Melbourne Observatory commenced operations in 1863 and achieved a great deal of practical value for Victoria before it was decommissioned in 1945. However it has since remained in use as an astronomical observatory despite incursions on the site reserve by botanical interests.
The heritage buildings of the Observatory were already protected on the basis of architectural merit in 1994 when the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria (RBGV) took over management of the site with a remit to clean it up and open it to the public. The RBGV developed the Observatory Gate plan to turn the site into a new gateway to its Melbourne Gardens, and signposted the place also as Observatory Gate. Substantial losses of heritage took place in Phase 1 of the project, apparently contrary to the then new provisions of the Heritage Act 1995.
More recently, the RBGV released some proposals for Phase 2 of Observatory Gate. Community alarm resulted over proposed additional heritage losses that would have occured, had the plan proceeded.
There is a growing case for abandoning the Observatory Gate project and recovering some of the cultural heritage losses it has already imposed. Following the successful precedents set by Sydney Observatory and many others around the world, and including the only other highly significant 19th century observartory at Birr Castle in Ireland, Melbourne Observatory should become a working heritage astronomical observatory museum. This would be particularly appropriate given the forthcoming reinstallation of the reconstructed Great Melbourne Telescope of 1869 in its original building at the Observatory.
ASV's official position on Melbourne Observatory is available for reading and download here.
Pictured above, some brand new Astronomers observing the Sun for the first time through the original Photo Heliograph in the South Equatorial Room.
Shown above on the left the Campiche clock and on the right the Shepherd clock.
Shown above is the Melbourne Observatories original Siemens, Halske and Co Chronograph
Shown above is the Fillet Chronograph