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Transit of Venus : Photographs of instruments and stations

Transit of Venus

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The collection brings together photographs related to the 1874 transit of Venus expeditions. The subjects of the photographs are developed through three major themes: the instruments used during the expeditions, the observatory grounds from several parts of the world, and the buildings erected on the grounds. The locations include the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Thebes, the Sandwich Islands, Rodriguez, Kerguelen Island, Eden & Woodford, Cape Town, Washington Naval Observatory, Hobart Town, Auckland Island, and Chatham Island. While the majority of the photographs show the huts and instruments utilised for the expeditions, some of the images show the individuals involved in the expedition (both astronomers and ordinary staff) as well as a few memorable or unusual events (e.g. coconut tree fallen at the Honolulu station).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The collection begins with photographs of the instruments at the grounds of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>4</a>. Most of the photographs show not only the telescopes, but also the additional instruments surrounding them: transit clocks, observing chairs, smaller tools, chronometer boxes, piers, wooden cases etc. In addition, the high quality of the photographs highlight the walls of the huts that protected the instruments. The inscriptions on the different parts of the walls not only served as instructions for the workers about the correct order of assembling the huts, but also demonstrated that the instruments and the accompanying tools around it belonged together as opposed to being interchangeable parts.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The collection also includes photographs sent by astronomers in the United States of America and the French astronomer Jules Janssen. The latter's photographs leave behind a narrower focus on the instruments and show us the buildings and landscape encountered during his travels to Japan, on one of the six official French expeditions, as well as their equipment <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(130);return false;'>104</a>. A few photographs also show the arrangement of the observing huts and the infrastructure (such as footpaths) connecting them to each other.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The photographs from Thebes and the Sandwich Islands also focus more on the grounds, the buildings and the individuals as opposed to on the instruments <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(31);return false;'>30</a>. One peculiarity of the collections is the photograph showing the aftermath created by a fallen coconut tree <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(33);return false;'>32</a>. In addition, there are three photographs of the transit of Venus itself <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(40);return false;'>39</a>. The photographs from Rodrigues expand the themes by showing the inside of a cave and providing images of the landscape <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(43);return false;'>42</a>. This focus of the landscape surrounding the station is also a characteristic feature of the photographs taken at the Kerguelen Islands. The smaller collection of photographs is closed with images taken at Australian observing stations, on expeditions organised by the Royal Society of New South Wales, where the focus of the attention returns to the observing huts and the instruments.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Around a third of the photographs are related to the US transit of Venus expeditions and are double images designed to be viewed with a stereoscope. This part of the collection is introduced with a letter of instruction on the arrangement of the photographs written by the Astronomer Royal, Sir George Biddell Airy <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(71);return false;'>71</a>. The images show the observatory grounds at the Washington Naval Observatory, a few of the instruments, the observatory huts, some of the observers, and the inside of some of the buildings. The second part of this collection brings together images related to the southern division of the US expeditions <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(1);return false;'>79</a>. The photographs show buildings, monument huts and instruments from the Hobart Town (Tasmania), Wangora Bay (Chatham Island), Cape Town (South Africa) and Molloy Point (Kerguelen Island) parties.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Daniel Belteki<br /> University of Kent</p>

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