Doors open to history

It’s just had its resplendent exterior restored, but now the Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute is inviting people to take a peek and find out what happens behind those historic walls.

Welcome: Michael Pace, Sarah Allen, Hayden Baker, Sam McColl, Daniel Kilpatrick, curator Amy Tsilemanis and librarian Rosemary McInerney. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Welcome: Michael Pace, Sarah Allen, Hayden Baker, Sam McColl, Daniel Kilpatrick, curator Amy Tsilemanis and librarian Rosemary McInerney. Picture: Lachlan Bence

With its inaugural open day coming up on September 3 following a string of “spring celebration” nights, BMI curator Amy Tsilemanis said Ballarat’s community seemed to have a “general puzzlement” about what the institute was all about.

“Many people walk past this building every day but have no idea what it is or what is inside,” she said.

The Minerva Space

The Minerva Space

“People often wonder what the ‘mechanics’ mean, are they allowed to go in, all those kinds of questions, so it’s a good chance to let people know about the history of the institute but also about the present day too.

“We’ve had the building restored on the outside so now we want to show everyone what’s on the inside and what’s on offer.”

The grand Victorian-era building had internal restorations several years ago, with the external works completing in recent months.

Ms Tsilemanis said historically the BMI had been a place for the community to congregate and learn.

“Its origins are in adult education. Through time, it’s been a place for entertainment and social activities, through to today where we’re continuing in that tradition but also trying some new things.”

The BMI includes an independent lending library, an historic archive, the Minerva Space – a former cinema now used as a stunning hall for weddings and events, the Humffray Room – which is often used for recitals, and other areas for hire.

Many community groups use the BMI including the Ballarat Film Society and the Ballarat Choral Society.

Ms Tsilemanis said the open day would include a launch of  the Max Harris Photography Collection, which would showcase historic images of Ballarat. This will be juxtaposed with contemporary images of the city.

The event will also include local music, poetry and performances, exhibitions, Devonshire tea, educational talks, performances from Federation University students, and a vintage dress-up night with retro cinema and music.

Live music events will also be held each night between September 1 to 3, with a Ballarat songwriters night, an evening of jazz and soul, and vintage sounds with retro “surf rockers” Surf Shadows.

For more details on the BMI open day events and its spring celebrations, visit www.ballaratmi.org.au/springcelebrations