This abridged history of the Victoria Centre highlights Dr. J. S. Plaskett’s visits to Victoria before and during the First World War. He accomplished two purposes. The first was to build the largest telescope and observatory in the world and the other was to establish an eighth Centre of the RASC, becoming the first in the West.
A full history has been completed but it is far too lengthy and detailed for publication in this format. What will be done for future members is to burn a number of CD’s and print a few paper copies. Whether they will be able to read CD’s a century from now is an unknown quantity. However, properly stored acid-free paper should withstand the test of time.
In this version we have selected the most important events and left out routine, everyday matters.
- The Centre has enjoyed a special relationship with the DAO for the past 100 years. It arose from the fact that the RASC was the only organization for professional and amateur astronomers in Canada until 1971. In that year professionals separated themselves under the SCITEC organization and CASCA came into existence. Remarkably a great number of professionals retained their membership and association with the RASC after joining CASCA and continue to give sterling service to the Centre down to this day.
EARLIER HISTORICAL ATTEMPTS Some years ago a chance rummage through the Victoria Centre’s library revealed that an earlier attempt had been made to research the Centre’s history. It didn’t amount to much but it covered the vital years from the Centre’s formation in 1914 to the end of World War I.
With this discovery we were reminded that the Centre was fast approaching its centennial anniversary in 2014. It also revealed that an earlier attempt at forming a Centre occurred in 1909, which failed due to inactivity on the part of the small initial group never having met together in an organized manner. We hope you enjoy reading our interesting history.
THE FIRST DECADES OF OUR HISTORY
Fortunately, the first five years of our history had been fairly well documented, but after 1918 everything we know about those early years has been mined from secretaries’ annual reports. Mysteriously, there were very few photographs to be found in the Centre’s archives covering the period from about 1920 through to the 1980’s. They could have been abandoned in some secretary’s home after he or she died or moved away—and they inevitably ended up in the city dump. We do know that the Centre’s records were homeless, moving around from place to place over the years, so we’ll never know.
An appeal to Centre members for old photographs resulted in a few being donated and we do have a handful of portraits of past council members for the years 1914 through to the 1990’s besides two or three of early telescopes, observatories and events. The RASC head office also sent us copies of early documents. Also, it stands to reason that the last thirty or so years have been given greater prominence in this history due to the availability of richer, diversified material involving increased Centre participation on the individual members’ part.
The Victoria Centre wishes to express its appreciation to R. Peter Broughton, author of the 1994 edition of “LOOKING UP, A History of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada” for his permission to borrow from the book’s text and pictures.
And also to thank all of those Centre members whose images were randomly chosen to accompany text describing the Centre’s activities.
Victoria Centre Historian