Photographic negative, the stars of the Milky Way showing the area around Kappa Crucis, glass / gelatin, used at Sydney Observatory, photograph by James Short and H. C. Russell, Sydney, 28 May, 1890 (attributed)
In 1887 H. C. Russell, Government Astronomer at Sydney Observatory, agreed to be a part of a photographic project of international significance. This was the 'Carte du Ciel' or ''Mapping the Stars'' project which saw Australian observatories engaged in mapping of the stars in the southern section of the heavens using photography.
A special photographic telescope, often referred to as the 'Star camera', was made for the project by and June 1891 the was complete except for the special measuring plates (resaux) which were needed to put lines of measurement onto the photograph.
This glass plate while among the first taken with the 'Star Camera' was not used on the ''Mapping the Stars'' project because the observatory did not have a tested reseau to use. Instead this plate is among a very few surviving early photographs made in 1891, using a reseau provided to Russell by Admiral Mouchez, the Director of the Paris Observatory.
For more information see linked Powerhouse Theme, 'Sydney Observatory Star Camera and Mouchez's Reseau 1891'
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September, 2008
Nangle, J., 'The Sydney Observatory; its history and work, Sydney Technical College, 1930
Russell, H.C., 'Preparations Now Being Made in Sydney Observatory for the Photographic Chart of the Heavens', in Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales for 1891, Kegan Paul, Tench, Turner & Co., Limited, London, 1892
Russell, H.C., 'Notes on Some Celestial Photographs recently taken at the Sydney Observatory', in Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales for 1891, Kegan Paul, Tench, Turner & Co., Limited, London, 1892
Russell, H.C., Description of the Star Camera at The Sydney Observatory, Alfred James Kent, Government Printer, 1923
Wood, Harley, Astrographic Catalogue 1900.0, Sydney Section -52° to -64°, volume LIII, V.C.N. Blight, Government Printer, 1971
These astrographic plates were acquired by the Powerhouse Museum as a part of the Sydney Observatory collection in the 1980s. They form part of a larger collection of glass plate negatives taken using the Sydney Observatory astrograph from 1890 onwards. Around 770 plates were in the museums collection in 2008 but thousands more are held by the Macquarie University, Sydney. This particular group of glass plates are among the earliest known to have been taken using the Sydney Astrographic Camera but were not used in the International 'Mapping the Stars Project'.
Geoff Barker, September, 2008