The Observatory’s origins were as a teaching facility. Although it status as a National Historic Landmark grew out of its use for pioneering research and instrument development, the Observatory continues into the 21st Century as a teaching facility.  The instruments, furniture and other historic fabric of the Observatory has over the years has never been fully inventoried as a historic collection. The Department of Astronomy moved from the Observatory in 1979 and then again in 1994 to a new building.  With each move some of the equipment and historic fabric was dispersed. Recognizing the value for instruction as well its’ historical significance, this inventory is the first step in locating, assessing, organizing, and ultimately preserving the Observatory’s collection.  The inventory is needed to help protect the collection from unintentional loss, damage, or neglect, ensure its preservation, and plan for its instructional use. 

Recently Added Items

Selenium cell

Selenium cell in wooden box

Wooden box measuring 10 cm x 8 cm x2.5 cm, flips open to expose selenium cell. Cell measures 3.0 cm by 5.0 cm. Stebbins described the Giltay selenium…

2-day Marine Chronometer


Mahogany wood, brass, silver, glass

Chronometer of 56-hour duration is set in gimbals in a mahogany box. Serial number #2805. John Bliss and…

Kunz Photoelectric cells


The photocell is hand blown glass or quartz. Within in the cell is an alkali metal (lithium, sodium, or potassium) that covers the inside and is a…

Replica Medals awarded to Dr. Joel Stebbins


The original medals were donated by Robert Stebbins, grandson of Joel Stebbins, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Replicas were produced in 2015…