AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIV, No. 1 Spring 2002

 

Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre: Networking Australia's Cultural Heritage
by Helen Morgan, Research and Development, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre

Dr. Brian Tucker, Commonwealth Meteorology Research Centre
Dr Brian Tucker, Commonwealth Meteorology Research Centre, in a promotional photograph for Australia's involvement with the World Weather Watch program of the United Nations, September 1970. Image courtesy National Archives of Australia: A1200, L88779. Click on photo to see a larger version.

The Australian Science Archives Project (ASAP) has come a long way since its inception in 1985 (see this Newsletter, May 1986; Fall 1994). The project's origins were humble, consisting of one archivist (Gavan McCarthy), a teakettle, and a box-like room in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne.

Addressing the impermanency of "Project" in our name, and responding to the research direction we were moving in, the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre (Austehc) was formed in 1999 to continue ASAP's academic, research and heritage activities. The Centre is directed by Gavan McCarthy and employs three full-time staff at its office at the University of Melbourne and a part-time staff member based at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra. Although the University provides accommodation, infrastructure and academic support, the day-to-day running costs, including most salaries, come from collaborative projects with government and industry groups, research grants and philanthropic trusts.

Austehc's mission still includes an active role in ensuring that valuable sets of scientific records and artifacts are documented and preserved. These include most recently the papers of the late Herbert Bolton (Professor of Theoretical Physics, Monash University, 1962-1986, and a long-term supporter of ASAP/Austehc) and the late Peter Dunn (a United Nations chemical and biological weapons inspector).

In this tradition of service to the community, the Centre has developed three significant Web-database tools. They are all designed to support the building of a sustainable integrated Web-based heritage information infrastructure and can be freely down-loaded from the Austehc web-site.

At the heart of Austehc's web publications about the history of Australian science, technology and medicine are two authoritative historic registers: Bright Sparcs (www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs) and Australian Science at Work (www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/asaw). These resources provide a gateway to the stories and the archival records of the people and organizations of Australian science. One of these database tools, the Web Academic Resource Publisher (WARP), grew out of the experience of creating the online edition of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering book, Technology in Australia 1788-1988 (www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/tia). Rather than just promoting the online reproduction of texts, the WARP methodology creates a knowledge space where the narrative texts are tightly linked to supporting documentation in the historic registers. This systematic integration creates a research tool from which new connections, insights and ideas can be discovered and explored. It also provides a broader contextual framework to aid in the selection, preservation and use of archival materials.

The publication of Federation and Meteorology (www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/fam), was a major project completed in 2001. This was a collaboration between Austehc and the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology; it provided broad public access via the Web to more than 600,000 words of text and 300 images. It presents the rich and evocative story of meteorology in Australia, its emergence as a science and the formation of the Bureau in 1908, paralleling the story of the Australian Federation.

The Centre has an international profile which includes collaboration with Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, through the use of the Austehc Heritage Documentation Management System (HDMS) in two major finding aid projects. The first dealing with the records of Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) and the second covering the alchemical, theological and Mint records of Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

For more information see www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au or contact Austehc, The University of Melbourne, 203 Bouverie St, Carlton VIC 3053. E-mail gavan@austehc.unimelb.edu.au.


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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
Email: chp@aip.org
Phone: 301-209-3165
American Institute of Physics 2003 American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740-3843. Email: aipinfo@aip.org Phone: 301-209-3100; Fax: 301-209-0843