22
Jun

Take a Smithsonian Lighthouse Tour

Lighthouses serve several functions. They can warn people on boats of rocks in the water. They can show the way to a safe harbor. Are you looking for a light to guide you in these rocky times? Consider taking a lighthouse tour courtesy of the Smithsonian. Or maybe that’s a tour of the Smithsonian courtesy of lighthouses.

Eight lighthouses portrayed in photographs and drawings. Two examples of lighthouse lenses.In order of left to right rows from top left: Scott Catalogue German Democratic Republic 1554 National Postal Museum, 1977.1119.6.21.5; African Postcard collection, EEPA 1985-014, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution; Transfer from U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center (through David H. Wallace); Photo Lot 97 DOE Oceania: Philippines Postcard Collection 05169000, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution; Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 1964, nasm_A19760224000; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration ca. 1935-1938, 1974.28.154; Smithsonian Institution Archives, siris_sic_13382; Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Purchase and partial donation. FSA.A1999.35; Smithsonian National Museum of American History, nmah_1413592; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1896-16-1.

Top row:

Warnemunde Lighthouse is on the Warnow River in Rostock, Germany. It has a 360-degree view of the river and the Baltic Sea. It is shown here on a 15pf stamp from the German Democratic Republic issued in 1974. The stamp is in the Smithsonian National Postal Museum collection. (Scott Catalogue German Democratic Republic 1554 National Postal Museum, 1977.1119.6.21.5)

The Port Said Lighthouse is in Port Said, Egypt. The lighthouse was built to guide ships passing through the Suez Canal and opened in 1869 one week before the canal. It is shown here on a postcard. The postcard is now part of the African Postcard Collection in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. (African Postcard collection, EEPA 1985-014, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution)

This Fresnel lens is one in a series of lighthouse lenses designed by Augustin-Jean Fresnel in the 1800s. There are six types of Fresnel lenses called orders. Each order is a different size with first order being the largest and sixth order the smallest. This lens is a third order lens and was in the lighthouse at Bolivar Point Light Station near Galveston, Texas, until 1933 before the National Park Service donated it to the Smithsonian. It is now on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Transfer from U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center (through David H. Wallace))

Pasig River Light is in Manilla, Philippines. It was the first lighthouse tower in the country and was first lit in 1846. It is shown here on a hand-colored photoprint on a postcard by Edward Mitchell. It is now in the Anthropology Collections of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. (Photo Lot 97 DOE Oceania: Philippines Postcard Collection 05169000, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

Middle row:

Old Lighthouse, Cape Kennedy is also known as the Cape Canaveral Light and has stood on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida since 1848. It is the only lighthouse owned and operated by the US Air Force. The lighthouse is shown here in a pen and ink drawing by Mitchell Jamieson. It was commissioned by NASA in the 1960s as part of a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities to paint whatever interested them. This drawing along with the entire NASA art collection was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975 and is still in their collection. (Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 1964, nasm_A19760224000)

Alki Point Lighthouse is in Seattle, Washington. The name Alki is the Washington State Motto and is a Chinook Indian word meaning by and by. The lighthouse is shown here in a watercolor and pencil painting by Z. Vanessa Helder that is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration ca. 1935-1938, 1974.28.154)

Minot's Ledge Lighthouse is on a group of rocks off the coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts, near Boston Harbor. It is named after a 1754 shipwreck of a very valuable ship owned by Boston merchant George Minot. This image is the lighthouse as depicted by Alfred R. Waud in Harper's Weekly, July 10, 1869. It was scanned from the papers of the Smithsonian Institution's first Secretary, Joseph Henry. Joseph Henry, along with the United States Lighthouse Board, oversaw the building of this lighthouse completed in 1860. Joseph Henry's papers and this image are in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. (Smithsonian Institution Archives, siris_sic_13382)

Bottom row:

Tomyodai Lighthouse is in Tokyo, Japan. The lighthouse was built in 1871 to help safely guide fishing boats into Tokyo Bay. The standard word for lighthouse in Japanese is tōdai, but this lighthouse uses tōmyō in its name, which means an offering of light to the gods. This image is part of the Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan in the collections of the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. (Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Purchase and partial donation. FSA.A1999.35)

This is a section of a bullseye lighthouse lens. This lens was made in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, by Macbeth-Evans Glass Company. It is now is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Smithsonian National Museum of American History, nmah_1413592)

The lighthouse in this drawing is unknown. The image is a fragment of a cartoon for cotton printing: Neptune or L'Empire des Mers. The lighthouse drawing for textile design is done in black chalk, pen and black ink, and brush and grey wash on white paper. It was made in Nantes, France by Petitpierre & Compe. It is now part of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collection. (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1896-16-1)

 

Do you have children who might be interested in lighthouses? The Smithsonian Science Education Center has an activity related to light. How Can I Win a Game of Flashlight Tag? is an exploration of how light interacts with different materials and objects around the house.

Lighthouses are featured in the grade 1 Smithsonian Science for the ClassroomTM science module How Can We Light Our Way in the Dark?

If you would like to find more images of lighthouses at the Smithsonian Institution, SI Open Access allows you to search almost 3 million digital items from the collections.

About the Author

Hannah Osborn and Melissa Rogers

Hannah Osborn is a curriculum product specialist for the Curriculum and Communications division where she is the contact for general operational responsibilities, manages and administers budget, procures vendors and contractors, and supports the writers, editors, and subject matter specialists within the division. Prior to coming to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Hannah worked in healthcare as a Prosthetist and Orthotist, where she provided braces and artificial limbs to patients. In her free time, Hannah loves to travel anywhere and everywhere. She also enjoys watching and participating in sports, attending theater performances, and being outdoors hiking or camping. Hannah earned her MA from Georgetown University in Liberal Studies and her BA from the University of Michigan in Psychology and Classical Archeology.

Melissa Rogers is a Science Curriculum Developer on the Curriculum and Communications team. She joined SSEC in 2017 to support the writing of the NGSS-aligned Smithsonian Science for the Classroom modules for elementary classrooms. Melissa completed a BS and MS in Geophysics at Virginia Tech, with a focus on earthquake seismology. Following that, rather than studying the vibrations of Earth, she applied her data analysis skills to understanding the microgravity environment of Earth-orbiting spacecraft such as the US Space Shuttles. After explaining microgravity to researchers for several years, she started to develop microgravity educational materials for NASA and to design and facilitate related teacher professional learning opportunities. That led to (earth systems, environmental science, engineering, physics) classroom teaching at the high school, community college, and four-year college levels. For four years prior to joining SSEC, Melissa created in-person, on-line, and hybrid climate change professional learning workshops for educators. In her spare time, she enjoys perusing cookbooks and testing out new recipes.