Sundial Casts

Astronomy

Accession Number: 2019.ast.148.1-5

Description:

These are five parts of two sundials. The main parts are two identical metal casts of a square, flat sundial. 2019.ast.148.1 has some blue-green oxidization on the surface. 2019.ast.148.2 is paler in colour and lacks some definition.

The sundial pattern has a four-pointed star in the centre, with W, N and E marked. Around three edges of the sundial there are numerals from 12 (at the N mark) counting from 11 to 5 on one side, and up from 1 to 7 on the other, like the standard arrangement of a clock face. On the S side of the sundial the metal insert gives instructions “To Get Standard Time Add to Dial Time The Number of Minutes Given Below” and provides a chart for reference which is given in months.

There are also three indicator arrows (2019.ast.148.3-5) intended to be mounted to the centre of the dial, with the arrow pointed north.

Primary Materials: Metal: Copper Alloy

Markings:

On the metal insert: “TO GET STANDARD TIME ADD TO DIAL TIME THE NUMBER OF MINUTES GIVEN BELOW”

Dimensions (cm):

Length = 30.5, Width = 30.5, Height = 2.8

Function:

Sundials make use of the change in the sun’s position in the sky to tell the time. These were likely cast at the David Dunlap Observatory, but it is not clear if they were ever used as sundials, or if they are extras that were never employed. These were cast from the wooden cast that is catalogued as 2019.ast.147.

The Astronomy catalogue includes this information: “[S]undials are millennia-old in conception, and while long obsolete for research, they nevertheless found a place in the decorative scheme of observatories. Sundials symbolically represented the claim to a long cultural preoccupation with astronomy, to which the latest equipment is the culmination”

Condition:

Excellent: 2019.ast.148.1 is darker in colour and has some blue-green oxidization across some of the surface, but is otherwise in excellent condition. 2019.ast.149.1-5 are in apparently perfect condition, with only a little discolouration and shiny areas where they may have been rubbed smooth by use or storage.

Associated Instruments: 2019.ast.147

Manufacturer: Locally made

Date of Manufacture: c. 1935

Provenance:

These sundials were likely made for use at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill during or around its construction in 1935. Upon the sale of the observatory in 2009 they were moved, along with the other items in this collection, to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics building at the St George Campus at the University of Toronto. They were stored there until 2017, when it was moved to a new storage location in McLennan Physical Laboratories.