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S. R. Majewski (U.Virginia), M. S. Boles (Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, U. Virginia), R. J. Patterson (U.Virginia)
We have created an exhibit, Under Southern Skies -- Aboriginal and Western Scientific Perspectives of the Australian Night Sky, which has shown since June, 1999 in newly refurbished exhibit space at the Leander McCormick Observatory. The University of Virginia has a long and continuing tradition of astrometry starting with early parallax work at the McCormick Observatory, extending to our own NSF CAREER Award-funded projects, and including a long-term, ongoing southern parallax program at Mt. Stromlo and Siding Springs Observatories in Australia. Recently, through a gift of Mr. John Kluge, the University of Virginia has obtained one of the most extensive collections of Australian Aboriginal art outside of Australia. The goal of our exhibit is to unite the University's scientific, artistic and cultural connections to Australia through an exhibit focusing on different perspectives of the Australian night sky.
We have brought together Australian Aboriginal bark and canvas paintings that feature astronomical themes, e.g., Milky Way, Moon, Magellanic Cloud and Seven Sisters Dreamings, from the Kluge-Ruhe and private collections. These paintings, from the Central Desert and Arnhem Land regions of Australia, are intermingled with modern, large format, color astronomical images of the same scenes. Descriptive panels and a small gallery guide explain the cultural, artistic and scientific aspects of the various thematic groupings based on particular southern hemisphere night sky objects and associated Aboriginal traditions and stories. This unusual combination of art and science not only provides a unique avenue for educating the public about both astronomy and Australian Aboriginal culture, but highlights mankind's ancient and continuing connection to the night sky.
We appreciate funding from NSF CAREER Award #AST-9702521, a Cottrell Scholar Award from The Research Corporation, and the Dept. of Astronomy and Ruhe-Kluge Collection at the University of Virginia.
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