2018 schedule

Sat 14:30-15:15
Mercure Conservatory

Heritage value of Melbourne Observatory

Dr Barry Clark


Williamstown Observatory (1853-1863) succeeded greatly in assisting the Colony of Victoria with timekeeping, telegraphy and surveying. Its reward in 1863 was Melbourne Observatory, which increased the benefits flowing to the colony. The widespread availability of precise time has recently been shown to have increased society’s acceptance of increasing punctuality and regimentation, a profound change.
The 1869 Great Melbourne Telescope was renowned as the world’s largest for much of the next three decades. In the 1880s, the Observatory was the first in the country to publish daily weather forecasts, but the second Government Astronomer disliked doing these and managed to have meteorology split off from the State observatories in 1907 to form the Bureau of Meteorology, a great success. In 1898, the Observatory employed six young women to measure star positions in photographs made for an international project. The project is now recognised as successful and women were empowered by being able to take on technical work generally.
The Observatory’s professional operations in ended in 1945 as an economy measure. The Astronomical Society of Victoria has kept the Observatory’s facilities operational in public and educational astronomy ever since. The State-level cultural heritage significance of the Observatory and its activities is assessed to guide heritage conservation and utilisation of the Observatory and in formulating a more comprehensive version of the Statement of Significance for the Melbourne Observatory entry in the Victorian Heritage Register.