Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library - Royal Society of NSW News & Events - The Royal Society of NSW

Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library

Paul Brunton

  Paul Brunton OAM
  Emeritus Curator 
  State Library of NSW

Thursday 1 March 2018
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

The penal colony of New South Wales was a child of the Enlightenment. It was founded on the belief in personal improvement and progress. It was not a dumping ground for convicts but an experiment in Enlightenment values. Libraries could play a key role in the moral and intellectual improvement of the individual. This talk will discuss the foundations of four libraries: Australian Subscription Library and Reading Room [now the State Library of New South Wales] (1826), Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts Library (1833), Evandale [Tasmania] Subscription Library (1847), and the Melbourne Public Library [now State Library of Victoria] (1854), and the Enlightenment values which guided their founders.

Paul Brunton OAM, FAHA is Emeritus Curator, State Library of New South Wales. He worked with the Mitchell Library’s Australiana collections for 40 years and was Curator of Manuscripts from 1986 to 2001 and Senior Curator from 2002-2012. Paul has published on archives administration and on various aspects of the State Library’s collection. He was President of the Australian Society of Archivists, 1991-1993. He was curator of the exhibition Matthew Flinders: the Ultimate Voyage which opened at the State Library in 2001, and traveled nationally during 2002-2003. His annotated edition of Flinders’ letters, Matthew Flinders: personal letters from an extraordinary life, was published in 2002.

This is the fourth in a series of lectures on the theme “Is the Enlightenment dead?” being co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

Lecture 1: “Samuel Pepys, his library and the Enlightenment” by Susannah Fullerton FRSN, on 4 September 2017

Lecture 2: “The freedom to use one's own intelligence: the Enlightenment and the growth of the Australian nation” by Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, on 6 November 2017

Lecture 3: "Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the museum” Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO, Australian Museum, on 5 February  2018

Lecture 5: Sophistry: “Global deflation: the Enlightenment has failed!” by Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO FRSN, on 5 April 2018

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