Surveying and geomatic engineering collection

Significance of the collection

During the entire period of European occupation of Victoria, including the settlement of land and the development of infrastructure, there has been continuing evolution in the nature and precision of measuring instruments available to the surveyor.

Our geomatics collection includes examples of each of the types of instrument used for astronomical, angular and distance measurement, together with instruments for the computation, plotting and presentation of the survey data.

The collection is considered to be the most comprehensive in Victoria and to be significant in Australia. It contains examples of distance measuring equipment ranging from the 100 link Gunter’s chain, through the long steel band (reputedly developed in Australia using wire from the crinoline skirt of a surveyor’s wife) to various electronic distance measurers using microwaves and infra red light waves. Examples of instruments used in astronomical observations in the 1800’s are included, although many of the theodolites used for the triangulation of Victoria during the mid 1800’s continue to be housed in the Science Museum of Victoria.

The collection of theodolites is most comprehensive. It includes the standard brass Troughton and Simms theodolite of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as well as an example of a mining version of this theodolite with an auxiliary telescope. Both mechanical and optical micrometer theodolites are represented as well as a very early Wild T2 instrument, which incorporated the earliest version of a graduated glass circle. Specialised theodolites include an auto reduction tachometer, a large relatively modern, high precision astronomical instrument and a gyroscope attachment for finding true north in a remote or underground location.

A wide variety of levels are displayed including a Watt’s instrument with a parallel plate micrometer for precision levelling. Two of the more unusual instruments incorporate pools of mercury to create an artificial horizon, one for astronomical observations, the other a zenith plummet to define a truly vertical line.

A notable painting titled ‘The Attributes of a Surveyor’ is included in the Collection. The painting depicts the instruments used by Surveyor Oscar F. Smith and was painted by his grandson Gregory R. Smith.

The artifacts in the collection are housed in a series of glass cases in the hallways of the Department of Infrastructure and can be viewed at all times when the department is open.

Contributor: Dr Ray Holmes

The collection was compiled by Dr Ray Holmes.

The Department of Geomatics acknowledges the contribution of Dr Ray Holmes, former Surveyor General of Victoria and long-standing friend of the Department.

Ray was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Surveying from the Department of Geomatics in 1994 for his services to the surveying profession in Victoria and The University of Melbourne.