonprofit in 1852). the board decided miSci was the best place for it and its stuff.
And it has a whole lot of stuff, including its History of Astronomy Library and Archives. They contain documents showing seminal work done by Dudley’s own researchers in the 20th century, such as accurately determining the positions and motions of more than 30,000 stars. They also contain early editions of works by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, and a large collection of meteorites. The museum will store this material, make it available to researchers, and display some of it on occasion.
Dudley also owns historic telescopes, including a large one that it hopes to restore and eventually use.
Sudduth says that if the museum ever expands, he would like to have an observatory there.
In the meantime, there will be “star nights” at the museum, in addition to those Dudley already holds at a barn in Delanson (where the night sky is very clear). And lectures by local astronomy and astrophysics professors who are on Dudley’s board. And planetarium shows, at the museum’s big planetarium and the Dudley’s small, portable one that it takes to schools. And programs for teens, a group that miSci wants to attract in numbers — and Dudley already does.
This has the makings of the best kind of relationship, one that benefits both and has the potential to grow. As Sudduth put it, “we’re living together now, but maybe we’ll get married.”