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The Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy cares for, studies, and interprets the Adler collections.
The Adler boasts one of the largest and most significant collections of historic scientific instruments in the world. In addition, the collections include rare and modern books, works on paper, photography, paintings, models, and archives. The Adler’s Object Collection is notably strong in 17th-19th century astronomical history. Astronomers such as Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, and Copernicus are represented in the object and library collection. Highlights of the collection include a 17th century telescope with its original glass piece, a collection of Bonestell space paintings, the earliest clockwork mechanism tellurian, as well as a 12th century astrolabe (the oldest item in the entire collection!) On top of one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of astronomical instruments, the Adler also cares for a large archival collection. A significant proportion of the archival collection subsists of the Adler Planetarium Historic Photographs Collection. Currently over 1,000 of these images are digitized as part of this collection. The Adler is currently working to digitize and catalog more than 35,000 photographs capturing the history of the Adler Planetarium from 1930 to 2013 and its history within the city of Chicago. Finally, the Adler also cares for the Institutional Archives of the Adler Planetarium documenting the history of the Adler including papers of the curators and astronomers employed by the Adler.