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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Solar Eclipse Images in The History Center Archives

Sat, March 23, 2024 5:42 PM | Anonymous

On Monday April 8, North Americans will be treated to one of Nature's most dramatic spectacles, a total solar eclipse. Beginning over the South Pacific Ocean, the first place in continental North America that will experience totality is on Mexico's Pacific coast at around 11:00 AM PDT. It will be seen in the US first in Texas, and will work its way north east and will become visible here in upstate New York around 2:07 PM. Weather permitting, this exquisite cosmic phenomenon can take the breath away. As the disc of the moon gradually covers the disc of the sun, the day will darken into night, and some of the brightest stars may become visible to the naked eye. Sometimes during total solar eclipses nocturnal animals can be confused into waking up, and some flowers, like poppies that are typically open only during the daytime, will begin to close.

This sensational phenomenon has attracted nature photographers since the birth of photography in the 19th century. The earliest solar eclipse images in our collection date to the 1920s. On January 25th 1925 the East Coast including Ithaca experienced a total solar eclipse. Groton photographer Verne Morton and Ithaca photographer John Troy took exquisite shots of total solar eclipses. Morton's was taken near his home in Groton, and shows the sun emerging after totality with an eerie glow over the treeline; while Troy's was taken on the Cornell campus, showing silhouettes of people, possibly eager students, standing on top of the buildings.

[One hopes that they had safety glasses because looking directly at a solar eclipse is very dangerous and can permanently damage one's eyesight. A number of local establishments may have ISO Certified glasses for safely viewing the eclipse, including Visit Ithaca at the Tompkins Center for History and Culture on the Commons.]

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