Sunday, 30 March 2014

FOLMI Newsletter 2

Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc.

Newsletter 2

March 2014

Transfer of Launceston Mechanics' Institute Stock
The transfer of stock to FOLMI from the Launceston LINC building is well under way. As agreed with LINC management the first part of the collection to be transferred was the Adult Non-Fiction. This has now all been unpacked and shelved in our temporary location at the UTAS Newnham campus.
In all there were 620 boxes moved over two days. Most of these books had not been looked at since 1990 and were entirely unsorted. Now that they are on shelves the work can begin to sort them into order and arrange the collection for assessment and evaluation. Volunteers to assist with this work would be most welcome, particularly those who remember their Dewey Decimal System.
An interesting sidelight in this process has been the discovery of several books from other smaller Institutes such as Longford, Evandale, George Town, Carrick, Deloraine and Lefroy.

Open Day
Anyone who would like to visit the University (Room D007) to look at the collection is invited to do so on Saturday April 5.  Peter Richardson will be there from 10.00 -4.00 to show you around.

Thank you to Marion Sargent for this picture of the collection taken on our Open Day

FOLMI Annual General Meeting
Although we have only been an incorporated body since late in 2013, we are required to hold our AGM in the next two months. It is expected that this will take place in early May, and we will advise the date, time and place of meeting soon.

Community Heritage Grants Scheme
As previously advised, a submission is being prepared seeking funding from this Australian Government scheme to commission a Significance Assessment Report on the collection. The closing date for the current round is May 3.

Going to the Mechanics
We still have a couple of copies of Stefan Petrow's history of the Institute available for sale. These were kindly donated by the publisher Professor Campbell Macknight. If any FOLMI member would like a copy please let Mike McCausland know.

Visit to Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute
Mike and Prue McCausland recently spent a day visiting the BMI where they were given a very informative tour and outline of the history of the collection by a member of the BMI Library Committee. Ballarat's is the only other surviving Institute collection in a regional Australian city that is comparable with Launceston's.

LMI Accession Registers

We have previously asked for volunteers to assist in the conversion of the LMI Accession Registers into an Excel Workbook. To date two volunteers have expressed an interest in being involved.

The Records of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute have now been transferred in their entirety to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Included in these Records are an invaluable three-volume set of Accession Registers. The Accession Registers are the only record of the totality of the collection. They record every title held at 1885 (9123 volumes) and every item added from then until 1932. This means they include all items withdrawn from the collection between 1885 and 1932, whether through deletion, loss, transfer or replacement.

Sample page from Volume One of the Registers
The work of transcribing the records will be a very time-consuming project. It can be made easier however by working from digital photographs of the pages of the Registers, and a test set of images of the first thirty pages have been made. The principal advantage is that the work can be done from home.

Some of the benefits of this work are:

  • Because the accession registers are chronological records of the growth of the collection they offer a different window into the collection than does a catalogue.

  • As they stand the Accession Registers can only be searched by an Accession Number. When they are available in an Excel workbook it is possible to search by multiple Accession Numbers, Author, Title, Date Added, Withdrawals and Notes.

  • Provenance – There are an unknown number of items from the collection surviving in a variety of places;

             The LMI collection which has been transferred to FOLMI contains the majority of these items.
             LINC Tasmania will continue to hold some items in its Launceston Local Studies Collection, Meston Collection, Launceston General Reference Collection, State Reference Stack, Serials Collections.
             QVMAG will continue to hold some items, especially in its Serials Collections.
The clearest evidence of provenance in the physical item are the LMI Stamps, Bookplate and, most definitively, Accession Number.

Developing and maintaining a searchable list of items accessioned is the best available tool for establishing the provenance of an item and recording its survival and location regardless of where it is held.

Mapping to the surviving Collection – our intention is to catalogue the surviving part of the collection to Libraries Australia. This will be done by uploading MARC records based on the bibliographic details collected from the physical item. These records will therefore differ from the Accession Records in their level of detail.

The usefulness of creating a separate searchable listing of items based on the Accession Registers derives in part from the potential to add the information retrieved from the Accession Register to the MARC record. Examples could potentially include past cataloguing practice, donor names, price, supplier, notes – information not usually available from the item itself.
Libraries Australia records for the collection could readily be exported as a report in a compatible format to facilitate comparison.

Research Value – The ability to access detailed information about what was added to the collection and to compare that with what has survived is the most important reason for creating the two separate listings. Some of the research questions that could potentially be illuminated are;

             Survival rates. Which books had a high survival rate and which did not? – by genre, author, subject (subject lists are available from the printed catalogues), format.
             Changes in collecting focus over time – and by implication library policies.
             Rates of collection growth over time – Accession Records provide a snapshot of all books added in a particular selected period.
             Changes in reading preferences and tastes – which could be mapped to membership/subscriber numbers.
             Weeding policy.
             Collection management practice – how the collection was organised, arranged and accessed.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Presidents of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute 2

The Institute's governing body was a Board of Management, with an elected President. Many individuals prominent in Launceston's civic life took the role of president. This post - the second of two listing the Institute's presidents - covers the period 1877 to 1928.
It was Institute practise to request a portrait from each president to be hung in a place of honour in the Reading Room. The illustration below shows another view of the Reading Room featuring a selection of the portraits.


Robert Byron Miller
Miller was a highly regarded lawyer, specialising in criminal cases. He served as a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly between 1861 and 1866, including terms as solicitor-general and attorney-general. As a Launceston Alderman he was an effective advocate for improvements to the City's sanitation and drainage.*


Andrew William Birchall
The Birchall name is synonymous with books in Launceston, A. W. Birchall first came to Launceston to manage the bookshop of which he became a partner in 1858. The firm was first known as Walch Bros. and Birchall, until 1893 when Birchall acquired the business and registered the company of A.W.Birchall and Sons. The company trades on the same site to this day.
Mr Birchall was active in many philanthropic and charitable works in the community; a member of the Launceston Hospital Board, Vice-president of the Benevolent Society, member of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a Justice of the Peace, superintendent of Christ Church Sunday school and secretary to the Church building committee.


Adye William Douglas
Adye Douglas settled in Launceston in 1842 where he founded the legal practice which still bears his name. He was a founder of the Anti-Transportation League, served as Mayor of Launceston in 1865-66 and 1880-82, and represented the city in the first Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1856. At different times he represented other electorates in both houses of parliament. He was Premier of Tasmania (1884-1886) and President of the Legislative Council (1894-1904). He was a leading light in the movement towards Federation, and a delegate at the federal conventions in 1891 and 1897-98. Adye Douglas was knighted in 1902, ranked by the governor as 'the first among living Tasmanians'. He died in Hobart in 1906.*


Henry Button
One of the most respected men in the history of the city, Henry Button arrived in Launceston as a child in 1837.  In 1879-88 Button was an alderman of Launceston, and Mayor in 1885. He was a life member of the Institute and in 1892 published a pamphlet on its jubilee. Throughout his life he was closely connected with the Congregational Church, starting from his days at the school of the Rev. Charles Price.  Button was a journalist, writer and newspaper proprietor. His Memories of Fifty Years of Courtship and Wedded Life 1847-1897 was published by the Examiner in 1899, and dedicated to the memory of his wife. Flotsam and Jetsam; Floating Fragments of Life in England and Tasmania. An Autobiographical Sketch with an Outline of Responsible Government was published in Launceston in 1909. This book has been reissued many times, and is an invaluable record of the history of the city.*


Landon Fairthorne
Fairthorne arrived in South Australia in 1839 and moved in 1842 to Tasmania, where he qualified to practise as a chemist by examination. He then opened in business at Longford before setting up as a chemist at Launceston. He took an interest in public and social matters, and occupied a seat at the Municipal Council as Alderman for six years, and was elected Mayor in 1884. On February 5, 1883 he was made a Justice of the Peace. He had business interests in shipping, was a director of the Cornwall Insurance Company and the Mount Bischoff T.M. Company, and a strong supporter of the mining industry in Tasmania.*


Matthew Edward Robinson
Matthew Robinson was a wholesale merchant and manufacturer's agent, and a foundation member of the Commercial Travellers' Association. He served for many years as a churchwarden, lay-preacher and Sunday School superintendent at St John's Church. He was a Launceston City Council alderman for three years and a member of the House of Assembly from 1903-1906.


Rev. Donald Smith Brunton
Reverend Brunton was a Presbyterian Minister, attached to Chalmers Church from the mid-1880s until his retirement through ill-health in 1895. In his retirement he conducted occasional services at the Mechanics' Institute and a collection of his sermons, Fruit from my Launceston study, was published in Launceston in 1895.


George Wilson Waterhouse
G. W. Waterhouse was educated at Horton College, Ross, and won the Tasmanian Scholarship, going to Cambridge University to study law. He had a brilliant career at that University where he was famous as a mathematician, becoming a 'Wrangler', the highest degree in the world at that time relating to applied mathematics. He was admitted as a barrister-at-law at the Inner Temple, London, in 1879. Returning to Tasmania he was appointed Police Magistrate at Launceston from 1886 to 1894, when he resumed private practice. He was President of the Institute for one year, and then served as Vice-President from 1892-1905.


Bernard Patrick Farrelly
A stalwart member of the Launceston Roman Catholic community, Mr Farrelly was a woollen and drapery merchant. He served four terms as an Alderman, and was Mayor of Launceston 1887-1888. Mr Farrelly was very active in sporting organisations including the Tamar Rowing Club, Turf Club and Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association. He was proprietor of both the Tasmanian Catholic Standard and Morning Star newspapers. He was a great supporter of literary and debating societies including the Tasmanian Parliamentary Debating Society.


Alfred Barrett Biggs
A.B. Biggs is remembered as an astronomer, inventor and instrument maker. He enjoyed long careers as a teacher and a bank officer, while pursuing his scientific interests. Biggs was a very active member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, contributing numerous papers, and choirmaster at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church. In addition to his term as President of the Institute, Biggs had briefly served as librarian and resident hall-keeper in 1860 and later as Treasurer.


Dr Lavington Grey Thompson
Dr Thompson was Surgeon-Superintendent at the Launceston General Hospital until 1889 when he returned to private practice, and Chief Medical Officer for the City from 1903 -1923.  A progressive thinker, Dr Thompson was responsible for important advances in public health and particularly in the improvement of Launceston's water supply. He was active in many public institutions, served as a coroner and justice of the peace and was a passionate advocate for the disadvantaged.


Alexander Richard Fowler
Alex Fowler was a timber merchant in Launceston from 1870. He was a founder of the Court Sherwood Lodge, chair of the United Friendly Society Dispensary, secretary of the Launceston Savings, Investment and Building Society, and was active in many roles at Holy Trinity Church. He was a member of the House of Assembly from 1893 until 1901, and a Chairman of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.


Augustus Simson
Simson came to Tasmania in 1874 and established a business purchasing and exporting wool and tin. He became manager, secretary and agent for many Tasmanian mines, and a founding member of the Launceston Stock Exchange. He was interested in the sciences, a respected naturalist and a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania.


Ernest Whitfeld
The holder of many public positions, including Police Magistrate and Commissioner of the Court of Requests, Coroner, Returning Officer for the district of Selby, chair of the Public Works Commission, and member of the Royal Commission on Education, Ernest Whitfeld was chiefly esteemed for his voluntary work in the Launceston community. It was recorded in his obituary that "[t]here was hardly a local institution having for its objective the welfare of the city with which Mr. Whitfeld was not associated".
Mr Whitfeld took a great interest in history, and contributed by lectures and articles to the knowledge of Tasmania's early experiences, particularly development in and around Launceston and on the Tamar. He wrote, also, much of the state's church history, and many brief sketches of the pioneer clergymen. He was the author of The History of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute and Public Library published by the Institute in 1910.


Frederick Richard Unsworth
The longest-serving president of the Institute, Mr Unsworth came to Launceston in the 1860s as a mining and commission agent with David Collins of Evandale. He later joined the wholesale firm of Messrs Lindsay Tulloch & Co. and then became the managing director of Irvine & McEachern, wholesale grocers and wine and spirit merchants.
For 26 years he was a member of the board of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute and president for 19 years. He was a member of the Launceston Golf Club, the ABC Bowls Club and the Northern Tasmanian Athletic Association. He was a member of the Lodge of Hope, an executive of the Benevolent Society and a Justice of the Peace. Mr Unsworth was a member of the St John's Church choir, but in later years was associated with St Paul's Church.

These brief biographical notes are based in part on entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Those notes marked with an asterisk refer the reader to ADB Online for further information.