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The Peterborough Mechanics' Institute fonds. - 1868-1940. - 1 m of textual record.

Administrative History

The Peterborough Mechanics' Institute, later the Peterborough Public Library in Peterborough, Ontario, began as a subscription library and reading room operated by the local Mechanics Institute. The Institute provided evening classes, lectures and library facilities to support the technical education and spiritual growth of working-class men. Robert Romaine, editor of the Peterborough Review, held the job of librarian and by 1858, the collection contained 950 books and a weekly circulation of 100 newspapers and periodicals to 140 subscribers.

In 1868, the Ontario government offered grants to chartered mechanics' institutes and the Peterborough Association applied for and received official incorporation. To be eligible for government funding, institutes were required to maintain significant scientific and technical collections and to provide evening classes and lectures. "Light" publications, such as works of fiction, were not considered eligible acquisitions, and were purchased with monies raised from local sources. By 1888, the library of the Peterborough Mechanics' Institute maintained an extensive and varied collection of more than 5 000 volumes and 40 periodicals for the use of its 350 members.

In 1880, administration of mechanics' institutes, previously within the Bureau of Agriculture, was taken over by the Department of Education. In 1883, the Ontario Free Public Libraries Act enabled the conversion of many larger Mechanics' Institutes into public libraries. Additional legislation in 1895 allowed the change in title, and the Peterborough Mechanics' Institute officially became the Peterborough Public Library.

Scope and Content

The Peterborough Mechanics' Institute fonds contains the minutes of meetings, proposals for programs, courses, lectures, acquisition data and records of the Institute's operation, physical operation of the library, financial information and correspondence. Also included are ephemera such as lecture advertisements, 19th century booksellers' catalogues, assorted circulars, invoices, etc.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: acquired from David Ewens Books in 1995. [1995-05]

Language: material in the fonds is in English.

Restrictions: none.

Finding Aid: finding aid available.

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