The Prahran Mechanics’ Institute Victorian History Library (PMI) was recommended to me by a fellow archaeologist as a “treasure trove for anyone doing any historical research related to Victoria”. I thought this statement was probably a bit overblown, but, when asked to do a historical background research for a heritage report, in a little-known location in Gippsland, I found my way to the PMI and realised that the statement was in fact quite accurate. The breadth and range of the collection that included so many local historical society publications, heritage studies and published books in one place and with all volumes present, was a revelation to me. And it made my job so much easier and the results more comprehensive.
My study was focused on a former pub and later post office building in Fulham, and the resources for this were quite limited. The report was originally commissioned as a heritage documentation of the historical weatherboard building, dating back to the 1870s and 1890s, but we were asked to include more detail about the historical background specific to the building itself.
The PMI has a very comprehensive collection of historical books, heritage studies and local historical society newsletters relevant to the Fulham area near Sale. The PMI collection allowed me to draw upon local published local histories for the area to understand in detail when the Princes Highway and Sale-Melbourne rail line were created, as well as details about local inhabitants from the 1860s – 1950s and the nature of occupation in Fulham during that time period.
My research also required information about the railway line and details about when a particular (and very minor) railway station was opened and closed and the fact that the Australian Railway Historical Society (Victoria Branch) was located in the PMI was really helpful and Steven Haby the Secretary Librarian at the PMI was a fountain of knowledge.
The photocopier on the premises was also very useful and the ability to borrow local council historical studies is also extremely helpful.
The peaceful and well-appointed reading area/workspace meant that I could make notes, look up additional information on Trove or other online databases whilst there and cross-check information with ease. I felt very comfortable and able to work in the PMI space and wished I could have spent more days there! The offers of cups of tea and use of the kitchen as well as the very friendly staff made my experience using the PMI even more enjoyable.
I have since used the PMI for research on other heritage projects and found the rates books, historical directories and other online resources an amazing asset.
I’ll definitely be back to the PMI for more research in the future!
Former Fulham Pub