Athenaeum, Melbourne
The Athenaeum or Melbourne Athenaeum is one of the oldest public institutions in Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, founded in 1839. The first President was Captain William Lonsdale
William Lonsdale (colonist)
William Lonsdale supervised the founding of the official settlement at Port Phillip from 1836 and went on to serve under the Superintendent La Trobe from 1839 to 1854.-Early life:...

, the first Patron was the Superintendent of Port Philip, Charles La Trobe
Charles La Trobe
Charles Joseph La Trobe was the first lieutenant-governor of the colony of Victoria .-Early life:La Trobe was born in London, the son of Christian Ignatius Latrobe, a family of Huguenot origin...

 and the first books were donated by Vice-President Henry Fyshe Gisborne
Henry Fyshe Gisborne
Henry Fyshe Gisborne was the first Commissioner for Crown Lands of the Port Phillip District, founder of Flemington Racecourse and petitioner for Victoria's separation from New South Wales.-Early career:...

. Originally it was called the Melbourne Mechanics' Institute. This was expanded in 1846 to the Melbourne Mechanics' Institution and School of Arts. The building on Collins Street
Collins Street, Melbourne
Collins Street is a major street in the Melbourne central business district and runs approximately east to west.It is notable as Melbourne's traditional main street and best known street, is often regarded as Australia's premier street, with some of the country's finest Victorian era buildings.The...

 was completed in 1842. The Athenaeum played a role in the establishment of Mechanics' Institutes
Mechanics' Institutes
Historically, Mechanics' Institutes were educational establishments formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to working men...

 in Victoria.

The Melbourne City Council met in the building until 1852 when the Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne Town Hall is the central municipal building of the City of Melbourne, Australia, in the State of Victoria. It is located on the northeast corner of Swanston and Collins Streets, in the central business district. It is the seat of the Local Government Area of the City of Melbourne...

 was built.

The Institution changed its name to the Melbourne Athenaeum in 1873. At that time, as now, a focal point was the library. In 1877, membership was 1681 and in 1879 there were 30,000 visits to the library. In 1880 it was reported 'that the floor of the large hall was the only one in Melbourne expressly constructed for dancing'. The front of the building was rebuilt in 1885 and 1886.

In October, 1896, the first movie was shown in Australia in the Athanaeum Hall. The Hall became a regular venue for screening films and the premier of The Story of the Kelly Gang
The Story of the Kelly Gang
The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian film that traces the life of the legendary bushranger Ned Kelly . It was written and directed by Charles Tait. The film ran for more than an hour, and was the longest narrative film yet seen in Australia, and the world. Its approximate reel length...

 by the Tait brothers was at the Athenaeum in 1906. The theatre in its present form was created in 1921. The theatre was the first venue in Australia to screen talking pictures. The Melbourne Theatre Company
Melbourne Theatre Company
The Melbourne Theatre Company is a theatre company based in Melbourne. Founded in 1953, it is the oldest professional theatre company in Australia, and has its own theatre, The MTC Theatre – which houses the 500-seat Sumner Theatre and the 150-seat Lawler Studio – located in Melbourne's Arts...

 leased the theatre from 1976 to 1985 when the lease was taken over by various entrepreneurs who formed AT Management in 1997.

The Athenaeum housed a small museum in its early days and then an Art Gallery, which closed in 1971, after which it was converted into a smaller theatre space by the MTC. This space, as of 1997 is now home to the The Last Laugh Comedy Club
Comedy club
A comedy club is a venue, typically a nightclub, bar, or restaurant where people watch or listen to performances, including stand-up comedians, improvisational comedians, impersonators, magicians, ventriloquists and other comedy acts...

 and, since 2003, Melbourne Opera
Melbourne Opera
Melbourne Opera Company Ltd was founded in 2002 as a not-for-profit public arts company dedicated to producing opera and associated art forms at realistic prices...


The library continues to exist as a large subscription library with members throughout Victoria, although its membership has declined from a peak of 7,579 in 1950.

The building was added to the Register of Historic Buildings in 1981 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register
Victorian Heritage Register
The Victorian Heritage Register lists places of cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria, Australia. It has statutory weight under the Heritage Act 1995 which establishes Heritage Victoria as the permit authority...


It has been used as a venue for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the third-largest international comedy festival in the world and the largest cultural event in Australia. Established in 1987, it takes place annually in Melbourne over four weeks in April typically opening on or around April Fool's Day...

 and since 2006 has been the venue for the Comedy Club
Comedy Club
Comedy Club may refer to:*The comedy club phenomenon*The Comedy Club, a historically important jazz venue in Baltimore, Maryland, run by Ike Dixon...

 since it moved from North Melbourne.

External links

37.81504°N 144.96736°W
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