The Victorian Government has committed $5 million to begin work on the planning and design of a new nature and science precinct at the Royal Botanic Gardens, which will include the redevelopment of the National Herbarium of Victoria.
The current herbarium was built in 1934 to commemorate the centenary of European settlement in Victoria. It was enlarged in 1988. Under the government’s plans, the building will be restored and expanded to include a plant identification service.
Lily D’Ambrosia, environment minister, said, “This precinct will bring Victoria’s natural wonders to life in the heart of Melbourne and [attract] thousands more visitors to our beautiful botanic gardens.”
“It will unlock our State Botanical Collection, creating wonderful new experiences for local families and schools.”
The gardens, including the herbarium, are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The herbarium is particularly significant as the home of the State Botanical Collection, a collection of approximately 1.5 million dried plant, algae and fungi specimens from all around the world, collected over 500 years. The redevelopment will allow the collection to be shared with the visiting public for the first time.
The project would also expand the children’s garden and return the Great Melbourne Telescope to the Melbourne Observatory. The telescope, built in 1868, was sold to the Australian government’s Mount Stromlo Observatory when the Melbourne Observatory closed in 1945. The telescope was ravaged by a bushfire in 2003, and it has since been the subject of a restoration project.
The $5 million in funding will be used for a feasibility study that will establish the project’s scope and design. Works on the herbarium will begin in early 2020.
The government estimates that the project will boost visitors from 1.9 million to 2.4 million annually by 2023.