Heritage of the Powerhouse Museum:

What’s at stake in the move to Parramatta

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PHM is an item of world heritage …….

Throughout the world the best museums are typically in buildings that were not built for that purpose. Immediately, the Louvre and the St Petersburg Museums come into mind: they were built as sumptuous palaces for an elite, and now are extremely popular with the general public.

Other converted old buildings generally have more impact than new, purpose-built structures. Examples include the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and the National Rail Museum in York (in the UK), Berlin’s Museum of Technology and the Mainz ship museum (in Germany) and the Cincinnati Union Terminal in the US.

The fabulous Quai d’Orsay Art Gallery in Paris is another converted railway station with amazing ambience, and probably the most striking of all such buildings.

Australia’s Powerhouse Museum has claim to being one of the great museums of the world, largely because of the way it makes great use of its historical past. Unlike many of the other museums, its prize exhibits have remarkable affinity with its historic past: the museum is home to a magnificent collection of steam engines, and these are held in the turbine hall of Australia’s first major power station. See more examples here.

This tram was based, from 1899, in the tram shed that is now the Harwood Building, part of this building complex, and is a marvellous example of the link between museum and object.