Heritage of the Powerhouse Museum:

What’s at stake in the move to Parramatta

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It is the nation’s only Arts and Sciences Museum

Current director, Ms Dolla Merrilees, in a recent address, made the point that this museum is unique in Australia as a museum of arts and sciences. Its origin echoes that of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which aimed ‘to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers’. In the ‘V&A’ the science component was split off to become the Science Museum, in the 1920s. But the Sydney Technological Museum carried on the combined endeavour, hence was consciously renamed the 'Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences' in 1946, honouring the unique breadth of its collections.

The fusion of arts and sciences has become even more relevant over recent years, as personified by Steve Jobs, the inspired creator of Apple Computers. The innovator of the future will be the one who combines ideas from many disciplines which are then mediated through great design, resting still within the original inspired vision of the V&A. MAAS already leads in multidisciplinary endeavours and seeks ‘to more effectively engage with the multiple communities with interest in the hybrid disciplines of the applied arts and sciences’ (MAAS Annual Report, 2014-5).

Thus it must be emphasised that the Powerhouse is a national asset. It must be seen not as a Sydney institution that is to be placed in the city’s centre of population, but as something that must remain in the most accessible place for the nation, and indeed for the world. It is close to the CBD: visitors may walk along the recently created Goods Line Walk, from Central Station passing some of Sydney’s most important cultural, educational and media institutions, such as the ABC, UTS and TAFE to reach the museum. This is the ideal place for this special museum.

The fame of the museum’s Boulton and Watt engine is world-wide. Enthusiasts from many countries come to visit it. Britain used its image on its £50 note.