Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute


The members of Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc. (FOLMI) welcome the decision of Launceston City Council to transfer the former Launceston Mechanics' Institute collection to their custodianship and future management.

FOLMI was formed as a response to the threat of dispersal and possible disposal of a major portion of the LMI Collection. The organisation brings together individuals with the enthusiasm, interest and most importantly the expertise to organise, research and maintain this highly significant collection for the benefit of the Launceston community, local historians and the wider circle of researchers into Australian cultural history.

The aim of FOLMI is to ensure the LMI continues to be acknowledged as an important cultural institution in the history of Launceston; to preserve what remains of its holdings for their local and national significance; and to facilitate research into the collection in all its aspects. 
This is a remarkable and important collection, not only for the heritage of Launceston, but in a national context.

It is exceptionally rare to have such a large collection surviving from the Mechanics' Institute era.
These organisations were the precursors of the modern public library, of the technical and adult education movements, and in Launceston's case of the QV Museum and Art Gallery.
By the 1890s there were over 2000 Mechanics Institutes and Schools of Arts in Australia. Most Institute collections have been dispersed, sold off, discarded, or destroyed by fire and flood many years ago. Of the small number that have survived Launceston is the earliest and the largest – comparable only with Adelaide and Ballarat but older and more complete.

Equally important is the fact that the Launceston Collection has survived with its records largely intact – we still have the correspondence files, catalogues, accession books and accounts of the institute.

This means we have a unique resource for researchers – with an interest in library history, reading tastes, the history of ideas, nineteenth century writing, bookselling and publishing, and the social history of the city.
A long history of prudent management and wise decisions has led to the survival of this collection;
-              That the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Committee took such care to build and maintain its excellent library collection on behalf of the community between 1842 and 1929.
-              That the Launceston Public Library committee kept the collection in its safe keeping for over 20 years, as did the Launceston City Council when it took over operation of the Launceston Public Library.
-              That the Aldermen of the day had the foresight to retain ownership of the collection when it was transferred to the Tasmanian Library Board's custodianship in 1971,
-              And that the Library has kept the collection in storage from that date until now.
In 2013 the FOLMI solution would seem to be the only way the collection can be kept intact from this time forward, given that it does not fit the collecting priorities of either QVMAG or LINC Tasmania. That is the reason FOLMI  was formed - to save the collection from going the way of so many other similar collections.

Who are we?
FOLMI is an incorporated not-for-profit community group which held its inaugural meeting on 18 October 2013.
Our Objects and Purposes
The aim of the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute Inc. is to establish and maintain a working research Launceston Mechanics’ Institute Collection by;
i) locating, selecting, organising, cataloguing and preserving existing materials once the property of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute between 1842 and 1929;
ii) liaising with local, state and national government agencies and with relevant interest groups to promote the significance of the LMI Collection;
iii) establishing a permanent home for the LMI Collection, in particular those parts not integrated with local and state government agencies;
iv) providing broad public access to the catalogue of the LMI Collection and enabling direct access to researchers needing to use the Collection;
Current Membership
Office-bearers  President: Peter Richardson
Secretary: Mike McCausland
Treasurer: Richard Pickup
Public Officer: Prue McCausland
Committee         Peter Richardson, Mike McCausland, Richard Pickup, Prue McCausland, Sue McClarron (Vice-President), John Dent.
Members            The organisation currently has 34 members.

Our Project
The proposed transfer of Launceston Mechanics' Institute books to FOLMI involves between 20,000 and 25,000 books and other publications, of which 12,000 are non-fiction, 8,000 are fiction, and the remainder are periodicals.
There are other surviving books in the Collection which are still in use at Launceston LINC. It is proposed that these be retained in that location until they are no longer required, and then transferred to FOLMI.
The books and periodicals transferred to FOLMI will initially be held at the Newnham Campus of the University of Tasmania which has made a suitable space available for storage, assessment and evaluation of the collection.
FOLMI intends in the long term to establish the Collection as a research base, and for this purpose external sources of funding will eventually be required. It is envisaged that funds will be supplied through private donations, joint ventures with partners, and through cultural sector grants.
Peter Richardson
President, Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Northern library collections agreement reached

Media Release from Launceston City Council. 
Monday 25 November 2013

Launceston Alderman have today voted to enter into an agreement with LINC Tasmania on the future of two collections currently held at the Launceston LINC.

The Launceston Mechanics' Institute (est. 1842) and the Meston collections are owned by the Launceston City Council and, by an agreement signed in March 1971, have since been managed by the State Library (now part of LINC Tasmania).

The collections, particularly the Meston Collection, hold many valuable 19th century Australian and Tasmanian publications. The Mechanics' Institute Collection is a window into the reading tastes of Launcestonians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of the few such Australian collections relatively intact and still in existence today.

In 2014, the Launceston LINC building on Civic Square will undergo greatly anticipated renovations, as announced by the Minister for Education and Skills in February 2013.
Preparation for this project has prompted a need to resolve some long outstanding issues of collection ownership, and develop long-term plans for items held in storage for many years.

The Council and LINC Tasmania engaged with a newly formed community group, the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute (FOLMI), to find a suitable arrangement for the large number of items that do not fit the collecting priorities of either QVMAG or LINC Tasmania

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said all three parties had been aware of a need to do their utmost to care for the heritage of Launceston, while at the same time balancing issues of responsible stewardship with progress and development.

Aldermen today approved a recommendation that LINC Tasmania be granted ownership of the Meston Collection as well as items from the Mechanics' Institute Collection which has already been included in the Launceston Local Studies and Reference collections.

Jenny Rayner, Director of LINC Tasmania, said: “These items form the basis of our local heritage collections and we are delighted to formally accept responsibility for their ongoing care and management. They will be securely held in Launceston for consultation by Tasmanians and visitors from all over the world, and for the benefit of future generations.”

It is also recommended that the remaining volumes in storage be transferred to the newly incorporated Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute. FOLMI will be responsible for the large general non-fiction and fiction collections and periodicals. They plan to make these items available to researchers and the general public once they have completed the necessary sorting and organising of the materials.

LINC Tasmania will grant custody of the official records of the Mechanics' Institute to the Council's QVMAG. The Museum will also be given an assortment of the Institute's objects. Books presently held by LINC Tasmania which were originally part of the Evandale Subscription Library (est. 1847) will also be transferred to the QVMAG Museum where they will complement an existing collection.

Speaking for their respective organisations, the Directors of LINC Tasmania and QVMAG expressed their satisfaction at the outcome of six months of negotiations.

QVMAG Director Richard Mulvaney said: "This is a sustainable outcome that will preserve Launceston's heritage well into the future. On behalf of all parties involved I wish to thank everyone for their input and advice, and for the amicable spirit in which the negotiations were conducted."

It is expected that items will be transferred to their new locations early in 2014.