I've been doing a lot of reading about this as a result of the discussion
here and, man, is there some hyperbole floating about. One beauty from a
former Director of the museum, no less, is an opinion that precious
exhibits will have to be housed 30 metres above the ground to keep them out
of the water!!!! That would certainly be some biblical flood and would
result in most of us probably ceasing to exist, never mind museum exhibits.
I wonder if anybody realises that the floor level of the old powerhouse and
tram depot are at the same level above MSL as the Parramatta site and would
flood in as little as about a 10 metre rise. Most of the hyperbole flows
through the SMH. Here are some more sober facts from the Telegraph via the
Deputy VC of Western Sydney University who also often speaks on behalf of
The following statement in an earlier SMH op ed is from a very respected
person in the field whom I know but it reflects the huge presumptions that
are being made by the Powerhouse defenders:
"No government anywhere in the world has closed a major state museum to
move it out of the city to a less accessible location. And no government
has ever forced a major museum to give up its historic site, with
purpose-designed infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities."
The first sentence reflects the eastern Sydney elitism that's behind this
campaign - absolutely no acknowledgement that it's actually being moved to
a *more* accessible location in the *centre* of Sydney. This attitude is a
product of the tendency of anybody east of Haberfield - most of whom are
now property millionaires - to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the
rest of Sydney, nor the vast changes and shifts that have occurred in the
city during the last several decades. These cherished cultural institutions
are basically considered the moral entitlement of the wealthy of eastern
Sydney and not for sharing with the masses of most of Sydney. The second
sentence is plain wrong because the present building is not
purpose-designed (it's an old power station and tram depot), nor is it
state of the art and the museum had to be shoehorned into it, with anything
that wouldn't fit in being sent to Castle Hill. The other furphy being
floated around is that the old powerhouse is to be demolished. It's not.
Below is the article by Dr Andy Marks. Warning: it contains some facts. I
bet nobody remembers when the museum was in the tram depot.
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinionPowerhouse Museum move to
Parramatta makes economic sense
In 1951, the Catalina flew 13,600km from Sydney to Chile in an historic
flight. Now, activists are stopping it moving 20km down the road from
Ultimo to Parramatta, writes Andy Marks.
Andy Marks, The Daily Telegraph
June 29, 2020 4:31pm
Sydney's Powerhouse Museum moving to city's west
Sydney's Powerhouse Museum is a step closer to moving to the city's west.
The state government has purchased land on the banks of the Parramatta
River, as it prepares to move ...
MORE IN news
With a nearly 32 metre wingspan, the Catalina is among the Powerhouse
Museum’s most imposing exhibits. Aviator PG Taylor chose it for his
pioneering 1951 flight from Sydney to Valparaiso, Chile.
The aircraft blitzed the roughly 13,600 kilometre crossing in just two
weeks, but not without drama. The flying boat broke anchor in a storm off
Easter Island, almost crashing into cliffs before the crew got it airborne.
Taylor, who reportedly fell overboard during the ordeal, later quipped it
was a “shaky do”.
The Catalina’s next journey will be just 20 kilometres, from Ultimo to
[image: The flying boat the Catalina took two weeks to get from Sydney to
Chile in 1951.]
The flying boat the Catalina took two weeks to get from Sydney to Chile in
But it may as well be to the moon the way some critics have described the
museum’s relocation: a “disaster”, “cultural vandalism”, “shameful”.
The Powerhouse has been quite the traveller over the years. Starting at the
Garden Palace in 1881, the museum then temporarily moved to the Domain. In
1893 it was relocated to Harris Street. With five branch museums opening in
1896, it moved into a former tram depot in 1981 before shifting to Ultimo
Buildings change, the collection is the continuum. That collection is given
meaning by its interaction with people.
[image: People gather on the steps outside the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo
to protest the museum's move to Parramatta. Picture: Toby Zerna]People
gather on the steps outside the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to protest the
museum's move to Parramatta. Picture: Toby Zerna
At Parramatta, it will be an accessible collection for all to share; a
collection that reflects greater Sydney’s shifting population.
In time, that too will change.
Change is inherent in culture, and museums are not passive onlookers. The
best ones question the way we see the world. A museum that embraces that
dynamic is one that does more than simply stay relevant, it shapes the
cultural landscape. That can’t happen if a museum is inaccessible to the
increasingly large sections of the community funding it.
Growth is not possible if a museum shies away from the “shock of the new”.
[image: Famed aviator PG Taylor, aviator, who flew from Sydney to Chile in
1951.]Famed aviator PG Taylor, aviator, who flew from Sydney to Chile in
In his landmark documentary of the same name, Robert Hughes talked of the
transformative influence of industrialism’s “mechanical paradise” on the
way culture is shaped and perceived.
Western Sydney is Australia’s most culturally diverse and rapidly growing
region. It deserves to, and will, make its stamp on that re-envisioning.
As crew member on a 1935 flight aboard Charles Kingsford Smith’s famous
‘Southern Cross’ aircraft, PG Taylor left the cabin and traversed the
underwing struts, mid-air, six times, using a Thermos to salvage oil from a
crippled engine to another.
His heroic feat saved the aircraft and crew and earned him a George Cross
If a museum can’t be successfully relocated, for the sixth time, over
ground and into a purpose-built facility, then this is more than a “shaky
*Dr Andy Marks is assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University*