About Working Men’s Institute

Welcome to the Working Men’s Institute

Established by philanthropist William Maclure in 1838, the Working Men’s Institute (WMI) set as its mission the dissemination of useful knowledge to those who work with their hands. After 170 years of continuous service, this goal is still at the heart of our mission.

Maclure, who was a business partner with Robert Owen in the communal experiment in New Harmony from 1825-1827, was devoted to the ideal of education for the common man as a means of positive change in society. At New Harmony, The Working Men’s Institute was one manifestation of this ideal.

The Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony was the first of 144 WMIs in Indiana and 16 in Illinois. It is the only one remaining. Many WMIs were absorbed by township libraries or Carnegie libraries. Yet the one in New Harmony remained.

Housed in a wing of the old Harmonist Church from 1838 until 1894, the WMI found a new home in our lovely Victorian Romanesque Revival building that is now one of Indiana’s 72 National Historic Landmarks. With its arched windows, belt courses of stone and iconic tower, the WMI is an imposing landmark in the historic town of New Harmony.

Today, the WMI is a public library, a museum and an archive. In each of these areas, the WMI tries to stay true to the original mission of William Maclure.