Innovators in Instrumentation: Advancing Astronomy at the Dunlap Institute

2013, Science, Temporary Exhibit, University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection
astronomy, astrophysics, planets, science, scientific instruments, spectroscopy, University of Toronto
About This Project

Date: March 22 – Oct 1, 2013

Partner: University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection

Venue: Third Floor of Victoria College – map

Project Members: 

Lauren Herzog – Project Manager

Claire MacDonald-Matthews – Budgeting and Supplies

Emily Horne – Exhibition Designer

Laura Imrie – Curation and Collections Management

Samantha Haddon – Curation and Collections Management

Amanda McGee – Curation and Collections Management


Innovators in Instrumentation: Advancing Astronomy at the Dunlap Institute was an exhibition produced for the University of Toronto Masters of Museum Studies (MMSt) program. It was conceived and developed by six MMSt students: Lauren Herzog, Claire MacDonald-Matthews, Emily Horne, Laura Imrie, Samantha Haddon and Amanda McGee.


The exhibition was proposed by Paul Greenham from the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection (UTSIC) and was developed in close consultation with the librarian, public relations coordinator, and several scientists from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Funding for the exhibit came both from the Dunlap Institute and the MMSt Exhibition class fund. The exhibition was mounted at Victoria College, in a space donated by the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST). It was launched on March 21st, 2013, and ran until October 1st of the same year.


The Dunlap Institute wished to fund this exhibition to highlight the exciting research current astronomers are conducting while connecting it to the institution’s past. The Dunlap Institute has a collection of artifacts from the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO), most of which were taken from its Richmond Hill location and stored in a basement room in the Astronomy & Astrophysics building. Most of the artifacts have remained undisturbed since their arrival in 2008. The “Innovators in Instrumentation” exhibition is part of UTSIC’s continuing effort to catalogue, protect, and exhibit the historic scientific instruments found in various closets and back rooms around the UofT campus.


The Dunlap Institute continues the legacy of groundbreaking research first established at the DDO, by participating in international astronomical projects like the search for exoplanets and alien life, Arctic astronomy, and cutting-edge spectroscopy. The exhibition studied these three topics in detail while incorporating artifacts from the DDO to tell a cohesive story about developments in astronomical instruments. The exhibition also featured an “Astronomer’s Cabinet” that displayed historic objects from the DDO, as well as a Data cabinet that showed the progression of data collection from the early 1900’s to present. There is also a feedback area where visitors are asked to write down what questions they would like astronomers to explore in the future. This echoes the “Ask an Astronomer” panel, which features questions gathered through social media that were then answered by astronomers from the Dunlap Institute.