Yesterday I promised you a look inside the library at Caltech's Henry M. Robinson Laboratory of Astrophysics. Because the building's being readied for renovation, not much remains in the way of books. Yet, when I visited, other things were still there, like this bust of George Ellery Hale. Besides founding the Mount Wilson Observatory and many other things, Hale was instrumental in creating the California Institute of Technology out of Throop Polytechnic Institute.
I don't know if the bust will stay but the light fixtures will. This one's decorated with Roman symbols.
I revere libraries. A truly ancient one can bring me to tears. This one is merely old, and it's about to undergo big changes. Once again, I refer to Romy Wyllie's book, Caltech's Architectural Heritage. Part of the construction of the Robinson Laboratory building includes what Wyllie refers to as a "rectangular well." The well used to contain a 75 foot spectrograph, according to Wyllie. I've also heard it referred to as a solar telescope. (I sense updates and corrections coming in comments today.)
The well shaft is currently closed but the renovation will open it, meaning sunlight will be admitted into the basements and to this lovely little library.
Take a look at the Caltech Nobel Site. A load of physicists populates the list of Caltech Nobel Laureates (and I must beg a tour of the chemistry building one of these days). Now think of the brilliant scholars of yesterday and today who have sat at this table and pored over these books. Some of them have literally changed how we see the world. Some of them have stayed at Caltech to teach the next generation of mind-bogglers.
The scholars of tomorrow will sit in a modern building across the street. That building looks ugly to some people, though not to all. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. I'm certain that 75 years from now some googly-eyed fan will ogle those glass and chrome rooms with reverence.