The city of Bucharest only has one astronomical observatory open to the public, an institution present in the lives of  Bucharest dwellers since 1910.

This temporary exhibition will present the history of this beloved place of Bucharest, a tumultuous history accompanied by a constant activity – astronomical observations open to the public.

Officially, the Astronomical Observatory began its activity on May 1st, 1950, in the “old” building on Ana Ipătescu Boulevard (now Lascăr Catargiu), which Admiral Vasile Urseanu built in the shape of a yacht with an observatory dome so that, while observing the sky using the telescope, he could have the impression that he was floating on the sea. At first, the admiral put the building at the disposal of the Romanian Astronomical Society, which he was president of .

Renowned astronomers used the main telescope: Victor Anestin, Constatin Pîrvulescu and Nicolae Donici. Admiral Urseanu built the building as a private astronomical observatory, using the Zeiss telescope until 1926, when he died. The existing documents attest to the fact that his wife, Ioana Urseanu (1870 – 1942), donated the building in 1933 to the Bucharest City Hall.

Initially, it housed the Municipal Art Gallery, which was also temporarily closed during the war, due to the need to protect its heritage ​​against aerial bombardment (the basic components of the instrument – the ZEISS refractor – were kept packed in the basement of the building). After the war, the art gallery was dismantled, the rooms being occasionally used for rehearsals by the City Hall Marching Band.

Romanian astronomer Nicolae Donici and Romanian Academy members Călin Popovici and George Demetrescu convinced local authorities to put the admiral’s telescope back into operation, and in May 1950 the Observatory was returned to the public and to astronomy enthusiasts.

In the 1960s, the institution, which had since become the “Museum of Experimental Sciences”, was substantially equipped by the Council of Museums, from the former State Committee for Culture and Art, with modern photographic equipment and a photographic laboratory. In parallel, a meteorological station and a seismographic station were opened, as well as chemistry and physics laboratories. In the Observatory there was an exhibition made using the Observatory’s own astronomical observations, and in 1971 its name was changed to the “Museum of Romanian Astronomy”. The astronomy exhibition could be visited until the 1980s when the “Office of Materialist-Scientific Education” was established, a permanent exhibition in the field being opened on this occasion. After 1990 the institution became the “Admiral Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory”, the exhibition was closed, but astronomical observations continued.

The temporary exhibition will illustrate all the periods that the Astronomical Observatory went through, with information and illustrations from the archives. The exhibition will be open from June 15th 2020 to December 31st 2020.

Adrian Șonka – Museographer at the Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory

Elisabeta Petrescu – Museographer at the Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory