Finding a Home

Despite an endorsement from the colony's Governor and various donations, the museum suffered from a lack of financial support and interest.

Minutes for 27 January 1846 record: "The Museum was transferred during last year to the Large Room of the Hall where cases upon an elegant and commodious plan have been constructed around the sides of the Apartment."


Wood engraving showing a meeting of the clergy of the Church of England in the hall of the Mechanics' Institution. Along the walls are display cabinets containing museum objects with plaster casts decorating the top of each one.
Illustrated Australian News, 28 February 1870.
Image from the Pictures Collection of the State Library of Victoria.

The annual report for 1851 discussed the need for a larger lecture hall, noting that the existing hall could not accommodate the increasing number of people attending lectures, classes and entertainments. It was common for people to be turned away at the door. The committee also considered renovating the existing hall, once the much larger one was built, to accommodate the museum. Some committee members thought that the collection deserved a dedicated space because it was more important than other branches of the institution from a scientific viewpoint, stating that Australia was "particularly rich in mineral wealth, abounding in botanical, zoological, and other specimens."

It was not until 1872 that the large hall was finally constructed at the back of the building, but the small hall does not seem to have been given up to become a museum. Both halls were rented day and night by the growing number of social, cultural, business and sporting organisations for meetings, rehearsals, performances, classes and lectures.

The 1855 annual report noted that the committee had not been able to add to the museum due to a lack of space. "This is the more to be regretted as a large quantity of materials for the formation of a museum is now lying useless in various parts of the present building," the report noted.