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Astronomy & Astrophysics

Information about Yerkes Observatory

Yerkes Archives

In 2008 the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago completed a transfer of archival material from Yerkes Observatory.

Yerkes Collections

Edward Emerson Barnard Papers available at the Special Collections Research Center

Yerkes Observatory Photographs available online

Yerkes Observatory Library

In the past, the University of Chicago Library supported two astronomy and astrophysics collections, one at the Yerkes Observatory and one on campus (first housed in Eckhart Library and later the John Crerar Library.  An Astronomy and Astrophysics collection development policy statement from 1979 provides this description:

“Both collections serve the requirements of a single department carrying on research and instruction in two locations eighty miles apart. These needs are met by duplicating what is essential in both collections and by choosing and locating the remainder of the material on the basis of practical utility.”

The Yerkes Observatory collection was largely composed of reports from observatories worldwide, atlases, maps, star catalogs and general texts in astronomy, astrophysics and physics.  On campus the collection consisted of departmental theses and historical literature in addition to general texts in mathematics and physics.

With the majority of astronomy and astrophysics faculty and students on campus, approximately two-thirds of the book and serial funds was spent on the campus collection and one-third was spent ensuring that the YO collection met the needs of the faculty and students who conducted their research at the Observatory.  

In 2006, journal titles in astronomy and astrophysics started to become available online. Because the Yerkes Observatory and campus collections duplicated one another, the print subscription for titles available electronically were cancelled for Yerkes.  As such funds dedicated to serials for the Yerkes collection was reduced by 74%.  Many of the print subscriptions to journals with electronic equivalents persisted in the campus collection until 2008.  In the mid-2000 the University and the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics began discussing closing Yerkes Observatory due to the significant cost of operating and maintaining the facility.  With these discussions underway, the Library began to consider the role of the Yerkes Library.  After many discussions, which included members of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the decision was reached to close the Library. In the early summer of 2007 all of the unique Library material was transferred to the John Crerar Library, while duplicate titles remained at Yerkes. In total 3900 titles from the 20,000 piece collection were transferred to campus. On June 29, 2007 the Yerkes Observatory Library officially became independent of the University of Chicago LibraryImage of Yerkes in winter

Subject specialist

Barb Kern's picture
Barb Kern
Director, Science Libraries Division
Crerar Library Room 129