In 1994, the Australian Country Music Foundation was provided with use
of Tamworth's historic former Mechanics' Institute by TamworthCity (now Regional) Council.
The Foundation has established its administrative headquarters in this
building as well as its current exhibitions. The building is open to the
public every Monday to Friday between
and , Saturdays
and (except Good Friday and Christmas Day)
and during the annual country music festivals
in January and July
daily from 9:00 am.
A quick guide to the building...
This is where we display a range of merchandise
and music by our Roll of Renown
pioneers and many of Australia's independent country music artists.
The Main Hall
The largest room in the building is dedicated to the Legends of
Australian Country Music exhibition, currently featuring a number of
displays on artists elevated to the Country Music Roll of Renown... Tex Morton, Buddy Williams, Smoky Dawson,Slim Dusty,
Stan Coster, Barry Thornton, Arthur Blanch, Johnny Ashcroft, Reg Lindsay
and Shorty Ranger. The Legends exhibition forms the basis for
the beginning of
Australia's country music hall of fame.
Ultimately, this exhibition will include special displays on all those
elevated to the Roll of Renown, together with many others who have
featured prominently in Australian country music over the years.
Smoky Dawson Room
When the Foundation was being established, country music pioneer Smoky
Dawson was approached to be patron of the organisation, an invitation he
accepted with gusto. Smoky continued to support the ACMF and in 1997,
the Smoky Dawson Room was dedicated. It currently houses-
25 Years And On
A special photographic exhibition established to commemorate the 25th
anniversary of the Country Music Awards (also including acknowledgement
of Awards up to the present). This exhibition is based on one special
photograph from each Awards year together with a list of winners and
some special Awards highlights (for example the story of the Golden
Channel 10 Theatrette
Also in the Smoky Dawson Room, we've set up a special theatrette with
the support of major sponsor Channel 10. The Theatrette is established
so visitors can view some of
Australia's unique country music
history. Highlights include an excerpt from the film Who
Chased The Chicken starring Buddy Williams, a documentary on the
life of Smoky Dawson, and the television special
Slim Dusty, This Is Your Life. The
Tamworth festival video, The Buddy Williams
story, early Rick and Thel Carey shows plus many more.
Australian Country Music All Over.
A display depicting other country music festivals. This changes each
year. To date it has highlighted the Toyota Country Muster (Gympie) in
the Mildura Festival in 2008. In 2009 it depicted Bungendore and Barmera.
In 2010 Boyup Brook (Western Australia) and Katherine (Northern
Hands of Fame
A year listing of the artists that have been inducted into the hands of
fame as well as photographs of the current years inductees being inducted.
Archives and Administration
Remaining rooms in the building are dedicated for use as archiving and
The Buildings History
In 1859, Dr RL Jenkins, the local member of parliament, had the land at 93 Brisbane Street,
Tamworth, set aside for the building of a
mechanics' institute, with the government providing a grant of 150
towards the cost.
In 1863, a subscription list was opened in the town and
(pounds) was raised
as funding towards the proposed building.
August 11, 1864,
surveyor Arthur Dewhurst recorded in his diary that he was "making
design for a MECHANICS' INSTITUTE".
The building constructed by builder William S Dowel over the next two
years at the total cost of 380
pounds was officially opened on May 24, 1866. The Tamworth Mechanics' Institute
then consisted of a hall only and was used as the first Town Hall in Tamworth. It would have been one of
Tamworth's highest and most imposing buildings at the time.
August 7, 1897,
work began on the building of a reading room, the hexagonal room on the
western side of the building. Lewis Levy (of
Tamworth's Cohen & Levy store) donated 50
pounds for this
construction and his partner Abraham Cohen donated 150
In 1900, the "new committee room" (the back part of the building) was a
In 1936, 50 years after it was built, the building was re-named The
School Of Arts, and during World War II (1939-45), it was used by the
Army to provide entertainment and refreshment to troops stationed at
In 1947, the School
of Arts became
inoperable. Tamworth City Council took over the building, carried out
extensive renovation work and established Tamworth's
first library and art gallery.
In 1961, the building was leased to the
of New England
which established an adult education centre trust for the building and
surrounding land. The UNE refurbished the building at a cost of $11,000
and occupied it for the next 30 years, renaming it the Campbell Howard
Centre for Continuing Education in the mid '80s after Campbell Howard, a
former Regional Director of Education.
By 1992, the building had reached a state of disrepair. The UNE vacated
and Tamworth City Council commenced a staged refurbishment program on
August 17. Stage one was completed by builders Nelson & Auld, stages two
and three by Tamworth City Council staff.
A total of $350,000, including actual building costs, materials and
Council staff labour charges was spent. The Heritage Assistance
Program and NSW Ministry for the Arts contributed grants of $35,000
and $25,000 respectively.
The building was officially re-opened by Tamworth Mayor Alderman David
John, January 28, 1994, and
dedicated as the Australian Country Music Foundation... a fitting use of
this historic building considering Tamworth's
national and international reputation as Australia's Country Music Capital.
The Foundation is open every Monday to Friday between and 4and Saturday 9am to 1pm. These hours are extended during country
Our building celebrated its 140th birthday on May 24 2006.