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Science and the making of VictoriaRoyal Society of Victoria
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Royal Society of Victoria 1854-1959


Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science

Philosophical Society of Victoria

Philosophical Institute of Victoria

Royal Society of Victoria



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Philosophical Institute of Victoria (continued)

The relationship between the Philosophical Institute and the Natural History Museum was very much in the fore at this particular time. It should be remembered that the Philosophical Society was instituted with relation to the Museum of Natural History, and that the monthly meetings of the Society were held at the museum. Moreover, an important feature of the constitution of the Society was that the advancement and extension of the museum should be one of its main objects. Thus it was logical that the new-formed Philosophical Institute should also concern itself with the future well-being of the museum, and make representations thereon to the government. The rumour that it was contemplated that the museum would be moved, at least temporarily, to the University of Melbourne caused great concern to the Society.

The reason for this contemplated move arose from the inability of Captain Clarke to house the collections any longer in his room at the Assay Offices. Apparently with the advice of Professor McCoy, an offer was made by the Governor, Sir Charles Hotham, to the council of the University to take charge of the specimens collected, and house them until other arrangements could be made.

In October 1855, the council of the Institute presented to the Governor a memorial asking that the National Museum be not removed to the University. Sir Charles listened courteously to this request, but at the same time was not able to give the council a definite answer, obviously because of his previous commitment to the University.

Not hearing anything further on the matter from the administration following the death of Sir Charles Hotham, and having learned that it was the immediate intention of the government to go ahead with the proposed transfer, the council of the Philosophical Institute, by a decision made on 20 May 1856, decided to make further representations against the proposals. Accordingly, a committee of five members of the council were appointed as a 'Museum Committee' to memorialize the government on the matter. On 17 June 1856, they presented their memorial to His Excellency Major-General Edward Macarthur 'directing your Excellency's attention to the serious disadvantages that would result to the public and to the cause of science from such an arrangement'. The same committee, on 1 July 1856, made direct representations to the trustees of the Public Library asking that, if any move were necessary, it should be to a portion of the Public Library building.

Professor McCoy, always the opportunist and seeing that this was the strategic time to strike, delivered an address to the Philosophical Institute on 15 July 1856 on the subject 'Museums in Victoria'. In this he paved the way for the next step he was to take, by stating that it was recognized in other countries that a museum and a university were inseparable, and that in Melbourne facilities existed at the University for the housing of the specimens already collected.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Philosophical Institute of Victoria; Philosophical Society of Victoria; University of Melbourne

People in Bright Sparcs - Clarke, Captain Andrew; McCoy, Frederick

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Pescott, R. T. M. 1961 'The Royal Society of Victoria from then, 1854 to now, 1959', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, vol. 73, no. 7, pp. 1-40.

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