The Making of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution

Mechanics Institution Eventbrite

A joint presentation with the Melbourne Atheneum Library.

The Melbourne Atheneum, formerly the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution, is that gracious landmark building standing in Collins Street, adjacent to the Melbourne Town Hall.

In 1839, just four years after John Batman, John Pascoe Fawkner and a handful of other adventurers first pitched their tents on the banks of the Yarra River, the “gentlemen” and “mechanics” of Melbourne Town got together to establish the Melbourne Mechanics’ Insitution. This was fraught with tensions and squabbles, even “newspaper wars”, and perhaps was the start of Melbourne-Sydney rivalry.

Anne Marsden’s new history, The Making of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution, looks at the origin of the mechanics’ institute movement in Britain and studies the links between the Melbourne institute and two of the earliest mechanics’ institutes established in Australia; the Van Diemen’s Land Mechanics’ Institute, set up in 1827, and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, established in 1833.

Finally, a close look at the fifty men elected to the Institution’s first committee and their pioneering role in the settlement of Port Phillip reveals the broad social platform leading to the cultural identity of present-day Melbourne.

Join us to celebrate the launch of this intriguing exploration of the formative years of Melbourne’s intellectual, educational and cultural landscape with presentations from Professor Don Garden (Royal Historical Society of Victoria), Dr Douglas McCann (Royal Society of Victoria) and Sue Westwood (Melbourne Atheneum Library). Book signings with author Anne Marsden in the Burke & Wills Room.