For many years it has remained a forgotten relic of Birmingham's past.
Though located in the heart of the city, most people know little about the Birmingham and Midland Institute and what it stands for.
That, however, might be about to change.
The building in Margaret Street has seen its profile raised recently as the venue for an election court into alleged vote-rigging during last year's local council elections.
Now its new president Dr Peter Berry - former Provost of Birmingham Cathedral - wants to reintroduce it back into the heart and soul of the city.
The BMI was set up in 1855 by Act of Parliament for the "diffusion and advancement of science, literature and art among all classes of people resident in Birmingham".
For many years it was at the forefront of disseminating new ideas to the masses, offering public lectures and affordable courses.
Its previous presidents include author Charles Dickens, musician Yehudi Menuhin and former Prime Minister Clement Atlee.
The composer Edward Elgar was a visitor to its School of Music, which has since become the Birmingham Conservatoire, based at Paradise Place.
Today, however, many of its rooms and lecture theatres remain empty for much of the time. And despite its impressive Victorian facade, inside the building has an air of faded glory.
Dr Berry said: "It is a marvellous thing we have. It is a major facility that runs parallel with the very great resources in the city. Yet it is now being used as a law court. People forget the place but we owe so much to it."
Dr Berry's hope is to reenergise the centre, which within its depths houses the city's oldest library with books dating back to 1779.
The 69-year-old believes it can once again be a forum for debate on national issues and showcase the latest developments in science and art.
"I am trying to bring things up to date," said Dr Berry. "We want to be up with some of the scientific developments of the day. We have two lecture theatres and lots of marvellous rooms for meetings."
Only appointed president last month, Dr Berry has already begun to use his contacts to help reinvent the BMI for the 21st century.
"I have just been in touch with the director-general of the CBI, Digby Jones, to ask about whether we can have a role in drawing together the many different areas of concern for under-achieving young people," he said.
"A focus would be on the mismatch between endless vacancies in industry and providing relevant training.
"As a forum for discussion we have no axe to grind. We are not management. We are not unions. We can be a neutral place for debate."
Originally opened by HRH Prince Albert, the BMI will celebrate its 150th birthday in November.
Among its achievements, it is credited with introducing "penny" lectures and courses to educate ordinary people.
Charles Dickens performed a reading of his most famous novel, A Christmas Carol, in the city to raise money for the centre.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the institute provided the city council with daily readings on rain levels and the time.
The Birmingham Astronomical Society was also closely linked to the BMI, which was originally based at Paradise Forum, on the site of the present city library.
Dr Berry is keen to see the institute, which relies on donations from members, once again enjoy a high-profile.
"Birmingham was entrepreneurial and it took initiative to create these very important developments in all things, particularly in science and music," he said.
"The 19th century was a creative, seminal time for people who had a sense of community and a sense of purpose for the city. I would like to see the BMI leading that again."