Introduction to the Archives

What began as a collection of crumbling boxes containing a myriad of records in almost no recognizable order has evolved into an important collection of administrative records, observational data, and personal papers that document not only the history of the Dudley Observatory, but also the history of astronomy in America.

The Dudley Observatory Archives Project was first planned in January 1992. At that time, the Board of Trustees approved the funding necessary to hire an archivist and the necessary supplies, and committed to preserving the heritage of the Observatory. The records to be processed in the project were what the Observatory called its “historical collection.” These records were found to date from 1852-1952, with the bulk of the records dating c1900-c1930. In March 1992, the consulting archivist arrived to plan and implement the project.

In 1994, the project was expanded to include the collections from the modern era, from 1956 to the present. These records reflect the rise and fall of a private institution’s attempt to maintain enough funding to conduct scientific research in astronomy and related fields. The Records of the Dudley Observatory have been arbitrarily divided into two sections, modern and historical. This division was made for practical, rather than theoretical reasons and is not absolute. For example, library records from the 1930’s that were used by the library on an ongoing basis can be found in the modern collection. Both collections must be examined to find all relevant records.

More information about the Dudley Observatory Collections is available on our Collections Overview Page.

Access Policy

The Dudley Observatory Library and Archives are open by appointment to the public and researchers. Items in the library collection can be borrowed by special arrangement with the Archivist. The collection is catalogued on OCLC through the Capital District Library Council and is available for interlibrary loan with the exceptions of rare and fragile materials. Dudley Observatory’s rare book collection is currently housed in Special Collections at Union College and is available subject to their access conditions.