Lick Observatory Archives

University of California


Lick Observatory


History of
Lick Observatory

The Archives of the Lick Observatory, named in honor of astronomer and archivist Mary Lea Shane, document one of the most historically important observatories in the world, and are a unique resource for the study of the history of modern astronomy.


Preserved in the Archives are over 485 linear feet of archival material including records beginning in 1888 describing the founding construction and operation of the observatory and documenting all aspects of the early astronomical ambitions and achievements of its founders. Correspondence, copybooks, drawings, diaries and logs, and the personal papers of resident and visiting astronomers make up a large portion of the Archive. The Archives' extensive collection of historical photographs is world renowned and includes portraits of astronomers, telescope and lens makers and other prominent scientists, scenes of life at the observatory on Mount Hamilton, instruments, and documentation of expeditions. For assistance locating or accessing Lick archival material  or Cruzcat catalog entries, please contact Special Collections.


  • Researchers may schedule an appointment in person at the Special Collections Reference Desk located within Special Collections on the 3rd floor of McHenry Library
  • phone (831) 459-2547
  • e-mail


Lick archival material does not circulate but may be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. Some titles and papers are stored remotely but may be recalled for use. Researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections staff in advance to arrange for retrieval and a reading appointment.  Photocopying or other forms of reproduction of cataloged and processed Lick archives material may be possible; please consult the staff in Special Collections.