In March 1874 the first building of the Briagolong Mechanics Institute was officially opened; a red gum weatherboard building with a shingle roof. Although there is no known architect, the builder is recorded as Robert Vick of Stratford. The first building consisted of the back portion of the supper room, the ladies' room and the entry corridor. Briagolong Mechanics Institute was built in a number of stages between 1874 and 1930; further additions were made in the late twentieth century. In 1879 the original reading room and the old kitchen were built, and in 1887 the first section of the main hall and the stage was added. In 1890 the hall was extended and in 1902 the 'smoking' room was added as well as the supper room extension. A larger, more decorative porch was also added at this time. In 1907 the billiard room (the current library) was added. The only other significant addition was in c. 1930 when the bio box was added to the main hall for the screening of motion pictures.
The development and preservation of Briagolong Mechanics Institute over a long period of time reflects its ongoing use and the important role it played in the community. Since its inception Briagolong Mechanics Institute has been a place of meeting for community service groups, a venue for entertainment, for community fundraising in the forms of concerts, festivals, balls and other social gatherings involving sports such as quoits, billiards, draughts, chess, and educational classes such as music, drawing and dancing lessons and for the screening of motion pictures.
The Briagolong Mechanics Institute collection, housed in the building, comprises a library collection and a collection of archives and heritage objects that were used and displayed in association with the building's use as a Mechanics Institute. The library collection is composed of nineteenth and early twentieth century books most of which are fiction. The library collection is catalogued and the catalogue has been integrated into the Wellington Shire Council's Library service. This catalogue lists 1380 entries, some of which are for multiple volumes; around 75% of the collection is fiction and around 40% of the collection was published in the nineteenth century.
The general collection includes an early twentieth century Australian made Wertheim piano decoratively carved with an ornate Australiana floral motif which was purchased in 1913 and has been in continuous use since then. The collection includes a stereographic photograph collection dating from 1913 and stereoscopic viewer (date unknown); these stereographic photographs were purchased as a collection and were taken by A.J. Waugh (1868-1928) an amateur photographer from Maffra. Other notable collection items include two framed illuminated addresses to local community members (dated 1893, 1906 respectively), the 'Rules and Regulations' banner for the Mechanics Institute dating from the c.1920s, a cast iron fountain or urn recently located within the building believed to be the original fountain kettle used in the 1874 kitchen fireplace, two illuminated addresses, framed photographs and plaques, the World War I honour roll, furniture (stools, long seats, tables), and two hand painted stage backdrops dating from c.1907 and c.1934.
How is it significant?
Briagolong Mechanics Institute and its collection are of architectural, historical and social significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Briagolong Mechanics Institute and its collection have historical and social significance for their association with the Mechanics Institute movement and the important role this movement played in the social, cultural, and intellectual development of Victorians from the latter part of the nineteenth century right through the twentieth century to the present.
The Briagolong Mechanics Institute is architecturally significant as a representative example of a Mechanics Institute in a small country town. The architectural design is distinctive yet simple and uses materials which were locally sourced. Although the building has been expanded and adapted, the original buildings remain intact and to a large extent, unchanged. In tracing the development of the institute over time, one can trace the development and growth of a Victorian town and how its Mechanics Institute was adapted and extended to meet the needs of the community over a long period of time.
The Briagolong Mechanics Institute library collection is of historical and social significance as a rare example of a preserved Mechanics Institute library which reflects the tastes and interests of a Victorian country community from 1874 until the early 1960s. The library, together with the associated general collection of objects, is representative of the type of collection which would have been found at Mechanics Institutes throughout Victoria from the mid nineteenth century onwards. The collection reflects the community uses of the place over time and emphasises the central place that the Mechanics Institute held in the community.