All visitors must abide by Wolbach Library's Code of Conduct and follow the Library's policy on Events and Tours while at the Observatory. The following restrictions are particularly relevant to tours:

  • No food or drinks 
  • No touching objects unless something is directly handed to you
  • Photographing artifacts is permitted, but do not photograph staff without their permission
  • No recording without prior written permission
  • No children under age 16, 16-17 with a parent or responsible adult
  • No "self-guided tours" or walkthroughs of the collection 
  • Visitors must stay with the group
  • Tour groups are limited to no more than 10 individuals


Tours of the Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection can be scheduled by contacting Sarah Lavallee, Acting Curator of Astronomical Photographs. Please provide as much advanced notice as possible. We will do our best to accomodate your requests, however Plate Stacks tours are ordinarily restricted to Tues. 1-3 and Thurs. 10-12.

For tours of the Wolbach Library and the Observatory's Great Refractor, contact Daina Bouquin, Wolbach's Head Librarian. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  


We are committed to supporting all visitors to the Observatory. Unfortunately we are constrained by the 19th (and 20th) century buildings in which our collections are stored. For this reason, please specify if your tour will include wheelchair users. We can provide virtual tours of the Plate Stacks and Great Refractor, along with the oportunity to view archival objects and ask questions, without entering inaccessible spaces.

Virtual Tours

The public can now explore these two historic facilities online.

Black and white image of a large historical telescope in an observatory dome.
Harvard College Observatory Great Refractor