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The Australian National University

Oral histories of Mt Stromlo

During the development of the Mt Stromlo Heritage Trail, ANU Heritage undertook a series of Oral History interviews with those who have had professional and personal connections to Mount Stromlo Observatory.

The interviews were conducted to glean information about the day to day lives of those who lived, works and visited Stromlo, the early years, the amazing discoveries made there and the social and domestic life on the site.

Eight people were interviewed for the project and gave permission for their stories to be shared. Please note these interviews are currently being transcribed, and summaries are available for some only.

Claire Wehner

Claire Wehner

Claire speaks about her time at Mt Stromlo from the 1940s, undertaking mathematical calculations, working on the site's first computer and as part of the Commonwealth Time Service. Claire also speaks on the domestic life of Stromlo, life on site for women and breaking down the typical gender roles.

Download recorded interview (mp3 94MB)
Download summary transcript (pdf 238KB)

Hermann Wehner

Hermann Wehner

Hermann reminisces about his time at Mt Stromlo since the early 1950s in the site workshops. Hermann travelled to Australia from Germany following the Second World War and became a Senior Engineer at Stromlo. Now in his 90s, Hermann is still involved with in providing technical advice on many telescopes and instruments he designed and built.

Download recorded interview (mp3 94MB)
Download summary transcript (pdf 228KB)

Norman Banham

Norman Banham

Norman tells of his longstanding connections to Stromlo, being born on the site, growing up there, completing an apprenticeship in the workshops and working there until his retirement. Norman also speaks on his hobby of building clocks including full replicas of John Harrison's longitudinal clocks.

Download recorded interview (mp3 98MB)

Gabe Bloxham and John Hart

Gabe Bloxham and John Hart

Gabe and John worked for many years in Stromlo's workshops. Gabe was an specialist in Optics and John worked as an Engineer. Both speak fondly of their time at the site, the projects they worked on and the devastation of the 2003 fires.

Download recorded interview (mp3 99MB)

Professor Penny Sackett

Penny Sackett

Penny came from the USA to take up the role of Director in 2002, just months before the catastrophic bushfires of 2003. The rebuilding of the Observatory following the 2003 fires defined Penny's time at Stromlo, and she shares stories of both devastation and hope.

Download recorded interview (mp3 159MB)

Professor Ken Freeman

Ken Freeman

Ken Freeman is one of Australia's most celebrated Astronomers and Astrophysicists. Ken shares his early impressions of Stromlo, memories of his time at the Observatory and details of his research and discoveries.

Download recorded interview (mp3 108MB)

Graeme Blackman

Graem Blackman

Graeme worked as the Site Caretaker for many years, living in several houses on the site including one which was destroyed in the 2003 bushfires. Graeme tells of life at Stromlo from a site-wide perspective including raising his children there and his memories of the fires.

Download recorded interview (mp3 59MB)

Toss Gascoigne

Toss lived at Stromlo as a child with his siblings and parents Rosalie (artist) and Ben Gascoigne (astronomer). Toss reminisces about the day to day life on the site as a child and the remoteness of the place in its early years.

Download recorded interview (mp3 58MB)

Updated:  17 October 2014/Responsible Officer:  Director, Facilities & Services Division/Page Contact:  Systems & Information Technology