Presentation #349.04 in the session HAD IV — iPoster Session.
Astronomy has a rich history extending backwards in time for millennia to the oldest recorded observations on cuneiform tablets. In North and South America, records of astronomical activities begin with indigenous archaeoastronomy sites and continue in modern observatories. Archived observations, whether sketched by hand or captured in photographs or recorded on electronic media, document the sky at moments that will never be repeated. Access to such records stretches the baseline of time-domain astronomy backwards qualitatively for centuries and quantitively for about 120 years, greatly exceeding the span of modern electronic records. Unfortunately, rapidly evolving technology can render digital data obsolete and unreadable after only a few years unless precautions are taken to convert the information continuously to the latest format. The tools and instruments used by former astronomers demonstrate how they accomplished their science. Although their technologies and processes may be outdated, their work laid the foundation for our current astronomical endeavors. Those practices and the personal experiences of our predecessors provide insight into how the culture of astronomy has evolved and should inform efforts to improve our profession today. The Working Group on the Preservation of Astronomical Heritage (WGPAH) is charged with ensuring heritage resources remain available to astronomers, historians of astronomy, and all interested individuals.
Consisting of 14 specialists from 7 disciplines, the WGPAH seeks to establish criteria and priorities for preserving astronomical sites, facilities, instruments, and records. In addition, we work to develop and disseminate the best practices for preservation efforts. In doing so, we advise institutions and teams engaged in or considering preservation projects. We also partner with organizations such as the Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) of the AAS, the International Glass Plates Group, and the recently formed Historic Site Designation Task Force, whose missions overlap with ours. We welcome the participation of everyone.
To access WGPAH resources, please visit our website (https://aas.org/comms/working-group-preservation-astronomical-heritage-wgpah).
To contribute to WGPAH discussions and activities, please join our low-volume mailing list (https://lists.aas.org/).