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Research Guide: Mechanics’ Institute database

The Mechanics’ Institutes database collection contains information about mechanics’ institutes and similar organisations past and present mainly in Victoria. Some information is contained in paper files (held in the PMI stacks), but most information is in digital format.

Collection includes:

  • images, mostly created by Pam Baragwanath and the late Alf Wesson 1960s to 1970s
  • periodical articles
  • building plans from the former Dept of Natural Resources and Environment Survey collection 1988
  • copies of correspondence, ephemera and artifacts collected by Pam Baragwanath in the course her research for her book If the walls could speak : a social history of the Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria
  • digital files of primary documents including minutes, correspondence, cash books, library accession registers, annual and financial reports, member and visitor books
  • collections of primary documents from mechanics’ institutes (these files are growing thanks to a substantial state government grant)
  • the ‘Big Mech Database’, containing entries for over 1000 mechanics’ institutes in Victoria
  • artifacts relating to mechanics’ institutes from Victoria and beyond including postcards, booklets, concert posters, library books, catalogues, plates and other interesting items.

Accessing the collection

Open the Mechanics’ Institute database folder on a PMI public computer and find a list of folders labelled for various states of Australia. Open these to find folders listed under place name. Select the place you are interested in to access files and folders of material.

Use of material in the Mechanics’ Institutes database

Anyone can view the material in the Mechanics’ Institutes database collection. For copying purposes, much of the material in the Mechanics’ Institutes database collection is subject to copyright according to the origin of particular documents. You can print from the files to the PMI’s networked photocopier (20c per A4 page), however, files cannot be downloaded to portable memory devices (eg flash disks) without authorisation.

If you would like to receive copies of digital files for publication, display or other similar purposes, permission should be sought from:
Judith Dwyer, Secretary
Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria
39 St Edmonds Road
Prahran  VIC  3181

If you would like to contribute any information you may find on your local mechanics’ institute the MIV would be more than happy to add it to the collection.