New Powerhouse not a museum but global ’embarrassment’

Parramatta Powerhouse

It’s not a museum. This is not a matter of opinion, it’s not a slander being spread by critics of the project. The proposed building in Parramatta the NSW government would like us to see as the home of a “relocated” Powerhouse Museum will be nothing more than an entertainment venue stuffed with cafes and reception areas.

The simplest on-line definition of a museum is: “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural interest are stored and exhibited”. There is no on-site storage facility in the plans for the new building, and no thought given to a permanent collection which is the very heart of the institution.

The plan for the ‘New Powerhouse’ reveals utterly inadequate facilities for displaying works of artistic and historical value. It will have only 25 per cent of the display area of the existing museum, and will not meet the necessary minimum thresholds to allow for loans from overseas institutions. There will be retail areas, 10 cafes and bars, but no collection storage, no conservation laboratory and only a single loading dock. The idea of “flexible” exhibition spaces means display areas will have to double up as party venues, severely limiting the kind of items that may be shown.

The Powerhouse’s permanent collection is to be exiled to existing storage facilities in Castle Hill, along with curators and other exhibition staff. Whenever displays are to be changed, items will have to be trucked over, incurring needless expense, wear and tear, and the risk of accident.

The new Powerhouse in Parramatta is set to be an embarrassing example of worst practice by international museum standards. Ironically the current Powerhouse would not loan valuable pieces from their collection to any institution so poorly equipped.

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