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Nelson Institute

NZ's oldest secular community organisation. Founded on board the barque 'Whitby' en route for NZ May 17th 1841.

September 24th 1907 incorporated by Act of Parliament.

Seeks to preserve our cultural identity and history. Organises and promotes lectures and discussions on a range of topics.


The Nelson Library has its origins in the Nelson Literary and Scientific Institute, founded on the Whitby en route to the new colony of New Zealand in May 1841. By September 1842 a library and reading room was open for fee-paying members in Trafalgar Street, near the Church Steps. The Examiner newspaper commented in October 1842 that “If the tastes likely to be encouraged by such institutions were not kept alive in some way we should become altogether barbarous, unrefined and with the worst species of unrefinement, that of relapse..”. It was clearly felt that the Institute would provide, for some at least, relief from the rigours and realities of pioneer life. The Nelson Literary, Scientific & Philosophic Institute continues to this day (albeit usually referred to as simply ‘The Nelson Institute’), a proud reminder of the hopes and aspirations of those early settlers.

Still relevant today?  We think so….and we are looking for more members.

What do we do?  Regular excellent speakers at the Nelson Library.  Typically one every other month and on a Sunday afternoon. Examples this year have been Julie Catchpole of the Suter art Gallery,  and Nigel Costley, the author of “Teak and Tide” about the Edwin Fox.



Contact Details
Postal Address

444 State Hwy 6


Physical Address

Nelson Elma Turner Library
27 Halifax Street



(03) 545 1646

Contact Person

Barbara Rhodes (President)


Disabled parking, Parking, Wheelchair access

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Many thanks to our generous supporters

  • Volunteer Nelson
  • Tasman District Council
  • Nelson City Council