Sydney Mechanics School of Arts: A History, by Garry Wotherspoon, has been short-listed for the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Up against some stiff competition in the NSW Community and Regional History Prize category, the judges praised the “surprisingly engaging microcosm of Sydney’s history” through the eyes of the SMSA.

The judges also said: “Garry Wotherspoon provides a thorough overview of an institution that was influential at various stages, and a history that is timely and needed. In piecing together this history, Wotherspoon delves into a broad range of primary material archives and the result is a well-illustrated book demonstrating a deft use of original records.

“It is an unusual lens through which the changing social and political history of Sydney may be viewed, but Wotherspoon makes a topic with relatively limited appeal highly illuminating for a broad readership. The author captures the social and intellectual ideas of the time that formed the basis for the establishment of the School of Arts, the transformative power of education and its ‘civilising power’ in the former penal colony.”

Grahame Marks, SMSA secretary, said the organisation was “honoured” to be nominated for the award. “We are particularly proud that our book was the only self-published volume in the award’s line up and not, as most were, produced by a major publisher. To a large extent that is due not only to a recognition of SMSA’s place in Sydney’s history but also to ARMEDIA’s outstanding design and production which brought that history to life so well.”

“The commemorative book has been warmly embraced by SMSA’s members, with many positive comments on the beautiful illustrations and design,” says Melanie Ryan, SMSA program an communications manager. “It has also been sought after by historians researching community history and adult education, and is widely held in libraries and historical societies across the state.

Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts: A History can be purchased from the SMSA Library and the State Library of NSW. Copies may also be ordered from
$10 members / $20 non-members.

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