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Location of Archival Materials

Naval Observatory 

Washington, DC

U.S. Naval Observatory Library
3450 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20392-5420


The Naval Observatory has a collection of approximately 80,000 books and journals chiefly on astronomy, but also including the fields of mathematics, physics, geophysics, and navigation. There are complete sets of publications from other observatories dating from the 19th century, periodicals in the subject field dating from the 17th century, and a collection of about 800 books on astronomy published between 1482 and 1800.  All rare books have been cataloged, and the bibliographic entries can be found in the library’s online catalog at

Although most of the archival materials for the Naval Observatory are in Record Group 78 of the National Archives, some remain at the Observatory. Included are lists of instruments purchased in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings about the Observatory, observing books for different telescopes from the 1870s through the early 1900s, a small historical photograph collection, including glass plates from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The glass plates have been scanned and can be found on the library's webpage. Other holdings include some correspondence and scientific papers of William Harkness, Paul Herget, Gerald Clemence, and Raynor Duncombe, as well as outgoing correspondence of the Nautical Almanac, Time Service records, Transit Circle Division records, and administrative records. There are eight metal boxes of materials from the 1874 transit of Venus and expeditions to the stations at Kerguelen Island; Hobart and Campbelltown, Tasmania; Queenstown, New Zealand; Chatham Island (Pacific); Vadivostok, Siberia; Peking, China; and Nagasaki, Japan.


1 April 2002


Published: Mon Jan 25 21:12:42 EST 2021