Learning Lab Collections

Henrietta Swan Leavitt at her desk

Today, the Wolbach Library has started publishing online educational collections on the Smithsonian Learning Lab platform. Project PHaEDRA is an initiative by the Wolbach Library, in collaboration with partners, to catalog, digitize, transcribe, and develop the metadata of over 2500 logbooks and notebooks produced by the Harvard Computers and early Harvard astronomers. This is the third project from Project PHaEDRA, the first being a full text transcription project with the Smithsonian Transcription Center, and the second with Star Notes on Zooniverse. 

By publishing collections on the Smithsonian Learning Lab, we will be able to connect resources about female astronomers to teachers and students. The first two collections that have been published focus on the life and work of Henrietta Swan Leavitt. As a ‘computer’ at the HCO, Leavitt discovered the relationship between luminosity and the period of brightening/dimming of Cepheid variables. Her discovery provided astronomers with the first ‘standard candle’ with which to measure the distance of galaxies.

Each published collection will contain resources about a specific female astronomer, with some future collections focusing on Annie Jump Cannon and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. These resources will include images, articles, and texts about the accomplishments of these women. While some of these resources are owned by Harvard or the Smithsonian, we will also be linking out to other articles and resources that students and teachers might find useful, such as articles published in Air and Space or texts available on the Internet Archive. 

We appreciate feedback about these collections, especially from educators and students. We want to make sure that these collections are helpful students and teachers in any area of study, including art, science, and history. Our goal is to help teachers supplement activities and lesson plans while connecting to resources, whether teaching in person or online. 

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