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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: pumping station (4)

Twenty-one today

Author
by Robin Hirst
Publish date
28 March 2013
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Dr Robin Hirst joined the Museum in 1981 to manage the H V McKay Melbourne Planetarium. He was given the task of leading the development of the Exhibitions and Programs for Scienceworks. He is now Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at Museum Victoria.

The morning of 28 March 1992 was one the weary crew had worked towards for five years. We hoped that people would venture deep into the heart of industrial Spotswood to appreciate the new kid on the block, Scienceworks, our science and technology centre.

Scienceworks in construction Aerial view of construction site of Scienceworks, Spotswood, in 1991. (MM 122474)
Source: Museum Victoria

Building site Scienceworks building under construction, circa 1991. (MM 122505)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The sight of long queues of excited families waiting for the doors to open made me feel both elated and apprehensive. This was the day we were to hand our creation to the public for their use and delight. This was the day for the locals to be admitted free of charge as a test run. When the doors opened that morning the crowd ran in. Like bargain hunters at a Myer sale, each vied to be the first at every exhibit.

With Boyce Pizzey, the Director of Science and Technology, we had conceived Scienceworks, designed the building, installed the exhibitions and planned how the place would operate. We spent many an hour in smoke-filled rooms challenging and being challenged. We crafted a new visitor-centric experience for families and school children. We thought it would work, but we didn’t know. It was so new and seemed so far from the city.

Geoff Harrison, Boyce Pizzey and Robin Hirst Left to right: Geoff Harrison, Project Manager, Boyce Pizzey and Robin Hirst at Scienceworks, 1991. The Pumping Station is visible in the background.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The night before, we had the official opening with still much left to do at the crack of dawn the next day to be ready for the public.

Man with bicycles Richard Glover installing a display of bicycles at Scienceworks in 1992. (MM 133542)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Crowds at Scienceworks Two views of crowds in the Amphitheatre at Scienceworks on the opening day, 28 March 1992 (MM 135043, MM 133479)
Source: Museum Victoria

Girl in playground Playground, Scienceworks opening weekend, 28 March 1992.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The exhibits did suffer that day and many nocturnal emergency repairs were carried out. The crowds the day after were even bigger. In many ways Scienceworks has continued the way it began very much loved.

As Scienceworks turns 21 we can feel proud of what we gave birth to. Happy birthday.

Links:

Scienceworks Heritage Collection on Collections Online

Happy birthday No.8!

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
28 September 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

At 2pm today it was exactly 100 years ago, on 28 September 1911, that the No. 8 Steam Pumping Engine in the Spotswood Pumping Station was fired up for the first time. You can still see the it in motion in the Engine Room but these days it runs in demonstration mode, powered by compressed air.

The Austral Otis Steam Pumping Engine - Austral Otis, No.8 Pumping Engine, MMBW Spotswood Sewerage Pumping Station, 1911 (ST 038266).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Built by local company Austral Otis, the No. 8 Engine was a modified copy of the earlier Hathorn Davey engine. It is one of five surviving engines at the Pumping Station which remain some of the most sophisticated steam engines ever built in Australia. It took four men to run the No. 8 Engine: an engine driver, a greaser, a pump attendant and a fireman. It was one of the engines that moved sewerage from Melbourne to Werribee following the welcome introduction of Melbourne's sewerage system in the 1890s.

Original blueprint for an Austral Otis Steam Pumping Engine. Original blueprint for an Austral Otis Steam Pumping Engine.
Image: Austral Otis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Of the bank of engines, one or two were run continuously with additional machines brought on to handle peak sewerage flow. The Pumping Station log books show that from 1912, the No. 8 Engine was used heavily for the first decade of its life. In the 1920s and 30s the old steam engines were progressively replaced by electric engines which were cheaper to run. No. 8 was used less often, but was still important for managing peak periods.

There was a regular flow pattern coinciding with the daily cranking up of industrial and domestic activities. Curator Matthew Churchward describes a peak on Mondays when many women did the week's laundry. The superintendant would also keep a close eye on the weather and impending rainfall, and counted raindrops to predict how many staff would be needed to manage the stormwater that would be on its way to Spotswood within a couple of hours. During big storms, all the engines might be running to prevent sewerage from entering the Yarra River.

During its working life from 1911 to 1947, the No. 8 Engine pumped the equivalent of four billion toilet flushes out of the city. It was a filthy job but vital to the health and quality of life of 20th century Melbourne. If you're at Scienceworks today, be sure to wish this gleaming hulk of pistons, valves, cranks and pipes a happy birthday!

Graeme Kerrs running a pumping engine demonstration Workshop volunteer and casual engine driver Graeme Kerrs running a pumping engine demonstration in front of the No. 8 Engine.
Image: James Geer
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Centenary of the Austral Otis Steam Pumping Engines

Spotswood Sewerage Pumping Station

MV Blog: World Toilet Day

Wedding at Pumping Station

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
29 December 2010
Comments
Comments (0)

An engineer friend of mine told me that an engineer friend of hers had recently wed at the Pumping Station. The ceremony took place in this Heritage-listed building amid its pumps and gleaming copper pipes - surely the perfect venue for an engineer's wedding! Congratulations Hannah and Ian!

Wedding in the Pumping Station Ceremony among the pipes and engines of the Pumping Station at Scienceworks.
Image: Clare Plueckhahn
Source: Hannah Clement
 

Links:

Pumping Station at Scienceworks

Scienceworks venue hire

World Toilet Day

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
19 November 2010
Comments
Comments (1)

World Toilet Day, held on 19 November each year, serves to point out that nearly half the world's population doesn't have access to proper sanitation. It's not the world's most glamorous issue, but it is an important one - globally, more people die from disease caused by poor sanitation than from any other cause.

There are several toilets of note in Museum Victoria collections. We're not shy about poo at MV, since the Spotwood Pumping Station at Scienceworks was once responsible for moving all of Melbourne's sewage out of the city. One particular toilet at the Pumping Station was installed in 1939 for the exclusive use of Lucey Alford, the first female scientist to work there. Her job was to determine if corrosion in the concrete pipes was caused by bacteria and her research was important to the proper functioning of the system.

Toilet Toilet - Fowler Ware, MMBW Spotswood Sewerage Pumping Station, circa 1939 (HT 2486)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Before Spotswood Pumping Station and sewage treatment at Werribee were established in the 1890s, sewage disposal was a much dirtier job. The stink of cesspits and open sewers earned our city the moniker of 'Smellbourne' in the mid-1800s. Typhoid outbreaks killed hundreds of residents. With no internal plumbing, Melburnians used chamber pots or the 'dunny' at the back of the yard, which was emptied by nightsoil collectors. (You can still see many of these old dunnies from the laneways that run behind older houses in the inner city.) 'Nightsoil' - the coy term for human waste - was dumped in pits or depots in the outskirts of the young city, including the area that would become Carlton Gardens.

chamber pot fragment A fragment of a simple whiteware chamber pot from the Little Lon archaeological assemblage. (LL 068610)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

'Dunny' Toilet & Chicken Coop, Backyard, Glenroy, 1960 'Dunny' toilet and chicken coop in a suburban backyard, Glenroy, 1960 (MM 110571)
Image: John Cuff
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So today as you 'spend a penny', as my grandmother would say, spare a thought for those who don't have the convenience and hygiene of clean, safe, indoor toilets.

Links

World Toilet Day

Melbourne Water education resource - Lucey Alford

MV News: Royal Exhibition Building archaeology

Kingston Historical Website - Night Soil

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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