Project PHaEDRA

Preserving Harvard's Early Data and Research in Astronomy


Original notebooks, created during the 19th and early 20th centuries by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), were recently rediscovered in the HCO Astronomical Plate Stacks and sent to the Wolbach Library collections. This collection of notebooks, an irreplaceable primary source, helps represent the history of HCO, the evolution of observation methods, and astronomy as a science. The material exemplifies a unique history of women in science as the collection contains over 2500 logbooks and notebooks produced by the Harvard Computers and early Harvard astronomers.  This team of women has come back into the spotlight due to the recent release of popular books like "The Glass Universe", "Rise of the Rocket Girls", and movies like "Hidden Figures", that celebrate women's achievements in science.

Project PHaEDRA is an initiative by the Wolbach Library, in collaboration with many partners, to catalog, digitize, and preserve this entire notebook collection, in order to ensure that this remarkable set of items by a remarkable set of women is as accessible and useful as possible.


Here's where you can help! The Smithsonian Transcription Center in DC is leading our transcription project. This will allow the collection to be full-text searchable in the NASA Astrophysics Data System, and for the notebooks to be linked to their original source material: 500,000 glass plate photographs representing the first ever picture of the visible universe. The plates are currently being digitized through the DASCH Project

Physical conservation of the Project PHaEDRA collection is being generously supported by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.