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National Meteorological Library: old books for new times

National Meteorological Library: old books for new times

In a world of high-speed electronic information, old books are fast becoming a thing of the past. Not so for the Bureau of Meteorology, where our historical records and journals serve as an indispensable foundation for studying and understanding our changeable climate.

Since the creation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in 1908, the National Meteorological Library has provided Australia's most comprehensive collection of books, reports and documents related to meteorology and the atmospheric sciences. As well as a vital 'core' of specialised publications and electronic resources for the meteorological profession, the library provides researchers, archivists and the general public with an essential historical record of the continent's complex climate.

Rare book collection

The historical hub of the library is its Rare Book Room, which houses a unique collection of books, reports, journals, photographs and manuscripts – including some rare and valuable artefacts of meteorological history. The room hosts some extremely rare publications, including an original copy of Francis Bacon's Natural History of the Winds from 1648.

The collection includes original manuscripts from the private collections of former employees, as well as copies of reviews, annual reports and other periodicals published by the Bureau, independently published books and research on the Australian climate, and journals such as the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal.

Early weather instruments

The library has a number of meteorological instrument books collected from the Bureau's Regional Offices across the country. These books record and provide information about when specific equipment was installed, broken or replaced, and have proved invaluable in studies of long-term climate data and the reliability of regional meteorological records.

Colonial meteorological data

In the 1800s, each Australian colony published monthly meteorological summaries. The library has sets of these from each colony or state from 1870-1907, with earlier volumes for some states, including meteorological observations in Victoria dating back to January 1856.

The library also houses the original meteorological records from the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition of 1929-31, led by Sir Douglas Mawson.

Left: Bureau staff handle historical weather charts produced by Charles Todd in the late eighteen hundreds. Photograph by Mike Rosel. Right: Newspaper clipping of an early weather chart and explanation.

Into the digital era

The library is currently examining a number of options for digitising and displaying its rare books and historical documents online. We will keep you informed of these important developments as they occur.

National Meteorological Library objectives

  • To maintain a leading collection of key meteorological books and journals published in the English language.
  • To host a comprehensive archive of meteorological books, reports, journals and periodicals published in Australia.
  • To provide a high-quality information and research service to staff of the Bureau of Meteorology, government agencies, universities, research institutes, individuals interested in meteorology, and the general public.

Article URLs

National Meteorological Library - http://www.bom.gov.au/library/

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