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The Mount Wilson
Astronomical Museum

The Museum, built in 1936, features historical photographs taken by the Mount Wilson telescopes as well as photographic histories of the Observatory and vignettes of current research programs. A 256-seat auditorium, used for special lecture and other programs, adjoins the exhibit area.

The Mount Wilson Astronomical Museum

For many years, the Museum was used for weekly public lectures followed by viewing through the 60-inch telescope, then one of the largest telescopes in the world. Today, the 60-inch is the world's largest telescope devoted exclusively to public viewing.

The Exhibit Hall
The Museum Auditorium
Don Nicholson, whose father was the famous Mount Wilson astronomer Seth Nicholson, assisted with the public nights during the golden years of the Observatory. He remembers those years with these words: One of the provisions of the original lease agreement between the Carnegie Institution and the Mount Wilson Hotel and Toll Road Company was a clause requiring the Observatory grounds to be open to visitors during the hours of daylight and that an educational program be provided. To comply with this latter, the Observatory built a museum and later an auditorium on the grounds. Exhibits were placed in the exhibition hall and regular lectures by the staff and visiting astronomers were given in the auditorium on Friday evenings. For many years the sixty inch telescope was made available for public viewing after the lecture.

Visitors line up at the 60-inch in the 1930s while telescope
operator Joseph O. Hickox stands at upper left.

For most of the period when these lectures were given the only access to Mount Wilson was by trail or an arduous drive up the toll road from Pasadena. Nevertheless, the events proved extremely popular and often were crowded to capacity. The Hotel certainly benefited since the dining room was the only place where one could eat before the lecture. I can assure you that it was the lecture and the sixty inch viewing that attracted the crowds and not the Hotel's cuisine. Joe Hickox was often the one presiding at the sixty inch. His charm certainly made the visit memorable to many. I can recall many summer evenings when the line of people waiting to look through the telescope extended down the stairs in the dome and far along the path toward the 150 foot tower.