Poignant Reminder of Firestorm Bravery

Poignant Reminder of Firestorm Bravery

Posted 17 January 2013 9:30am

Artefacts, artworks and memorabilia of the fierce fires that swept through Canberra ten years ago are on display at a poignant exhibition in the reconstructed observatory at the top of Mount Stromlo.

The exhibition, called Past, Present, Future is supported by a grant from the Centenary Community Initiatives Fund and was opened today by the Centenary of Canberra’s Creative Director, Robyn Archer AO.

“The Centenary of Canberra program throughout 2013 offers all Australians an opportunity to look at the past, present and future of their national capital. Australians are acutely aware this January of the ever-present threat of fire for people who live in the bush, and this exhibition reminds us of the loss and the bravery of so many citizens living in the bush capital at the time of the firestorm 10 years ago,” Robyn Archer said.

“It is appropriate that among the first events in this most significant year for Canberra, we have this reminder that the capital is a human city and that the people living here have their full share of challenge, trauma and courage in the face of   adversity.

“I’m sure the exhibition will be difficult for some as it allows memories to resurface, but also represents another chapter in the long recovery.”

The exhibition highlights both the community’s bravery during the fires, as well as the twentieth–century history of the Mount Stromlo site, where scientific use dates from 1911. It gives visitors – particularly those affected by the fires – an experience that acknowledges the past and what was lost, and moves on through the recovery to the promise of the future.

Past, Present, Future runs until 18 February. Items on display include media audio-visuals of the reporting of the fires, photographs, artworks and artifacts such as the burnt-out telescopes on site, and many personal items.

Organiser Simone Hunter said that people were still offering new exhibits, so the display would continue to grow.

The burnt-out observatory and the domes in the reconstructed observatory will be lit up tonight to commemorate the anniversary, and fundraising events such as barbecues will be held every weekend during the exhibition by organisations that supported the community during and after the fires.

Mount Stromlo Observatory is the headquarters of the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The administrative centre, the offices of the astronomers and students, the mechanical, electronic and optical workshops, and the computer laboratories are all located at Mount Stromlo.

Since much of the site was damaged in the fires, it no longer has working research telescopes.  However, the reconstruction has included the development of the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre and rebuilding the heritage Commonwealth Solar Observatory building.