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Glass slide wall

The Fuertes Museum



For many years, it has been a dream of CAS members to set up a museum in the eastern wing of the observatory to display our collection of vintage instruments and observatory history.  However, the former transit rooms had fallen into disrepair over the years. The walls were peeling; the windows needed blinds, glazing, and caulking; and the building required humidity control to prevent further damage to our collection of antiques. Thanks to our wonderful new facility manager, David Pawelcyzk, and some campaigning by CAS, these goals have now been met!  With the room prepared, grad student Michael Roman has been lovingly restoring our old transits and clocks, while Kevin Kruempelstaedter has been helping us custom-etch museum plaques. We’re hoping to gather the resources and expertise necessary to turn the museum space into a real highlight for visitors – something worthy of history and legacy of Cornell's historic observatories.

Old spectroscopy instrument
Transit room instruments

We are extremely grateful for the generous support of our 133 donors, who helped us raise $9,000 to make this project a reality!  Please check out our crowdfunding page for more information on the project, and our museum gallery for images of the renovations!


A focus on experiencing history: At the Fuertes Observatory Museum, we'll be able to blend our history with our present: 

  • ​​​We'll have a hands-on optics exhibit to explain how telescopes work. Both kids and adults will get to pick up and play with lenses and mirrors to create different types of telescopes. Upstairs, they'll get to see these telescopes in action and understand why they work. ​

  • We hope to restore the original chronograph to working order. Visitors will be able to press triggers to make time-keeping marks on the drum, just as civil engineers did in 1923. 

  • We also hope to add a small planetarium to the observatory. We'll be able to orient visitors to the night sky, show the stars on cloudy nights, or show visitors exactly what the sky looked like 100 or 1,000,000 years ago.​



A focus on sharing history: In addition to the hands-on exhibits, we'll have a number of in-house-designed, professionally produced boards on a variety of subjects:

  • ​Carl Sagan was a giant in popularizing astronomy. We'll have a section dedicated to his contribution during his time at Cornell, his work on Cosmos, and his impact to the astronomy community as a whole.

  • Estevan Fuertes, the namesake of the Observatory, was a very dedicated and notable professor of the early Cornell University. We'll bring his personality and work ethic to light through photos and written words.

  • Our excellent collection of transits, clocks, and other early civil engineering and astronomy instruments will be neatly presented and described, documenting the history of those fields. 

  • ​ A montage-board of the best Daily Sun articles, personal correspondences, speeches, and academic papers about Fuertes Observatory. Visitors will be able to read the thoughts of people standing in the same place a century ago. For example, in 1923, Professor Boothryod announced in the Daily Sun that there would be public observing at 7:30pm on Friday night. If it was cloudy, he would show lantern slides from Lowell Observatory -- the same ones that are in our front entryway today.



A focus on the future. We want Fuertes to be a place where people can visit, with their children, and talk about what astronomy means:

  • ​Current Cornell Astronomical research will be displayed in a spruced-up lighted-slide wall. We'll bring in new, colored slides that illustrate where astronomy is taking us. 

  • Good discussion. As always, the Cornell Astronomical Society will be there with a room full of seats and hot chocolate to talk about whatever you want to know. Astronomy intersects with philosophy, history, math, physics, and geology in so many interesting ways. 

Fuertes building layout
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