Athenaeum marks 150 years

The Dunedin Athenaeum Library. Photo: ODT files
The Dunedin Athenaeum Library. Photo: ODT files
An institution devoted to science and literacy has marked 150 years in central Dunedin.

The Dunedin Athenaeum Library in the Octagon celebrated the occasion with speeches and a dinner yesterday.

Library president Tony Eyre said the institution’s history included complaints about the number of dogs in the reading room and a man who had a habit of snoring there.

The building was constructed in 1870 for the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute.

"We are the only athenaeum in the country still continuously operating under its original rules," Mr Eyre said.

"We even have our very own Act of Parliament."

The institute

was founded in 1851 and when the Athenaeum opened in the Octagon in 1870, it had 742 members and more than 68,000 books.

Its highest membership was in 1910, when it had more than 1900.

Membership these days has dipped to under 100, but Mr Eyre said the committee continued to look ahead.

"With that in mind, we are having ongoing discussions with the building’s owner and other literary institutions in the city about our role in creating opportunities that will build on Dunedin’s incredible literary heritage."

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