History at the Hall

Briagolong Mechanics' Institute.

Zoe Askew

For the first time, the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute committee hosts ‘History at the Hall’ on Sunday, June 19 from 1.30pm.

‘History at the Hall’ offers the Wellington Shire community the opportunity to immerse themselves in local history as the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute committee opens the doors to one of the oldest standing buildings in the region.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute memorabilia. Photo Zoe Askew

The Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute is one of 2400 sites on the Victorian Heritage Register, dating back almost 150 years.

Built in 1874, the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute has imperceptibly changed since the last extension in 1907, including the original library with books dating from 1835 to 1957.

In the 19th-century, Mechanics’ Institutes were community-based organisations that provided education to adults.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute memorabilia. Photo Zoe Askew

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute, situated in the heart of Briagolong, is one of the oldest buildings in the Gippsland region, harbouring a collection of historic photographs and memorabilia and has operated since its construction serving many purposes to the Briagolong community.

Margaret Anderson and Annette Short are two of the nine-member committee who run Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute committee members Margaret Anderson and Annette Short. Photos: Zoe Askew

Mrs Anderson, treasurer, has been on the committee since 1988, and secretary Mrs Short joined in 2006.

Mrs Anderson and Mrs Short say the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute is still thoroughly utilised by the community today, almost daily.

“They had almost everything here in the early days,” Mrs Anderson said.

“It was a place of learning, entertainment, it was used for meetings, and it still is today.”

With the Briagolong Community House running out of the Mechanics’ Institute five days a week, a weekly play group, movie nights, history tours, weddings, funerals, CFA and Lions meetings, and more, the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute remains an integral aspect of the Briagolong community.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute library. Photo Zoe Askew

Mrs Short added that the Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute Market earlier this year was very successful, and as a result, the committee will be hosting markets bi-annually.

Mrs Short, Mrs Anderson and the entire committee are working hard in preparation for ‘History at the Hall’.

The afternoon will see a multimedia exhibit run in the main hall, showcasing thousands of historical photographs collected over the years, carefully curated by the Briagolong History Club and the almost 150-year-old library opened.

Scattered across the many rooms of the 19th-century hall, visitors will find locally historic memorabilia exhibits to view before sitting in front of a wood fire, burning in one of the original fireplaces, and enjoying handmade afternoon tea with a cup of coffee or tea.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute memorabilia, which will form part of Sunday’s ‘History at the Hall’ event. Photos: Zoe Askew

Mrs Anderson and Mrs Short are eager to showcase such an integral part of Briagolong, historically and presently.

“We just want people to come, relax and enjoy a really lovely, really friendly afternoon,” Mrs Anderson said.

“COVID has ruined so many things for everyone and we are trying to get back to normal, so we really want to encourage people to come out,” added Mrs Short.

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute’s ‘History at the Hall’ will run from 1:30 pm until 4 pm on Sunday, June 19. The afternoon is a great opportunity for Wellington Shire residents, new or old, to gather, socialise and learn about local history.