This diverse and selective collection represents significant aspects of Australian scientific research and applied science since the 19th century.
Significant items have been acquired directly from scientists or their institutions, including universities, government departments and the CSIRO. The collection also includes representative examples of laboratory equipment and scientific teaching and demonstration apparatus.
Apart from their scientific purpose, many items hold value as extraordinary examples of design and craftsmanship and as manifestations of the impact of science and technology on people's daily lives.
The collection particularly emphasises local scientific research and practical applications of science pertaining to the history of Victoria, but also includes objects from a broader history of science, such as objects from the Soviet and US space programs.
- Scientific equipment developed by Australian scientists: Shephard Ruling Engine (1890s), Steele-Grant Microbalance (1909), Laby-Hercus apparatus for the determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat (1920s) and the first atomic absorption spectrophometer, developed by Alan Walsh at CSIRO (1952).
- Important examples of 19th and 20th century scientific equipment, including physics and chemistry laboratory equipment.
- Representative microscope collection, from Culpeper microscopes (1740s) to early electron microscope (1949).
- Astronomical equipment from the Melbourne Observatory (1860s-1946), including an eight-inch transit telescope (1884), and parts of the Great Melbourne Telescope (1868); associated archival material, photographs, and astronomical photographic plates.
- Original astronomical observations of Ernst Hartung.
- Primary weights and measures of Victoria from the 19th and 20th century, used for establishing standards and testing.
- Surveying equipment, including theodolites, telescopes and measuring rods used in the Geodetic Survey of Victoria (1858-72).
- Meteorological equipment, including items used in the Shackleton Antarctic expedition (1914-17).
- Equipment and personal effects from the exploration of Antarctica, from the early period (Shackleton 1907-09 and Rayner 1927-39) to the era of scientific exploration and establishment of permanent bases (1949-1960s).
See 'Collectors of Time', an essay on this collection from A Museum for the People: A history of Museum Victoria and its predecessor institutions 1854-2000.