Special Collections

Glass plate photograph of the Small Magellanic Cloud on lightbox
Plate A8766 showing the Small Magellanic Cloud

The Wolbach's Special Collections include both archival materials and other specially curated content. Please see our Collections Access Policy for comprehensive information about accessing archival materials.

Archival Collections

Harvard College Observatory Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection

The Wolbach Library administers HCO's Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection located at the Observatory Plate Stacks. The Plate Stacks store over 550,000 direct photo and spectral images, covering both the northern and southern hemispheres. The Glass Plates make up over a century of irreplaceable scientific observations and represent the first full image of the visible Universe.

The PHaEDRA Collection

PHaEDRA stands for "Preserving Harvard's Early Data and Research in Astronony." The PHaEDRA collection is composed of over 2,500 notebooks produced by Harvard's Women Computers and other astronomers from the early 19th and 20th century. These notebooks represent the evolution of observation methods and astronomy as a science. 

Williamina Fleming Collection

The ink annotations in these glass plates demonstrate the many different types of scientific work and labor performed by women in the Plate Stacks from the late 19th through the early 20th century. They also represent the work of specific women astronomers who have now been recognized for their extensive contributions to our fundamental understanding of how the Universe works.


The Harvard College Observatory experimented in early photographic techniques used for studying the sky. Wolbach's dagguerreotypes include the earliest extant images of the moon among other gems. You can learn more about Harvard's Daguerreotype collections here.

Eclipse Expedition Plates 

The Harvard College Observatory participated in several eclipse expeditions in the 1800s and early 1900s. Many staff members used these opportunities to experiment with eclipse photography. The Glass Plate Collection is home to several sets of photographic glass plates featuring views of totality, Baily’s beads, and diamond ring effects. Many of these photographs were taken in Shelbyville, Kentucky (1869); Willows, California (1889); Japan (1887); Chile (1893); and Washington, Georgia (1900).

Astronomical Institutions (AI) Collection 

The AI Collection contains historical publications, papers, and objects created by observatories worldwide. Along with the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, Wolbach holds the most complete collection in the United States; many of these objects are unique. Publications and artifacts representing the history of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory are also held within the AI Collection.  

Skylab Film Reels

An ongoing project to digitize film-captured data taken onboard the Skylab Space Station.

Other Special Collections

Wolbach's Curated Bibliographies

Astronomy Thesis Collection on Zenodo 

Collection curated by Wolbach Library staff and indexed by the ADS.

Historical Literature - A Collaboration with the ADS 

Publications scanned from high-resolution 35mm film and made available via a simple page-turning interface.

CfA Newsletters

A digitized and searchable online collection of CfA Newsletters, also accessible through the CfA Intranet. SAO NEWS (1961-1973), CenterLine (1974-1981), CfA Almanac (1982-2000).

Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard (DASCH)

An on-going effort to digitize the majority of the Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection's 550,000 glass plate negatives and to produce full photometry results for the entire sky.

International Astronomy/Astrophysics Thesis Collection

a select world wide collection from the 19th century on, cataloged individually and shelved together.

Harvard Astronomy Department Dissertations Collection

These volumes are shelved alphabetically by author.

CfA Colloquia Video Collection

Digitized CfA Colloquia dating back through the 1990s.