In focus - Cultural Collections Projects Program

A current project at the Ed Muirhead Physics Museum has Helen Merritt, a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation student, completing a condition survey on the 4½“ Cooke Refractor Telescope. The telescope is installed in the observatory on top of the David Caro Building (in which the Ed Muirhead Physics Museum is located), and is used by undergraduate astronomy students to observe sunspot activity.

Dating from the early 1870s, the refractor telescope was made by the celebrated York scientific instrument and optics manufacturer Thomas Cooke & Son. The telescope had been imported to the Melbourne Observatory in 1874 specifically for the observation of the Transit of Venus, a rare astronomical occurrence. This event saw the collaboration between the world’s astronomy communities. The Melbourne Observatory, under the direction of the Government Astronomer Mr Robert Ellery, set up observation points across Victoria, with the Physics Museum’s Cooke Refractor being positioned near the Glenrowan railway station.

The outcomes of Helen’s project will help inform recommendations on the future management of the telescope and its associated hardware, and new catalogue information will be incorporated into the Museum’s database. Helen has found her time on this project to be a fascinating experience and in the process of compiling her report very much enjoyed discovering more about telescopes and astronomy more broadly.

Visit the Cultural Collections Project Program website for further details of the program and available volunteering opportunities.