Melbourne Athenaeum is the oldest public institution in Victoria, founded 1839. Two theatres, complete with Ticketmaster services and a subscription library of approximately 60,000 books are contained in the building which was built in 1842. The archives collection is in the process of being arranged and described.
The library was established in 1839 in a weatherboard cottage in Bourke Street with donated books and continues today as a modern subscription library in the heart of the city. The Archives project commenced in 2005 and has provided research support for a range of research projects including a volume of essays about its history; publication of several papers in historical journals; an exhibition of pictures (displayed in the theatre foyer) and assisted numerous students, including PhD candidates, family historians, writers of fact and fiction.
The Melbourne Athenaeum Library has special significance to the city not only because of its continuous service to its members since 1839, but also to the links to the Melbourne?s founders, far-sighted men from all walks of life who understood the need for knowledge and the importance of literature. The institution has operated from the same site in Collins Street since 1842 when the original building, a two-storey Georgian-style construction, was first occupied. The Melbourne Athenaeum Archives covers the history of the institution which was formed in 1839, a few years after European settlement. The visionary men involved established a cultural and social hub for Melbourne that has endured despite financial difficulties. The Melbourne Athenaeum continues to be managed by a voluntary Committee of Management, supporting a popular subscription library and a theatre that provides a wide variety of live entertainments for the citizens of Melbourne.