What’s On

Mechanics’ Institutes Worldwide Conference

Mechanics’ Institutes Worldwide Conference

Date & Time

October 15, 2021 - 7:00 pm to 2:30 am

Celebrating 200 years of Mechanics’ Institutes, 1821 – 2021


Registration for the 2021 Mechanics’ Institutes Worldwide conference is now open!

Free online event – register through event organiser, Heriot-Watt University.





Image: Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts 1864-69 State Library of New South Wales a302098 PXA 974 98

Mechanics’ Institutes Worldwide Conference

Organised by Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Free Online Event
7pm – 2.30am AEST (9am – 4.30pm UK time), Friday 15 October 2021


On October 16th 1821, the world’s first mechanics’ institute was inaugurated as the Edinburgh School of Arts. To commemorate this event, Heriot-Watt University is hosting a global conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the mechanics’ institute movement (MIW2021), a global movement that within a century boasted over 9,000 mechanics’ institutes across the globe and has enabled the transformation of societies.

In order to celebrate the extraordinary achievements in this 200th anniversary event, the event will be broken down into 4 sessions:

  • Capturing the start of the Mechanics’ Institute movement in the 19th Century.
  • Exploring diversity of the early Mechanics’ Institute movement.
  • The growth and consolidation of the Mechanics’ Institute movement in the 20th century.
  • The Mechanics’ Institute movement in the present day.

Heriot-Watt University would like to invite you to this special online conference on Friday 15th October. Free registration and full conference programme available here.


Free online event – register through event organiser, Heriot-Watt University.


Australian Contributions to the Conference

The Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts is contributing to this international conference with a special presentation by SMSA Board Member, Dr Lesley Scanlon. An overview of Lesley’s presentation is below, along with details of other Australian contributions.

The Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts: The Early Years (1833-1850)
Dr Lesley Scanlon

Focusing on lectures delivered during the early years of the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, the presentation suggests answers to a number of questions: How did the context of early Sydney impact upon the activities of the School? Was the School’s role reactive or proactive in the unfamiliar social and economic context? What scientific knowledge was communicated by the School and how was it communicated? Was this science useful for mechanics? Apart from science, what other useful knowledge was conveyed to the patrons of the School? How far did the School realise its own objectives and those of the wider mechanics’ movement?

The answers to these questions are found in the content of the lectures, the manner of their delivery, the personalities of the men who delivered them and, in the arguments used by the School’s committee to justify its lecture programme. Overall, the committee of the Sydney School, through its locally relevant educational programmes, attempted to embrace the Enlightenment ideal of improvement through the redemptive powers of education.

Lesley’s presentation will take place at approximately 8.15pm Sydney time (10.15am UK time) on Friday 15 October, 2021. To attend this free online event, register for the conference here.

Other Australian Presentations:

  • Jim Lowden (Victoria) “Henry Brougham and his Practical Observations Upon the Education of People”
  • Mike McCausland (Friends of Launceston Mechanics’ Institute) “Adapting MI principles in an enterprising colonial outpost”
  • Joelie Hancock (Flinders University, South Australia) “Mechanics’ Institutes in South Australia”
  • Ellen Coates and James Baker (Prahran Mechanics’ Institute Victorian History Library and Melbourne Athenaeum Incorporated) “Ama-Zine Mechanics’: old history, new engagement”


Free online event through Heriot-Watt University.




Past Event

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What’s On at SMSA

Date & Time

October 15, 2021 - 7:00 pm to 2:30 am



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