AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 150 Source Surveys, Catalogs, Databases and Swift Observations
Oral, Wednesday, 10:00-11:30am, January 11, 2006, Salon 3

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[150.08] Astronomical Photographic Plate Collections: Treasure or Trash?

W. H. Osborn (Central Mich. U.), M. W. Castelaz, J. D. Cline (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute)

Our efforts over the past three years to establish a national archive for astronomical plates will be described. This work has led to the following major conclusions regarding the preservation of astronomical photographic plates: (1) a significant number of observatories, as well as retiring astronomers, wish to dispose of the plates they hold; (2) most astronomers feel direct and spectroscopic plates of potential scientific value should be preserved; (3) there is little interest in providing support for preservation efforts on a broad scale. We offer that the astronomical community must quickly decide to preserve plate collections or they will soon be lost, either consciously discarded or through benign neglect. If a systematic effort to preserve these archival data is indeed to be made, priorities need to be established. Not only is archiving (and eventually digitizing) all existing plates impracticable, many plates have little or no potential value. We will present our ideas on priorities and seek the input of the community.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: astro-plates@mail.pari.edu

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