Bulletin 69

Campaign to Save the Powerhouse

Responsibility for facts stated is taken by Tom Lockley, PO Box 301, Pyrmont  tomlockley@gmail.com

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Meanwhile in this bulletin:


The ‘consultation’ weekend: cautious optimism!. 1

General 1

General management of displays. 2

I had a great discussion with a very senior MAAS person about this, and matters of education as per the next session. 2

Education. 2

Discussion with Alan Croker. 2



The ‘consultation’ weekend: cautious optimism!

The museum had a great atmosphere over the weekend of 19-20 March. One of the CSOs working in Experimentations summed it up when they said ‘isn't it wonderful to have children around again!’. There was a nice activity related to the microcars. It was interesting that Experimentations usually held more than half the people attending, and that the Steam Revolution was, at the very least, as popular as most of the temporary exhibitions. But see the remarks under ‘general’ below.

Many senior people from the museum were on hand, and keen to discuss. I felt a new readiness to seek common ground and to deal with the subjects in which visitors were interested.

It was a bit disappointing that only about 20 to 40 people attended the ‘consultation’ sessions; the covid save limit was 150 per session. These were expertly conducted by Kylie Cochrane of the PR firm Aurecon, and everyone was encouraged to give their opinions. Though the total project was touched upon, the emphasis was on developments at Ultimo. All speakers in their presentations gave a positive image of the development of the present museum.

Having been disappointed with the way previous ‘consultations’ were reported, I was cynical, and quizzed everyone on the consultation assessment process, and the common response was that the consultation process would be honestly reported and would inform the conservation management plan, that the CMP would inform the design brief. We should accept this at face value, but we need to see that our input will be listened to as the conservation management consultation processdevelops. So a . This would be easier to hope for if the CMP process had begun, at the very latest, immediately after the July 4 announcement that the Ultimo musuem was ‘saved’. Also see the explanaton of the CMP below. if the

The consultation process.

The general discussion session was initiated with five questions: what do you value about cheque, what works well about cheque, what doesn't work well at cheque, what are the opportunities for change / improvement / efficiencies, and When did you last see an exhibition at cheque - did you visit alone or with family and friends?


What is a Conservation Management Plan (CMP)?

Conservation Management Plan is part of the management of a cultural place as set out in the Burra Place agreement, the details of which  can be seen on https://australia.icomos.org/publications/burra-charter-practice-notes . The flow chart is attached, and the first requirements are ‘understand the place’ and ‘assess its cultural significance’. We submit that this has never been properly done, and that the evidence shows that heritage aspects of the museum have been completely ignored, for example, even in in financial calculations.

The last CMP was done in 2002, and the consultation briefings have mentioned that the present process takes this as a basis. We have asked to see this plan. A CMP obviously should have been done before the major renovations were carried out in 2008, and certainly before the ‘move’ project was set in concrete on November 26, 2014. 

is has been a General management of displays

I had a great discussion with a very senior MAAS person about this, and matters of education as per the next session.  The intention is that there will be only a very small proportion of permanent displays. At Ultimo, there would be displays lasting about six years (’long term’), four years (‘medium term’) and two years (‘short term). At Parramatta there would be only medium term and short term displays.  There would be the possibility of an exhibit lasting in the same place for a longer time if it suited more than one display.

This needs discussion and further elucidation. Comments I have received were basically that all major museums – Louvre, British Museum, etc – have  large permanent exhibitions.

The practice of having a major theme, like trthe practice  


This has been causing some concern among volunteers and others. Over the years

There is a complete change of ‘Terms of Engagement’ with audiences. Up until say the 1980s, the museum would be the source of much valuable information: many people would ring up for this purpose. This has changed in the internet age.

(This has been a topic of email and general conversation. A common view is that the idea of a ‘rolling’ display has merit, as was the policy in the Transport Hall and in Insights,


Volunteers have expressed uncertainty about how the new displays would fit into the educative aspects of the museum,

Discussion with Alan Croker

Alan Croker said he had noted all the comments made at the public Open Weekend and is fully cognisant of the heritage and special features of this museum. The intent is to preserve these. He says that the process will proceed as advertised, the consultations would proceed according to the steps of the Burra Charter, the process would be accurately reported, this would lead to a Conservation Management Plan and that the CMP would inform the design brief for the work to be done at THE Powerhouse MUSEUM.

If this is indeed what happens, this will be a wonderful improvement in the processes used to date.. If only this had been done before the 26 November 2014! We submit that the latest credible time for initiating the CMP process was immediately after the July 4 2020 announcement that the museum had been “saved”. demolition work should not have continued after this date, but if nothing more is done to demolish the museum I am sure .

In a later discussion in the forecourt after the museum had closed, it was very encouraging to hear that the brief for their work was not just to carry out the dictates of whoever is in ultimate control. He said that he had taken the job on with a clear understanding that he would be happy that the final outcome of his work would be the best possible for the museum.

tomlockley@gmail.com , PO Box 301 Pyrmont 2009
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Australia’s major museum of arts and sciences in Sydney’s most evocative heritage building. For more information
https://powerhousemuseumalliance.com/  See also: https://www.facebook.com/savepowerhousemuseum/ 


Tom Lockley

0403 615 134....