Have you ever visited Old Treasury Building’s beautiful old gold vaults? Housed in Vault 5 is one of the most fascinating and popular interpretative features on display at the Old Treasury Building. It is a 360 degree photographic panorama, taken from the top of Parliament, of the City of Melbourne in 1862.

The historic photographic record of Melbourne is the most popular interpretative exhibit at the OTB, and the most widely remarked-upon by visitors. It represents Melbourne 27 years after Batman and Fawkner first settled the town. The images taken by Charles Nettleton from the top of Parliament House show a city under development. Charles Nettleton worked as the official Royal Photographer to Australia and the official Police Photographer for over 25 years. Visible are familiar sights like the Old Treasury Building, St Patricks Cathedral and the Melbourne Club. Some long forgotten buildings are shown including the Old White Hart Hotel (now the site of the Windsor) and Chalmers Church (burnt down early 1900s), while some familiar sites are seen in their original condition including the Princess Theatre, Fitzroy gardens and Carlton gardens.

This year the vista will be juxtaposed with an exact panoramic replica of Melbourne in 2012. This new interpretation of Melbourne’s history is expected to be a compelling and moving experience for visitors to the site. These exciting photographs were taken in 2012 by photographer Michael Silver. Michael has been a professional, fine art and journalistic photographer for more than thirty years.

This project was funded by the Copland Foundation. With their support, photographer Michael Silver was commissioned, and permission was sought to access the same vantage point as Charles Nettleton all those years ago. In mid-summer the first series of photographs was taken. Upon examination of the result, it was remarked that little can be seen of the buildings as 150 years of tree growth was obscuring them.

Thus, a second attempt was made in the winter when the leaves had fallen. Works on the roof of Parliament further complicated the process.

Then began the project of piecing it together. With the original Nettleton panorama as a guide, the closest match available from the recent images was chosen, manipulated and locked in. Key aspects of the new vista were highlighted because of architectural merit, historical and social significance.

Next step was painting the vault, and choosing the shade of white that wouldn’t be too dark, bright, dirty, and yellow and anything else you can think of! The textured surface of the stone made a regular roller unsuitable to use, so a spray system was utilised instead, ensuring an even finish and no drips! Dismantling the display exposed the old fluorescent tubes and reminded us just how long ago it had been assembled. The display was then taken away to be recycled.

A quick installation followed and finally the vault was ready to be unveiled! On Monday 5 May 2014 the Hon Heidi Victoria MLA, Minister for the Arts, officially opened the 150th Anniversary Panorama.

Be sure to come in to view this wonderful display! Not only is it a beautiful exhibition, but also a fascinating historical record.

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project. It was a massive undertaking, with the results definitely worth the effort.

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Ongoing display

The Melbourne Panorama, on display at Old Treasury Building.