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Welcoming Remarks

Captain Kent W. Foster, Superintendent

U.S. Naval Observatory


Good evening and welcome to this rededication of the Naval Observatory Library. As you may have read in the program for this evening, this library was founded in 1842 and has been in continual use for over 150 years. So you might ask why a dedication ceremony at this time. We are now at the wrap-up stages of a year-long renovation program that has focused not only on maintenance, repair, and replacement, but also on restoration to many of the original features of this library. For example, in carrying out the restoration, we peeled off 100 years worth paint layers to determine the original color scheme, and what you're looking at is as close as our hired experts could come. From earliest known descriptions and photographs, we replaced the previous center fountain with the closest replica to the original fountain we could find.

The library restoration program was carried out in conjunction with an overall multi-million dollar renovation program for the entire observatory over the past two to three years. Many of these efforts involving the original historic buildings were funded with congressionally earmarked Legacy dollars, intended for the preservation of historically significant properties. And certain of the buildings on these grounds are candidates for the National Historic Register.

The Naval Observatory was first established to provide an operational service to our forces at sea. Today, the Observatory continues to provide operationally vital precise time and astrometric data and information to all defense department forces requiring this information. And that operational mission is without question the primary concern of the observatory today. We are, however, very aware and very proud of the longstanding tradition of service to the fleet, and the historic posture belonging to the Naval Observatory legacy.

The library has been a dominant factor in that legacy, and as we near the end of a year-long restoration effort, it is fitting that we choose the 6th of December, the founding date in the year 1830 of the Depot of Charts and Instruments, forerunner of the Naval Observatory, to rededicate this library and acknowledge the overall historical significance of this Observatory.

We have futhermore elected to rename the Library in honor of the Naval officer who was most instrumental in establishing the first permanent home for the Naval Observatory, and for acquiring the first volumes of the countless numbers of books that have resided in this world class library. We are very pleased that the many descendants of CAPT. James Gilliss have traveled from from all sides of the country to be with us tonight as we commemorate his achievements.

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