This year marks the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts‘ 180-year anniversary. Representing the “transformative power of education”, the SMSA is one of five key institutions—along with the Benevolent Society, Bank of NSW (now Westpac), the Australian Museum and the Sydney Morning Herald—that have survived intact from the days of Australia’s colonial past.

To commemorate this historical milestone, Garry Wotherspoon has put together a complete and colourful history to celebrate the role the institution played in “combating ignorance” and improving skills for the population of the former penal colony.

Produced by ARMEDIA, The Sydney Mechanics School of Arts: A History, explores the role the school played in bringing education to the working class masses, not reserving it for society’s elite, and disseminating “scientific and other useful knowledge throughout the colony of New South Wales”.

Not without controversy, the not-for-profit School has survived wars, depressions, changing leadership, and its own battles to find purpose in a changing world, and Wotherspoon brings all of these battles, along plenty of good times, together to tell an eye-opening and sometimes amusing history of the SMSA’s pivotal role in the culture, industry, society and politics of post-colonial Sydney.

No history is complete without a little murder, political intrigue, nudity and romance, which you’ll certainly find in this book, thanks to the many famous—and infamous—members of the SMSA, including members who would go on to become prime ministers, writers and poets, an explorer and a notorious murderer, Thomas ‘Lemonade’ Ley.

Today, the School continues to operate the longest-running lending library in Australia, as well as a program of free talks, seminars and screenings open for both members and the general public. The School also opened the Tom Keneally Centre in 2011, forming Thomas Keneally’s living legacy to Australia and a venue for activities such as writing classes, readings and author talks.

To find out more about this fascinating institution and to order your piece of Sydney’s history, visit here.



One Response to “Celebrating 180 years of education”

  1. Melanie Ryan says:

    We are are delighted with the end result. Armedia did a great job with the design and production. We are also proud that book was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Awards 2014 in the NSW Community and Regional History Prize category. Thanks again.

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