BMI’s drive to the past with an exhibition of historic images motoring through Ballarat

HISTORY: Do you know these people and what they were queuing for? Ballaarat Mechanics Institute has a series of historical pictures they'd like to know the characters in and the story behind. Picture: Max Harris Collection
HISTORY: Do you know these people and what they were queuing for? Ballaarat Mechanics Institute has a series of historical pictures they'd like to know the characters in and the story behind. Picture: Max Harris Collection

Ballarat’s historic streetscape has stood the test of time, but the life that goes on around it and the traffic that streams past are a reminder that time stands still for no one.

Except those captured in photographs.

The Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute is home to a fascinating heritage collection, including the Max Harris Photography Collection, featuring historic images of Ballarat from the 1860s through to the 1960s. 

Each month a different curated exhibition gathered from their archives, is presented.

During May, BMI library visitors can enjoy Motoring through Time, a display of car photographs and stories.

BMI curator Amy Tsilemanis said the monthly photo display was a way to collaborate with the public and gain more information about the photographs.

“We invite people to come and explore the collection and chat to us … and in some cases members of the public might like to contribute their own historic photographs,” Ms Tsilemanis said

One of the stars of the Motoring Through Time exhibition is a photo contributed by BMI member Neil Leckie of his grandfather’s car built in Ballarat in 1900.

MOTORING HISTORY: A 1915 photograph of Ballarat resident Neil Leckie's grandfather with his family and a car that was built in Ballarat in 1900.

MOTORING HISTORY: A 1915 photograph of Ballarat resident Neil Leckie's grandfather with his family and a car that was built in Ballarat in 1900.

“Neil was aware of the collection and he told me about the story and agreed to add those images to the collection. And we extend an invitation to anyone else who has amazing Ballarat photos they would like to add to the archives,” she said.

Tying in to the motoring theme, BMI will host a drop-in event for the public from 10am to 12 noon on Saturday to view the exhibition and speak with car historians and enthusiasts Rex Bridges, Norm Darwin and Peter Butters.

“Saturday’s event is a chance to get people to drop in and look at the exhibition with the curator, specialists and historians present,” Ms Tsilemanis said.

Norm Darwin is author of Early Australian Automobile Design – the first fifty years, historian Peter Butters co-produced the Recollections books with Max Harris sharing the stories and images of Ballarat, and BMI volunteer and car buff Rex Bridges and BMI curator Ms Tsilemanis will also be there.

“We love being able to share these historic photographs and the amazing stories they tell. We are also calling out for anyone with old photos of Ballarat to come in and talk to us about adding them to the BMI collection for future generations to enjoy,” Ms Tsilemanis said.

On Ballarat Heritage Weekend on May 26/27, the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute will be open 10am to 5pm on both days with the Motoring Through Time exhibition on display among other activities on site.