The plate collection, like Harvard College Observatory itself, looms large in the history of astrophotography. In July 1850, daguerrotype photographer John Adams Whipple captured the first-ever picture of a star, Vega, using the observatory's mahogany-and-brass Great Refractor. By the late 1880s, observatory director Edward Charles Pickering had endeavored to photograph the entire sky, collecting photographs from the northern and southern hemispheres. The college shipped a 24-inch telescope to Arequipa, Peru, in 1896, and followed with telescopes in South Africa and other locations. During the next three decades, astronomers slipped glass plates into the observing tubes of their telescopes, making exposures of the entire sky, and then gathered them and shipped them back to Cambridge.