In the course of preparations for the SEP year reunion, Jon Claerbout opined that we should prepare a plaque or sign recognizing the donors who contributed to the skylight and who were going to be present, by and large, at the reunion. While a plaque itself tends to be rather boring, the inside surfaces of the skylight shaft itself provided four large areas in which to place text and graphics. Having been inspired by a brass rubbing I made in St. Martin of the Fields while vacationing in London, I suggested a pictorial theme of old scientific illustrations augmented by one or more quotations to complement the lengthy list of donors' names.
Having come up with a concept, the idea was then refined by other SEP'ers to focus on a primarily astronomical theme appropriate to a skylight and we began a search for such illustrations. To this end we went to the Stanford University Library rare book collections to begin the search. The Assistant Head of Special Collections, John Mustain, managed to find quite a few illustrated books for us to look through and, with some additional search through the stacks, we compiled a sufficiency of material.
With concept and materials well in hand, we contacted a commercial sign-making firm in nearby Redwood City to turn our materials into a design and implement it in the skylight shaft. After a series of email and fax exchanges, the final design was approved. This was installed during the week leading up to the reunion and was immediately covered over with a black plastic drop cloth to protect the design from prying eyes before the official dedication and unveiling.
The final design consisted of 4 panels, each divided into three areas horizontally. In each area either a graphic or a text display was place. These individual elements are discussed next.