he University of California's Lick Observatory has been in operation on the 4200-foot summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, since 1888. The observatory is an active center of astronomical research with a long and notable history. Over the years a wealth of material illustrating the growth of astronomy since the observatory's founding accumulated on Mount Hamilton. Much of that legacy has been preserved in the Mary Lea Shane Archive of the University of California Santa Cruz's Special Collections, but many important artifacts pertaining to the observatory's scientific life, remain on the mountain.
The Historical Collections Project was begun in late 2008 to preserve those artifacts and make them accessible. Cataloging the collection of Scientific Objects—the hardware used in all types of observatory work, including complete instruments, separate components, measuring devices, photographic apparata, and so on—is the Project's first goal. Cataloging is ongoing and many items remain to be recorded. Those that have been can be found on this website using the search and browse tools. New items become available as soon as they are added.
The Project is also concerned with two other collections, distinct from but related to the scientific objects. These are Publications and Manuscripts, consisting largely of Lick Observatory publications and the handwritten log books of Lick astronomers, and Photographic Plates, mainly comprising spectrograms and direct images from all Lick programs, instruments, and telescopes of the photographic era. A log-book database with nearly 2,000 records was added early in 2012. Other parts of these collections will become available here as they are cataloged. See "About" for more on the Historical Collections Project.
top left: Warner & Swasey quartz-prism double-star micrometer, 1885, cat. no. SO001001; upper right: Kunz-cell photoelectic photometer, ca. 1930, cat. no. SO001034; lower left: observing book of Edward Emerson Barnard, 1894; bottom right: Brashear quadruplet lens for the Einstein-effect camera, 1922, cat. no. SO000212.