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The Fuertes Observatory Museum & Outreach Project

Raised toward our $7,500 Goal
133 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on March 11, at 12:59 AM EDT
Project Owners

The Fuertes Observatory Museum & Outreach Project


Click here to visit the current (2017) Fuertes Observatory Centennial Renovation Project crowdfunding campaign!


Tens of thousands of Cornellians have been to the Fuertes Observatory on North Campus since it was built in 1917. Fuertes is a unique, historic place on Cornell's campus and in the world of astronomy. Many students, alumni, and Ithacans have fond memories of their visits. The Cornell Astronomical Society (CAS) itself has existed since 1972, opening the observatory to the public every Friday night (Check out our new website for more background on the club!). Now, we want to go even further.

The Fuertes Observatory:

(For more about Fuertes' long history of civil engineering and astronomy, click here.)

For many years, it has been a dream of CAS members to set up a museum in the eastern wing of the observatory to display our collection of vintage civil engineering/astronomical instruments and observatory history.  However, the former transit rooms had fallen into disrepair and disuse over the years. The walls were peeling; the windows needed blinds, glazing, and caulking; and the building required humidity control to prevent further damage to our collection of antiques. Thanks to some work done by the Cornell Astronomy Department, most of these structural issues have been improved. With the room cleaned-up, CAS members are eager to begin the museum. We have been lovingly restoring our old transits and clocks and been prototyping custom-etched museum plaques. We’re hoping to gather the resources and expertise necessary to turn the museum space into a real highlight for visitors – something worthy of history and legacy of Cornell's historic observatories.


The Irving Porter Church Memorial Refractor (12" aperture):

The Irving Porter Church Telescope at Fuertes Observatory


All funds will go to purchasing beautiful and interactive displays, museum lighting, and preserving our current historic equipment. We would also like to use any additional funds to buy new observing equipment to give our visitors a more enriching experience on clear nights. 


A blueprint of where the museum will be.  (Dome is on the second floor):

The main existing museum room with several instruments:


An antique spectroscope that will become part of the museum:


Our slide cabinet in the entryway:


Some sample museum placards are:

Our preliminary budget is as follows:

Adding accent lightiing to better illuminate our displays, resulting in friendlier, more effective museum environment:  ~$3000 (quote supplied by building administrator -- contractually, work must be done by Cornell's union.)

Painting floors: $800 (quote supplied by building administrator -- contractually, work must be done by Cornell's union.)

18 small museum placards: $440

10 large museum placards: $600

Cabinet lighting for original, built-in display: $150

Red lights for clock drive display: $30

Black spacers and new slides for display wall: $170

26 black frames, various sizes, for pictures, posters, and paper wall displays: $450

Hands-on optics exhibit: $200

Curtains: $220

Plexiglas display case: $40

8' home-built planetarium: $700

Additional display tables/cases: $500

Misc. costs (i.e. nails for hanging new pictures, paper supplies): $100


Total: $7400


We are aiming to raise $7,500 to roughly cover the above expenses. As we proceed with the project, we may find some expenses differ from our initial estimates. Should we have any funds remaining after completing the above goals, we would like to use the remainder towards the purchase of new 18" telescope to use for public observing. 

Additional funds after that will support club activity, including promotion of open houses, new eyepieces, and future museum projects. 


Thank you for your support!!

Choose a giving level


First Light

A donation at this level will help us build the foundations of a new museum!



A donation at this level will help us purchase at least one museum placard to showcase our instruments.


Finder Scope

A donation at this level will help us purchase one Plexiglas display case to keep our antique instruments safe for years to come!



A donation at this level will fund several new slides for our display wall -- a favorite on cloudy nights.


Dobsonian Telescope

A donation at this level will fund our hands-on optics exhibit to explain how telescopes work through physical learning.


Transit Scope

A donation at this level will allow us to build a small planetarium so our visitors can experience the night sky even on cloudy nights!


Irving Porter Church

A donation at this level will allow us to change the lighting in our museum rooms from harsh fluorescent tubes to warm museum spotlights!