Melbourne School of Engineering cultural collections at Melbourne Connect

The Melbourne Connect precinct on the corner of Swanston and Grattan Streets is rapidly taking shape.

This innovation precinct offers several new opportunities for drawing on the University’s Cultural Commons. Science Gallery Melbourne will have a permanent home to explore creative collisions between art and science. The Superfloor will accommodate events and short-term displays by the University and research partners. And the precinct will become the focal point for the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE), with opportunities to celebrate and reflect upon past and current achievements.

The MSE building at Melbourne Connect will include sixteen showcases and displays, integrated into the main circulation spaces and social hubs across the seven floors. The displays will explore the diverse ways in which MSE has contributed to society by tackling key social, environmental and technical challenges. Displays will comprise a designed mixture of artefacts, documents, images and media. Tablet screens can present existing or commissioned captioned videos and images. Wherever possible, the videos, graphics and text will feature the personal stories of researchers and end-users, so that there is a strong sense of MSE working in its many and diverse communities.

The MSE collection stretches back to the commencement of the teaching of engineering at the University. Two transit telescopes dating from the 1850s were used by Professor William Wilson, the founder of the engineering course, to teach astronomy and surveying in the 1860s and 1870s. A set of German kinematic models was acquired by Professor William Kernot from the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and used to demonstrate mechanical principles to his students. Also surviving are a number of instruments and electrical standards acquired by Edward Brown to establish the course in electrical engineering in 1911.

As well as displaying historic material, the displays are intended to showcase and celebrate current research and collaboration. This requires a program of targeted collecting and documentation with research teams and industry partners.

Changeover of content and new stories are essential to keep the displays fresh and engaging. Staff and students will be encouraged to contribute, showcasing their current research and collaborative projects. Other displays of iconic items, such as the original Computation Laboratory door (1955) and the IBM 7044 computer console (1964), will remain for longer periods, and serve as signposts for their respective work areas.

Through displays at Melbourne Connect and the new database, the MSE cultural collections will be brought in the present, and help us shape the future.

Tellurometer

Image: Tellurometer microwave distance measuring instrument which transformed the precision surveying and mapping of Australia, 1962. Melbourne School of Engineering Collection, University of Melbourne