Help us restore a beautiful original silk invitation to the opening of the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute building 1857!

In 1854 Prahran Mechanics’ Institute was established after meetings convened by Rev William Moss, for the Mental and Moral Improvement and Rational Recreation of its Members, by means of Lectures, Discussions, Library, Reading Rooms, Classes, Museum, Philosophical Apparatus etc.

The PMI Library was first established at the schoolroom of Prahran’s first church, then at a large room in Chapel Street made available by shopkeeper John Stabb. Local publican James Mason donated a portion of land adjacent to his hotel (the Royal George, on the north corner of Greville and Chapel streets) ‘provided there would be a respectable building put on it’. The PMI also purchased from a Mr Dunnit an additional strip of land adjoining the PMI to the north to extend the property. The Council of the new municipality of Prahran would hold its meetings at the PMI from 1856 until 1861.

In 1857 Governor Barkly opened the PMI’s new building on the above mentioned land (at what is now 259-261 Chapel Street) on Monday 26 January.

Image of PMI Chapel Street building
The PMI building on Chapel Street (at what is now 259-261 Chapel Street). (Image courtesy of Stonnington History Centre)

In 2014, an engineering company from New Zealand contacted the PMI to advise they had found an original silk invitation to the opening of the PMI’s building in 1857 in a drawer. They asked if we would like to have it. Up until this point, we were unaware this amazing piece of our history existed. We do not know how many invitations were originally produced. The one we have in our possession is, to our knowledge, the only one remaining.

We would like to restore and stabilise the invitation so that it can be preserved and allow us to display it from time to time.

The fractured/torn silk will be consolidated with fine silk thread and a thin Japanese tissue. It will be stored on a padded support/or cotton based back board and stored in a custom archival folder constructed from cotton based museum board and book cloth.

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