The prevailing theme behind the Library’s summer blog series has been to share snapshots in the history of the H.C.O. and S.A.O. where significant national or international events intersected with astrophysical scholarship. Due to the widespread closure of libraries and archives relating to Covid-19, much of our research for this series is dependent on digital materials, which disproportionately favors secondary sources. A majority of the prominent figures in the history of the H.C.O and S.A.O. are white men, and within the wider discipline of history, there is a longer tradition of recording privileged voices. Significant work to elevate minority voices in the historic record is ongoing and incredibly important to us, but our resources to do this work are scarce, and there are comparably few secondary sources focused on minority perspectives in the history of the CfA. It is also important to note that systems of oppression within the United States and abroad have long hindered equal opportunity within academic spaces, so there are moments in the history of our institution where the only voices in the room were white men.
In acknowledging this history, our intent is not to excuse any associated systems of inequality, whether direct or indirect. Similarly, the limited scope of a weekly blog post with a relatively narrow focus doesn’t always lend itself well to nuanced discussion beyond the actions and reactions of a singular individual. Moving forward, bibliographical information that better expands upon opposing or underrepresented perspectives will be included when possible as addendums to our primary blog narratives. In the coming weeks, past blogs will also be updated with similar bibliographic references to better acknowledge diverse perspectives that don’t meaningfully appear in the written content.
Our hope is that this blog series might provide topical ideas for future exhibits at the Wolbach Library, where the expanded scope of a planned exhibit will allow for more complex commentary. We also hope to instigate conversations about our institution’s history to inform meaningful change at the CfA. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us.
We are committed to supporting you as people, as well as facilitating your research. If there are ways we can do better, please tell us.