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Port Augusta : leisure and tourism : institute

Port Augusta today is a modern provincial city with many facilities which offer education and entertainment for its population including cinemas, galleries and libraries, and theatres. However for many years the focal point for the community was the Institute. It was the venue for auctions, sermons, performance of plays and concerts.

In 1863, a reading table was set up with a few books that AD Tassie, Thomas Burgoyne, Thomas Young, WC Crane, Hiram Mildred, W Liston, IG Sanders, I Chisholm, I Symons, H Malevoir, CB Jacobs and others could spare.  Recent newspapers would have been welcomed but were unobtainable, so week-old editions and a handful of magazines had to do.

In 1866 Frank Bignell the draper and storekeeper lent the institute 'premises to set up a Literary Institute and circulating library to which there were about 40 subscribers'. This venture was not very successful as it did not cater for the younger people with lighter reading and the library was sold by auction to pay the group's liabilities in 1871.

The idea of an institute was revived in 1872 and a building was planned. With increased population and renewed interest £837 was raised locally, the government made a grant of ₤750 and the building was completed in 1876. It was situated next to the Telegraph Station (now the Post Office).

In South Australia 'Institutes' were geared to adult learning and often had a library to support this aim. Many institutes were superseded in the late 1950s and 1960s with their role taken over by public libraries and in some cases the institutes amalgamated with public libraries. The Port Augusta Public library was established in 1967.  

The Port Augusta Institute building today is used for community and cultural events.

Further reading:

Anderson, RJ, Solid town: the history of Port Augusta [Port Augusta, S. Aust.]: R.J. Anderson, 1988

Talbot, Michael A chance to read: a history of the institutes movement in South Australia, Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1992

Historical souvenir of Port Augusta : sixty years of progress, 1876-1936: diamond jubilee and state centenary celebrations, June 27th-July 11th, 1936, [Port Augusta, S.A.: Port Augusta Diamond Jubilee and State Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1936]

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