From the Curator | Living Heritage
In the 1870’s the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute was the recipient of three volumes of plant specimens, or herbariums, compiled by Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller.
Mueller was the first government botanist for the Colony of Victoria, serving from 1853 to 1896, and Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria from 1857 to 1873.
Mueller believed that herbariums were the best means to “diffuse information on the native vegetation” to the general public.
This echoes the mission of the mechanics’ institute movement, “to facilitate the diffusion of useful knowledge.” Beginning in the early 19th century, mechanics’ institutes were educational establishments that provided access to the working class to pursue knowledge and self-development.
The herbariums have recently received much needed conservation work by the amazing team at Grimwade Conservation Services. These precious 150 year-old specimens, were available for viewing as part of the 2023 Ballarat Heritage Festival.
The specimens are on display in our beautiful heritage reading room, which contains a heritage listed collection of books representative of a mechanics’ institute library in the 1800’s.
The conservation work for the specimens, rare books and an artwork from the BMI collection was supported by the Victorian Government through a Living Heritage Grant.