The Melbourne Athenaeum

Architect: Smith & Johnson 1842, 1853, 1872, 1886, 1923

City of Melbourne | C35

Building Description

Much of Melbourne’s standing as Australia’s cultural capital can be traced back to the Athenaeum and the role it played in the early promotion and development of music, visual arts, literature, science and theatre. Founded in 1839 as the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution, the Athenaeum was built on its current Collins Street address in 1842. Over the years the building has evolved and at various times has housed a library, museum, reading room, the city’s first art gallery, classes and lectures, and a theatre. Today, the theatre and the library endure, and both continue to add to Melbourne’s cultural credentials. The subscription library has more than 700 members, who enjoy the latest in literature in some of the city’s most historic surrounds. Interesting artifacts are found throughout the library, including artworks and relics from the library’s early days. A comprehensive collection of archives is on rotational display in the library. The library holds a 30,000 strong collection and hosts regular music events, talks, book clubs and screen clubs. It is a haven in the heart of the city and its members become part of this extraordinary institution and part of Melbourne’s history.

What's On

Tour the historic library and learn about its fascinating history as one of Melbourne’s cultural icons.


188 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000, Melbourne VIC

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