Australia’s top scientists are counting the cost of yesterday’s hailstorms after Canberra landmark the Shine Dome sustained serious damage during the extreme weather event.
The hailstorm dented the heritage listed Shine Dome’s copper roof tiles and smashed several skylights, exposing the building’s nationally significant scientific archives to the hail and rain.
The archives include the collections of some of Australia’s most famous scientists, including Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Frank Fenner best known for overseeing the eradication of smallpox, and the control of Australia’s rabbit plague.
The Frank Fenner manuscript collection was added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2019.
The archives also include the collection of Frank Leslie Stillwell, a geologist who formed part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson in 1911.
Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia said there was no damage to the archives thanks to a rescue effort by staff, who formed a human chain to move the boxed archives to safety.
“The extreme weather events of the past few months have demonstrated that fire and storm damage are real and present dangers and this incident has highlighted the urgent need to accelerate the digitisation of this significant and unique historical collection,” Ms Arabia said.
“The Academy is the only place in the world that holds these scientific collections and we continue to receive strong global interest to access the archives, with historians and researchers regularly visiting Canberra to access them.
“The Academy has been fundraising to have the archives digitised but we have not yet met our target of at least $10 million to achieve this,” Ms Arabia said.
The Australian Academy of Science’s heritage-listed Ian Potter House, where staff are based, also suffered extensive damage, with dozens of windows smashed, rendering the building unsafe for staff for the immediate future. Ian Potter House was placed on ACT Heritage Register in 1998.
The vehicles of 34 staff were also severely damaged by the hailstorm and were unable to be driven home.