Richard Gillespie

Head, Humanities

Dr Richard Gillespie
Dr Richard Gillespie in front of the lattice tube of the Great Melbourne Telescope.
Source: Museum Victoria

Dr Richard Gillespie manages the Humanities Department and conducts research on the history of Australian science and the history of museum collections.


Dr Gillespie trained as a historian of science at the University of Melbourne and University of Pennsylvania. He taught history of science and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne before joining the museum in 1990.

He has been a Fulbright Scholar (1980-1985), been awarded a Mellon Fellowship, Gordon Darling Fellowship, and received the Henry Schuman Prize of the History of Science Society (US).

He is a research fellow in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne, and a member of the Editorial Board of ReCollections: Journal of the National Museum of Australia.

Current activities

Humanities Department Management

The Humanities Department conducts research and is responsible for the state collections of history, indigenous cultures and technology and society. The collections include over 800,000 objects, 250,000 images and 80,000 documents.The department currently has 15 curators and 15 collection managers, several project staff, 10 graduate students, over 60 volunteers, and over 40 research associates.

Research Projects

Dr Gillespie is currently undertaking research on the history of Melbourne Observatory, one of Australia’s major scientific research institutions in the 19th century. The observatory undertook observations in astronomy, meteorology and geomagnetism, as well as providing scientific services in timekeeping, weather forecasts, surveying and standards of weights and measures.

The observatory was home of the Great Melbourne Telescope (1868), the second largest reflecting telescope in the world in the 19th century, and the largest steerable telescope in the world for decades. Dr Gillespie is coordinating a project to restore the Great Melbourne Telescope and make it accessible for public and education use. This project is a partnership between Museum Victoria, the Astronomical Society of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and Bureau of Meteorology. He has published a book on the telescope, The Great Melbourne Telescope, Museum Victoria Publishing, 2011.

Dr Gillespie is also undertaking research on the classical exhibition held by artist Richard Du Bourg in London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; Museum Victoria holds an important cork model of the Colosseum made by Du Bourg and that featured in the exhibition.

Last updated 6 February 2014