Starry Dome: Astronomy in Art and the Imagination

September 1 - December 23, 2009
West and South Ambulatory Galleries

Four hundred years after Galileo Galilei became the first astronomer to look through a telescope, this exhibition uses early lunar maps, star charts, and groundbreaking treatises by scientists such as Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton to examine the necessity of close observation and illustration in the development of astronomy.  The works on view, drawn entirely from the Allen Memorial Art Museum
and the Oberlin College Library, equally explore the allure of the sky across diverse times and cultures, from the omnipresent full moon in Japanese prints to the imaginative, personalized cosmologies of modern and contemporary artists such as Joseph Cornell, Ansel Adams, James Rosenquist, and Vija Celmins.  The exhibition demonstrates how two distinct disciplines converge as both astronomers and artists struggle— as the earliest scientists and stargazers did—with fundamental questions about space, time, and the human place in an expanding universe.

This exhibition, curated by Anna-Claire Stinebring (OC ’09), supports the Oberlin College course “Introductory Astronomy” and celebrates the Year of Science and the International Year of Astronomy.  Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Download the K-12 Teacher Resource Packet for "Starry Dome."

Learn more about the International Year of Astronomy at

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Joseph Cornell (American, 1930-1972)
Phases de la Lune, late 1950s
Mixed media construction
12 ¼ x 18 x 4 ¾ in.(31.1 x 45.7 x 12 cm)
Gift of Ruth C. Roush, with R.T. Miller and Special Acquisitions Funds, 1977
AMAM 1977.73