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Ariail Exhibit

USC, State Museum acquire major gift of historical astronomy materials

“Robert Ariail has put together a vintage collection of astonishing proportions, not only the finest assembly anywhere of early American telescopes, but a library to match,” said Owen Gingerich, professor of astronomy and history of science at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “With respect to popular astronomy of the 19th century, his book collection rivals, and in critical areas exceeds, the Library of Congress itself.”

“This is a collection that was amassed over a lifetime,” said Tom Falvey, director of education and curator of science and technology for the State Museum. “It is priceless. The historic scopes, which date back to 1730, were individually made, not mass-produced. This collection could not be duplicated anywhere in the world.”

USC President Harris Pastides said the joint arrangement between the university and the museum is an excellent example of cooperation between two public entities for the public good.

“This partnership between the museum and the university is an outstanding example of what visionary leadership and collaboration can accomplish for our state,” Pastides said. “Each part of this collection has landed in its rightful place. The curators at the Hollings Library will be caring stewards of these wonderful documents and books and will ensure that they are accessible for students of history and astronomy around the world.”

Tom McNally, dean of libraries, said the collection will provide a unique understanding of the study of astronomy.

“This collection is important for teaching and research and will provide students and researchers a unique understanding of this area of study,” McNally said. “It provides a historical and artistic dimension to a scientific field and is a reminder that in every field of study, achievements are built, as Sir Isaac Newton said, “on the shoulders of giants.”

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Authorities say book collection rivals and, in some cases, exceeds the Library of Congress. 

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