Mechanics’ Institutes Worldwide 2021

Conference to mark 200 years of mechanics' institutes

On 16 October 1821, the world’s first mechanics institute was inaugurated as the Edinburgh School of Arts. To celebrate this event, the direct descendant institution of the Edinburgh School of Arts – Heriot-Watt University – is hosting a unique and globally significant conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the mechanics’ institute movement (MIW2021).

From this start, grew a global movement that within a century could boast of over 9,000 mechanics’ institutes around the world that trained the engineers for many different industrial revolutions, in steam energy, electricity, rail, canal, civil infrastructures, fossil fuels and now renewable energies.

But more than that, these institutes also transformed societies, enabling social mobility and economic development, but also enhancing civil society in cities and rural regions.

We want to celebrate such extraordinary achievements in this 200th anniversary event, and also to capture the moment in poetry and photographs. 

International advisory committee

  • Lesley Scanlon - AUS
  • Joanna Bourke - England
  • Ellen Grandberg - USA
  • Steven Houston - Scotland
  • Tom Lonsdale - England
  • Roger Morris - Australia
  • Lynn Verge - Canada
  • David Verran - New Zealand
  • Martyn Walker - England
  • Lauren Weiss - Scotland
  • Sian Williams - Wales

Call for papers and submissions

Organising committee

  • Alice Bracks - HWU
  • Patrick Corbett - HWU (Chair)
  • Jim Lowden - Victoria
  • Gavin Rennie - HWU
  • Sue Roaf - HWU

Poetry competition

The will be a poetry competition with prizes of £300 (1st), £150 (2nd) and £50 (3rd) on the theme of the conference. The poems can be submitted on the abstract form and should be of unpublished work. There is a limit of 40 lines and any poetic structure can be submitted. 

The University will have the right to include works submitted in any publication associated with MIW2021 and the copyright will remain with the author.

Photographic competition

The will be a photographic competition with prizes of £300 (1st), £150 (2nd) and £50 (3rd) on the theme of the conference. The photos can be submitted (high-quality graphic image) along with the abstract form, once available, describing the work and should be unpublished work. You can submit up to three images.

The printed copy of the photo will be at least 300dpi to be printed approx. A2 (594mm x 420mm) and then framed.  The winning photographer will get a framed copy.

The University will have the right to include works submitted in any publication associated with MIW2021 and the copyright will remain with the author.

Register your interest

Formal registration will be available in August. In the meantime, you can register your interest with Gavin Rennie for details when they are available.

Conference chair

You can also contact the conference chair, Patrick Corbett for further information on the event.