The Powerhouse Museum – its future in the balance
7 March 2019
The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta has rejected government arguments for the move and is highly critical of the process.
AMaGA welcomes the issuing of the final report and notes that while the move is a matter for an elected state government to resolve, there is keen national and international interest.
There is a substantial number of museum professionals who believe that the process has been flawed. Museum planning standards have not been met in a number of ways.
At core, museums and collections are an inter-generational responsibility. A fundamental principle is that collections must be protected.
States and cities must continue to evolve and improve their cultural offerings and we welcome well-argued proposals for change and for funding programs that would enlarge the cultural infrastructure.
Since 2015 the museum community and the broader public have debated the merits or otherwise of the NSW Government’s plans for relocating the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences from its purpose built Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s inner city to a new construction on a site in Parramatta in the city’s west.
A NSW Parliamentary Committee set up in 2016 has received a stack of submissions, grappled with passionate and finely detailed arguments, convened and reconvened, locked horns with the government over the business case, and extended its time frame several times. It has now tabled its report – which can be found in full on the Parliamentary website HERE.
The committee finds that:
“After much evidence, it seems that the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum has been based on poor planning and advice, a flawed business case and insufficient community consultation. Nothing so far has demonstrated the necessity or purpose for relocating this world renowned cultural institution, an institution that is much loved and internationally well regarded… The committee has recommended that the NSW
Government not proceed with the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. Instead, the NSW Government should focus on restoring the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, by providing a significant injection of funding for refurbishment and expansion. In terms of plans for Western Sydney, the NSW Government should consider establishing a Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences satellite site, and/or establishing a world class cultural institution in Parramatta that reflects its own extraordinary history.”
We note the Dissenting Statement by the government members of the committee who recognise the strong disagreement between parties for and against the proposed relocation, but reject all recommendations made in the report “as they all fail to provide a pathway to providing greater cultural amenity in Western Sydney”.
This association has contributed to the discussion through a formal submission to the Inquiry, fronting up and answering questions at a committee hearing, and providing public statements. Like all of our submissions and public advocacy, our advice drew both on the lived experience of our member galleries and museums, and state, national and international research, expertise and standards.
The submission to the Inquiry is here AMaGA Sub to NSW Inquiry
Our follow up Statements are here https://www.amaga.org.au/news/update-powerhouse-museum
and here https://www.amaga.org.au/news/powerhouse-museum-confirmation-move
Thumbnail image: Sydney's Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Photo Jeremy Piper