|The collection includes 12 Glass Plate Positives, 1964; 17 Black & White Stereo prints, 1964; 9 Colour Prints, 4 Colour Transparencies, 1988, 1993|
Students undertaking surveying subjects were given the exercise of undertaking surveys of the University campus and adjacent areas in Parkville and relating their measurements to aerial photographs. Following its extensive use in World War One, aerial photography had become a widely adopted technique for constructing maps, with a national program commenced in Australia in 1928. By taking stereo photographs of the same area, land contours could also be determined. Mapping entailed both the development of maps from aerial photographs and tying these back to land-based surveying with theodolites and levels.
Surveying had been an integral part of the engineering course since its inception in 1861. Following extensive lobbying from the Institution of Surveyors and funding from the state government, a Bachelor of Surveying course was introduced in 1949 and a Department of Surveying established. Photogrammetry was taught in the final year, and students had to master the use of complex machines that combined the different angles of two photographs, to then create an accurate map, with survey positions and contour lines. Students would work with a range of photographs and maps – of the campus, Royal Park and Melbourne Zoo, and Melbourne’s regional hinterland and water catchments. The teaching staff and research students gradually moved into other applications of photogrammetry –surveying of dams and industrial sites, documentation of heritage buildings and recording of Aboriginal rock art sites around Australia.
The aerial photographs of the University campus and surrounding area tell a story of the teaching of surveying and photogrammetry. But they also record the changing face of the campus in the 1960s and 1970s at a time of major expansion in university education, resulting in the transformation of the campus.
These glass plate positives were presumably commissioned by the Department of Surveying from a commercial aerial survey company. It is probable that the images were made in collaboration with the Property and Buildings Department of the University administration, to facilitate detailed mapping of the campus.
Photogrammetry was an established surveying technique, typically using stereo pairs of aerial photographs to create a map. But the use of photogrammetry to document and conserve historic buildings had expanded significantly in Europe after the Second World War, and Rivett spent his study leave in 1975 to learn the latest techniques. A highly technical and mathematical discipline, the surveyors used specially designed and calibrated cameras holding large-format glass plates or film. Precise survey marks were made using theodolites as reference points for camera orientation and to enable parallax-free stereo viewing. The photographs could then be analysed in a stereo-comparator or stereo-plotter; the Department of Surveying acquired a Zeiss Topocart stereo-plotter, an expensive mechanical plotter that enabled stereo viewing and plotting in the 3D model