Practicum- Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond

This digital collection is part of the Library of Congress and it presents a long history of the academic exploration of the Universe. The collection was built on the foundation of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan archive, but by including many other historical works it situates Sagan and others within a historical context. This archive has a wide variety of both physical collection items that have been digitized for easy access, and articles and essays from both Sagan and a variety of other authors.

The starting page of this collection is actually one of the three top tabs used to maneuver through the archive. You start out in the “collection items” area of the archive but you can use these tabs to go to the “articles and essays” section or “about this collection”. However, if you stay in the collection items you can refine your search using the categories on the left. These include the format, date, and location of the item, what collection is the item part of, the contributor, the subject, and the language. Looking through all this I went to Subject and under that I clicked on Extraterrestrial Life. I then scrolled down until I saw a manuscript called “The Evolution of Interstellar Space Flight” by Carl Sagan.

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This was made by Carl Sagan in the mid 1940s, when he was around the age of 13. It describes a few of the early developments in space travel including the Nazi V-2 program and the early American and Soviet efforts to get into space.

If you leave collection items and go to articles and essays there are three subject areas to explore, Modeling the Cosmos, Life on Other Worlds, and Carl Sagan and the Tradition of Science. You can move through these sections to read essays about different aspects about the development of science in respect to space exploration. The section on Life on Other Worlds also gives a cultural viewpoint on what people were thinking about space in the past. I uses paintings, maps, and movie posters to show what people have thought about when looking towards the stars.

This digital collection also includes teaching resources and expert resources which can both be found by looking to the left sidebar. These include advice for lesson plans and primary sources while also giving easy links to some of Sagan’s papers. As well as the digitized printed material, this collection also has audio and visual materials that you can search by using the search function at the top of the page.

Overall this collection is somewhat intimidating by its size and scope and it forces visitors to explore the collection in order to figure out all the search tools. I think that the overall layout could be improved to make it more user friendly. For example, instead of just having the start page be the “collection items”, a page giving links about general subject areas would be helpful. Having an opening page with a site map and links to general subject areas like Carl Sagan’s work or the history of astronomy would make the collection much more accessible to visitors.

2 Replies to “Practicum- Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond”

  1. Hello!

    This seems like a very interesting yet intimidating archive so thank you for exploring it for us. I think it could be really cool if they were to get some funding in order to create an interactive archive/exhibit looking at these sources. I think an interactive exhibit looking at the stars would be really cool and if you clicked on a constellation that he had written about it could take you to the source and a small blurb explaining what it is about. Just an idea but I think it could draw in a lot more engagement and help to narrow down the archive for the general public.

    Thank you!

  2. Hey! As intimidating as as this collection seems I think it’s a really valuable resource for teachers. I know that not every school can take their students on a field trip to a science museums so I think is a great alternative.

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