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Ballarat Mechanics Institute

Architect: Charles Boykett


The Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute sits in the heart of the city and has been Ballarat’s independently run cultural hub since 1859. It houses a lending library, heritage collection, and archives—including the recently acquired Max Harris Collection of historical Ballarat imagery—as well as spaces for hire, and a growing calendar of cultural events. The BMI’s Heritage Reading Room combines unique heritage architecture with one of the best examples of a Mechanics’ Institute library collection. It is of historical significance for its strong association with the Mechanics’ Institute movement and the important role it played in the intellectual, cultural and social development of Victorians throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. The room is steeped in history; it is the only remaining part of Ballarat’s first Mining Exchange—scene of the hustle and bustle of Ballarat’s share brokers and mining community of the 1860s and 1870s—and has also housed the institute’s lending library since 1934. After restoration work in the 2000s, the room now houses the heritage book collection and artifacts, and also hosts revolving exhibitions, events, and performances.

Need to Know

  • Open: Saturday 2 & Sunday 29 October 10-4pm

  • Tour Details: Talks on the Ballarat Mechanics Institute past and present in addition to current display of 1890s photographs and stories of Ballarat inventor Henry Sutton.

  • Building Type: Cultural

  • Special Programming: Saturday 28th from 10am meet BMI Curator Amy Tsilemanis to learn about current exhibitions and projects. Chat with Sue McRae, BMI archivist on BMI history and treasures, until 12pm. At 1:30pm Wendy Jacobs will talk about her role as heritage architect who has worked with the BMI building and basement. Sunday 29th from 10am meet BMI Curator Amy Tsilemanis and President Phil Roberts to learn about current exhibitions and project. Chat with Danny Stonehouse, BMI volunteer on BMI history and treasures, until 12pm. At 1.30 Roger Burrows will talk about his role as BMI volunteer on special items from the heritage book collection.

  • Year Built: 1860

  • Photo Credit: Lending Library, 1930s Max Harris Collection


117 Sturt St, Ballarat Central VIC


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