Land of the Morning Calm

By Lauren Amundson

Between 1883 and 1893, Percival Lowell traveled throughout the Far East.  He lived in Japan from time to time during this period, and he wrote several books about his experiences. He served as the counselor and foreign secretary to the 1883 Special Mission from Korea to the United States, which was the first diplomatic group sent from Korea to any western power.  Following this mission, Lowell stayed in Korea as a guest of the government for several months.

In 1886, he published Chosön, the Land of the Morning Calm. In the book, Lowell describes the geography, people, and culture of Korea, a country that wasn’t well known to the West at the time. We have a few copies of the book in our collection. The other day, one of my volunteers was looking through correspondence files and found the original agreement between Lowell and Ticknor and Company, who published the book.



Welcome to Flagstaff

By Lauren Amundson

On April 17, 1894, the citizens of Flagstaff wrote a letter to Percival Lowell’s assistant A.E. Douglass expressing their support for the establishment of an observatory in town. This included the title to ten or fifteen acres of land and a “good wagon road” to the observatory site. Eighty-two people signed the letter, including prominent names such as Babbitt and Riordan. The entire document is available here.

1894 letter

The Big Chill

By Lauren Amundson

Literally the coolest feature in the Putnam Collection Center, our walk-in freezer helps ensure that pests don’t migrate into the collections repository. Before we move any items into the repository, we freeze them for two weeks at minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some materials that can’t be frozen, but for everything else we box it up and wrap it in plastic sheeting to prevent condensation from forming on the box. We label the boxes and keep track of all collections going into and coming out of the freezer on a spreadsheet.

After two weeks, we remove the boxes from the freezer and examine them for insects or other pests. If they’re clean, we move them to the repository. If we see any signs of infestation, we quarantine the items until we can evaluate them further.

On the few 90-degree days that we get in June, we love to stand in front of the open freezer for a few seconds to cool off!


Wrapped boxes ready for the freezer


We Love Pluto

By Lauren Amundson

The most recent addition to our archives is this proclamation from the City of Flagstaff in honor of the dedication of the newly restored A. Lawrence Lowell Telescope, better known as the Pluto Discovery Telescope. Clyde Tombaugh used the telescope to take images of the sky on glass plate negatives. It was on two of these plates that he found Pluto in 1930.

Pluto proclamation

Beginning in 2017, Lowell Observatory’s restoration team took apart the telescope and cleaned, repaired, and repainted it. The team also renovated the dome, and other members of the observatory’s staff installed a new interpretive exhibit inside.

The Pluto Telescope is no longer used for scientific research, but it’s one of the biggest draws for our visitors.

Women in Astronomy

By Lauren Amundson

March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we’ve created an online exhibit that highlights women in astronomy. We focus specifically on three women whose papers are housed in the Lowell Observatory Archives: Dr. Elizabeth Roemer, Wrexie Louise Leonard, and Elizabeth Langdon Williams. Enjoy exploring the lives and careers of these remarkable women!

Mapping the Red Planet

By Lauren Amundson

From 1896 to 1911, Percival Lowell created nine maps of Mars showing various features as he saw them, including canals. We know today, of course, that Lowell was mistaken in his observations of canals, but the maps are amazingly detailed and visually quite stunning. We’ve digitized and uploaded them to the Arizona Memory Project.

Mars 1911 - Copy

“Maps encourage boldness. They’re like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible.” -Mark Jenkins


Archives Survival Kit

By Stacey Christen

Most of the time working in archives is ideal for someone who suffers with allergies. The environment is kept clean, the temperature and humidity are closely regulated. Unfortunately, I occasionally open a box or folder that sends my allergies into overdrive. At those times, my handy archives survival kit keeps me going.


Throat lozenges for that scratchy feeling.


Antihistamine, because I enjoy breathing.


And white gloves, not only to protect archival materials, but to keep dust off my hands.

Luckily, the allergy attacks are few and far between. But, when they show up, I’m ready to fight back.

You Look Glovely Today

By Lauren Amundson

Have you ever wondered why archivists, curators and researchers wear white cotton gloves when handling archival materials? Well, as it turns out, maybe they shouldn’t be. When handling paper, wearing gloves decreases a person’s dexterity. This could harm the paper because the person can’t feel it as well as with bare hands. The best bet is to wash your hands before touching materials. However, when working with items such as photographs, film, and negatives, gloves should be worn to prevent the damage caused by skin oils and fingerprints. Want to learn more? Here are two great articles on the topic:

gloves Gloves-Lintless-Nylon-White-Archival-Methods-v01


Home Sweet Home

By Stacey Christen

In 1957, Dr. Elizabeth “Pat” Roemer moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to be an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory. Pat decided to settle into town by having a new house built. She collected blueprints and brochures regarding aspects of her new home and saved them among the other papers in her collection. One of the highlights of my job is finding these examples of material culture.

img027Blueprint for 3 bedroom house in Flagstaff


img033Montgomery Ward paint colors


img037Rheem water heater brochure


img041Oven choices


img042Asbestos roof shingles brochure




Every Four Years

By Stacey Christen

In American politics, presidential elections occur every four years. The year leading up to election day is filled with primaries, debates, and opinions from everyone. Often in personal correspondence, people voice stronger opinions than they do in their every day lives. Here is a letter from Dr. Elizabeth Roemer to her mother, Elsie Roemer, from April 26, 1980.


In this letter, Dr. Roemer has much to say regarding some of the 1980 presidential candidates:

Everybody I know finds the potential choice among the presidential candidates very discouraging. Carter is incompetent, and I don’t know how much longer the country can survive with him in the White House– ’til next Inauguration Day, I hope, but the prospects for something better then are hardly glowing. Kennedy is too far out, his basic integrity is questionable, and he isn’t too bright. Bush is too conservative and does not have leadership potential that is recognizable to me. Reagan is not very bright, not very hard working, and maybe senile. Anderson has his problems, too, and I really don’t want him in the White House, either. But out of that dreary pack, he’s the most likely to get my vote if he manages to get on the ballot. I hope some new system gets devised that succeeds better at identifying qualified candidates, and getting them on the ballot.

Unfortunately, Dr. Roemer’s hopes of a better system have not yet been realized.