Historical information

This large, leather bound journal was made for the Public Library and Burke Museum in Beechworth by book manufacturer, William Detmold in 1875. It was commissioned by the President of the Library and Burke Museum committee, Dr Antoine Mousse, for the purpose of cataloguing all the items in the collection. The cataloguer was the curator at that time, William Morton, whose hand-writing appears in the journal today.

When William Morton first started recording in this journal in 1875, there were already a number of existing items in the institution. The Public Library and Burke Museum in Beechworth had actually been operating since the 1850s; first as a Young Men’s Association in 1856, then as Beechworth Athenaeum in 1858, then as the Beechworth Public Library in 1860. Then in 1861 when news of the death of Beechworth’s former police superintended, Robert O’Hara Burke, reached the town, it was agreed that the Public Library would also become a museum to tribute his legacy, renaming it as the ‘Public Library and Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum, Beechworth’. Many of the items from the early institutions would have been used to form the nucleus of this new organisation. Plus, the additional items that were either collected or donated to develop it into a museum.

The catalogue is extensive. There are exactly 461 pages of recorded items, each page detailing the various collections the museum acquired in the late 19th century. Collections recorded in this catalogue include a large collection of geological specimens, that were given to the museum in 1868 by the Geological Survey Department of Victoria. A large collection of taxidermy mounts, that were given to the museum as skins by the Museum of Australia in 1865. An extensive collection of Aboriginal artefacts that were purchased from amateur anthropologist R. E . Johns in 1868. As well as artworks, charts, photographs, machinery, maps etc., all of which have been held in the museum since.

This catalogue also details the governance and management of the organisation. There were originally 30 rules that governed the actions for the management committee and, while anyone could read in the free library, only subscribers could borrow two books and one periodical. At first, subscriptions rates were 7/6 a quarter. This was later changed to £1 per annum, paid quarterly in advance. This was a considerable amount; 7/6 per quarter meant that the annual fee was £1.10. This was equivalent to about £650.00 or about $1,182.00AUD today, while the reduced subscription fee of £1 a year was the equivalent to £450.00 or about $818.00AUD today. Membership of the athenaeum would have been the reserve of the town's notable citizens.


The vale of the catalogue lies not only in its historical connect with the establishment of the Athenaeum and the current museum, but also in its record of the names and positions of all members of the institution's committees of management from 1875-1876. This is a unique object that contains important records for a notable country town.

Physical description

Large brown leather bound book made in 1875 for the Beechworth library and museum by William Detmond. Inside is a comprehensive and detailed itemised listing of the paintings, drawings, charts, photographs, specimens and books that entered the institution from 1850 -1882.

Publication type


Inscriptions & markings