This diverse and selective collection represents significant aspects of Australian scientific research and applied science since the 19th century.
Significant items have been acquired directly from scientists or their institutions, including universities, government departments and CSIRO. The collection also includes representative examples of laboratory equipment and scientific teaching and demonstration apparatus.
Apart from their scientific purpose, many items hold value as extraordinary examples of design and craftsmanship and as manifestations of the impact of science and technology on people’s daily lives.
The collection particularly emphasises local scientific research and practical applications of science pertaining to the history of Victoria, but also includes objects from a broader history of science, such as objects from the Soviet and US space programs.
- Scientific equipment developed by Australian scientists: Shephard Ruling Engine (1890s), Steele-Grant Microbalance (1909), Laby-Hercus apparatus for the determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat (1920s) and the first atomic absorption spectrophometer, developed by Alan Walsh at CSIRO (1952).
- Important examples of 19th and 20th century scientific equipment, including physics and chemistry laboratory equipment.
- Representative microscope collection, from Culpeper microscopes (1740s) to early electron microscope (1949).
- Astronomical equipment from the Melbourne Observatory (1860s–1946), including an eight-inch transit telescope (1884), and parts of the Great Melbourne Telescope (1868); associated archival material, photographs, and astronomical photographic plates.
- Original astronomical observations of Ernst Hartung.
- Primary weights and measures of Victoria from the 19th and 20th century, used for establishing standards and testing.
- Surveying equipment, including theodolites, telescopes and measuring rods used in the Geodetic Survey of Victoria (1858–72).
- Meteorological equipment, including items used in the Shackleton Antarctic expedition (1914–17).
- Equipment and personal effects from the exploration of Antarctica, from the early period (Shackleton 1907-09 and Rayner 1927–39) to the era of scientific exploration and establishment of permanent bases (1949–1960s).
See Collectors of Time, an essay on this collection from A Museum for the People: A history of Museum Victoria and its predecessor institutions 1854-2000.
Pocket Watch - J. McCabe, London, Presented to Captain Enright, Clipper Ship Lightning, 1857
Gold gents pocket watch and key made by Ja. McCabe, Royal Exchange, London in 1856. It was presented to Captain Enright of the Lightning sailing ship by the saloon passengers on his 4th voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne 1857.
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Our Horology Collection is the most significant and extensive collection of clocks and watches held in any Australian museum. In addition to hundreds of clocks and watches made for domestic, public and scientific timekeeping, the collection also includes tools and equipment for their repair, along with sundials and sandglasses.
The collection’s strengths are clocks and watches from the 18th and 19th centuries, encompassing British, European and American manufacturers. There are also items of significant Victorian and Australian provenance, including scientific timekeepers from Melbourne Observatory and public clocks from Melbourne buildings.
Orrery, Tellurium & Lunarium - Benjamin Martin, London, circa 1770
Orrey made Benjamin Martin in London, England circa 1770.
An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. Generally they were intended to be schematic representations for educational purposes rather than strictly accurate ones. This orrery conta...
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Orreries are three-dimensional mechancial models of celestial bodies and their orbits. They were popular educational devices in the 18th and 19th centuries. This orrery was made by British instrument maker Benjamin Martin in 1770 and shows the orbit of the Earth and Moon around the Sun. Like most orreries, it correctly represents the relative speeds of rotation but the relative sizes and distance between the bodies is not to scale.
Pocket Compass Sundial - George Bass, circa 1790
Pocket compass sundial used by George Bass on the whaleboat expedition that explored the coast of Victoria as far as Westernport Bay, 1797-98. The expedition provided the first European sighting of Wilsons Promontory and suggested the existence of Ba...
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