Digging up the history of the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute. Volunteer archivist, Janet Walsh, writes on the very first BMI annual reports.
The earliest Annual Report preserved: 1913
Income from subscriptions exceeded that of the previous year, and other sources of income had also increased. The Institute was able to splurge on exciting new additions to its rooms, such as a piano organ for the concert hall, a pneumatic appliance for lighting the gas over the billiard tables, and redecorate the Billiard Room. On top of this, over nine hundred new books were added to the Library.
Annual Report: 1914
The following year, the “massive cedar board” that still stands today was installed on the wall near the entrance to the library. It proudly lists all the names of Past Presidents.
The death of Walter Withers in July was recorded, and W. T. Gill retired for business reasons.
Meetings of the Debating Society were fairly well attended, and revenue from the Billiard Room was at its highest. Noted was the “good feeling and gentlemanly demeanour of those frequenting the room”.
But The First World War changed life in Ballarat during the next few years. We shall fast track now to 1920…
Annual Report: 1920
May 1920 brings the 61st Annual Report. On the cover is a lovely photograph of the building’s façade. During the year the hall was provided with a Bioscope Room and 375 new theatre seats. The floor of the Gallery was re-laid to improve the view of the stage. The hall is now leased, and the rent revenue is justifying the cost of the alterations.
Over 700 new books were added to the Library, including Baron Von Mueller’s works on Australian Plants, and The Times “History and Encyclopaedia of the war”. Surplus books were presented to the Ballarat Red Cross convalescent home, and a large number of periodicals to the Sailors’ Rest and similar institutions.
Annual Report: 1922
In May 1922, the 63rd Annual Report from the Library lists some 59,498 books and 13,546 magazines issued to subscribers during the year, with 815 new volumes being added. Rental of the Hall to “Britannia Pictures” is providing a steady and satisfactory income, A contract has been let for new glass doors at the main entrance, and it is hoped that future profits can be put towards the installation of a lift.
Annual Report: 1925
Good news continues in the 66th Annual Report. Income improved and nearly 800 new books have been added to the Library, and Mr A. B. Foxcroft of the Melbourne Public Library, is advising the Library Committee on the Dewey Decimal System, and on setting up a card catalogue.
The “Ladies’ Home Journal”and The “Sporting Globe” are among the Periodicals being added.
Some 2,000 out of date volumes were discarded from the Library, some being given to the Victoria League and to the Soldiers’ Library on the Trawalla Settlement.
A chess club was formed, all members were entitled to join this club without further fee. Mr T. Rauch has offered to instruct members anxious to learn the game.
“Tournaments have been arranged for the winter months, and everything points to a revival of the ancient game in Ballarat.”
The florist’s and confectioner’s shops at the entrance have been fitted with new shop fronts, doors and show cases. An expense justified of course by the improved appearance of the main entrance, and the increased rentals.
By Janet Walsh