Friday, 29 Sep 2023

Sydney Powerhouse a half-empty neglected mess amid redevelopment, museum staff claim

Sydney Powerhouse a half-empty neglected mess amid redevelopment, museum staff claim


Sydney Powerhouse a half-empty neglected mess amid redevelopment, museum staff claim

Staff and former board members at Sydney's Powerhouse allege the museum's collections have been neglected and put at risk of damage, as Australia's flagship science and technology museum undergoes a controversial $500m conversion into a commercially driven creative arts and events space.

Guardian Australia has spoken to multiple members of staff who have have shared their concerns that the upkeep on the historic buildings in Ultimo appears to have been neglected and the quality of programming downgraded in order to smooth the way for its conversion into what the previous New South Wales government touted as a "creative industries precinct".

In addition, staff, former board members and volunteers at the museum have alleged that objects in the museum had been placed at risk during major modifications to exhibition spaces and at parties and events held at the site, and that unrectified leaks in the building had threatened exhibits.

One former Powerhouse board member told the Guardian the museum had been reduced to "a half empty neglected mess", while a written statement from the museum board's former long-serving president, Nick Pappas, accused the former state government of conducting "a miserable land-grab under the guise of supporting the cultural needs of western Sydney", resulting in the "unjustified and catastrophic destruction of a beloved and award-winning public edifice and cultural institution".

In coming weeks, the majority of Powerhouse staff will be relocated from the Ultimo site to the institution's storage facility at Castle Hill while a new Powerhouse museum is built in Parramatta - a $915m project scheduled for completion in 2025.

Yesterday, the Guardian revealed heritage architect Alan Croker's allegations that the former NSW government had "buried" his company's work on a conservation management plan (CMP) for the Ultimo museum after it found the entire site should be heritage listed.

Such a finding would have prevented the government's plans to demolish at least one-third of the museum's existing buildings and significantly modify others.

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