Albums of Emotion: Astronomical Images

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Abstract Summary
Upon seeing Lord Rosse’s rendition of a nebula in 1845, John F. W. Herschel declared to a large audience that “he could not explain to the section the strong feelings and emotion with which he saw this old and familiar acquaintance in the very new dress.” Previously, when at his own telescope, Herschel had acquired strong feelings and become friendly with the celestial object M51, one that his own Father had formerly observed and drawn. Behind these palpable emotions and legacies were layers of labor that sometimes, as Herschel also reported, caused tremendous amounts of “despair” and “frustration.” Indeed, the visualization of objects and the means of acquiring them (e.g. telescopes) came with memories and experiences, uplifting and discouraging. In each case, what was visualized contained complex emotions, much like a family album. This presentation will contextualize these emotionally packed astronomical images—usually found in catalogues of scientific objects of the nineteenth century—into a broader history of collecting in the nineteenth-century, including family albums and memorabilia. By doing so, we come to see that scientific images were—besides much else—emotional badges of work and legacy.
Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Chronological Classification :
19th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
Images, emotions, research objects, astronomy, observation, family albums, work, legacy