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Birkbeck welcomes Chair of the Mechanics Institute Victoria, Australia

The College started out as a Mechanics Institute, nearly 200 years ago.

Professor Latchman (L) and Jim Lowden

On his recent trip to the UK, Jim Lowden, who was until recently Chair of the Mechanics Institute Victoria, Australia, met with Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck. Birkbeck started out in 1823 as the London Mechanics Institute and while the name has changed the original mission to serve working Londoners endures.

Mechanics Institutes are still thriving in Australia and often take on the form of community libraries or community learning centres. A ‘mechanic’ was anyone who worked in a skilled trade, so the Institutes were for people working in trades who wished to learn more professional skills or other subjects such as sciences or the arts.

Mr Lowden was in London researching a book on Henry Brougham, an education reformer and one of the early supporters of Mechanics Institutes. As Lord Chancellor he brought in the 1832 Reform Act. Mr Lowden was also a conference speaker at the Independent Libraries Association Conference in Exeter.

Professor Latchman briefed Mr Lowden on Birkbeck’s current activities as well as some of the plans leading up to Birkbeck’s 200th anniversary in 2023.

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