State Library of South Australia

Inside the Institute: Changes bring a new lease of life to a cultural precinct

Date: 3 June 2015

Earlier this year the restoration of our treasured Institute Building was finished, now the inside of the building has had a makeover.

Image by renowned botanical illustrator Rosa Fiveash
Image by renowned botanical illustrator Rosa Fiveash

The North Terrace entrance to the Institute Building has a fresh look with more space, new carpet and large colourful signage to welcome visitors. Removal of the heavy semi-circular wooden desk and surrounding provides a more open area and allows easier access for education tour groups and families.

The spacious Institute Gallery provides opportunities to arrange a wide variety of displays without overwhelming the content. At the same time the heritage look and feel has been maintained with earthy wall, ceiling and cornice colours that complement the Institute's beautifully restored exterior.

Visitors to the building will soon be greeted with a new welcome sign on the wall. The gold and black lettering of the new welcome sign references the building's name on the original North Terrace front window. The image of a shelf of books is reminiscent of the heritage Circulating Library. It is also a reminder that the present State Library is part of the early Institute's legacy of providing access to literature and ideas.

Greater flexibility for exhibition signage and captions has been achieved by printing images directly on to self-adhesive photo text fabric. This process does not damage the walls and is also considered green and non-toxic. A recent example of this removable signage is the large bright wall image and cheerful graphics that welcomed visitors to the exhibition of children's artist and writer Lynley Dodd. Smaller images then pointed the way from the Institute up to the main Spence Wing.

The Hetzel Lecture Theatre, located inside the Institute Building, has also been refurbished. New carpet, comfortable chairs and elegant new pendant lighting enhance the space. The audio visual equipment has been upgraded and a sleek new control panel replaces the older equipment. This allowed the conversion of the former control room into an unobtrusive storage area. Full colour reproductions of local flora and fauna from the State Library's Rosa Fiveash collection add warmth and interest to the freshly repainted white walls.

Rosa Fiveash (1854-1938) was a renowned botanical illustrator, printmaker, painter, and arts teacher. Born in Adelaide, she studied at the School of Design under Louis Tannert and HP Gill and went on to specialise in painting Australian flora. Her work appeared in several notable botanical works, including Forest Flora of South Australia (1882-1890) by John Ednie Brown (1848-1899) and South Australian Orchids (1922) by Dr Richard Sanders Rogers. She also illustrated various ethnological and zoological works for Sir Edward Charles Stirling (1848-1919) and the South Australian Museum. Rosa is also credited with introducing china painting to Adelaide.

Improved access and appealing user-friendly signage now welcome an increasing number of visitors to the Institute Building. The upgrading of the Hetzel Lecture Theatre improves its use as a flexible learning space. The synthesis of heritage, hi-tech and warm welcome have the potential to return the Library's beautiful Institute Building to what it once was, a vibrant cultural hub in a city of ideas.

Story by: Isabel Story

Back to e-xtra Winter 2015 stories

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