Bulletin 18: 16 April 2017: Not good news.

Bulletin 17 demonstrated the incontrovertible fact that the Inquiry confirmed the stupidity of the move to Parramatta at a basic financial level, to say nothing of the heritage aspects of the process. The government witnesses at the Inquiry gave facts that fully support the objections raised by the opponents of the move.

Yet the Premier went on ABC radio on 14 March and said ‘we have committed to a Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta and are sticking to that’.

On 9 March staff and volunteers at the museum were told that ‘The NSW Government has committed to moving the Powerhouse Museum as part of the development of a broader Arts and Cultural Precinct in Western Sydney’. ‘Despite recent changes to NSW Government, including the appointment of a new Premier and a new Minister for the Arts, planning for the New Museum continues unaffected’. Employees and volunteers were told to familiarise themselves with this information ‘so we can provide a consistent message’. Task groups of employees are being formed to discuss the general development of the museum ‘including the move to Parramatta’, but there has never been examination of the desirability of this move. It is even clear that the move has never been assessed by Parramatta local government. See this page.

On channel 7 on 17 March a story repeated here stated that Parramatta community leaders had expressed concern that the move might not take place’. Greg Dyer, General Manager of the Council, said that the move was ‘the most fundamentally important’ renewal project. ‘The Property Council of Australia, business leaders and MPs are fighting back’ against the protest movement. Geoff Lee, Parramatta MP, said ‘All I know is that we are going to get the Powerhouse’. 40 community organisations are supposed to have demanded that the move proceed, but a list of these is not available. Our Bulletin 13 demonstrated that there was little advocacy for the move apart from government instrumentalities, and the Property Council has neither made a submission to the Inquiry or referred to the matter on its website.

Another group stated to be even now in support of the move is the Western Sydney Business chamber. They released a report in 2015 which outlined their support for the move, with the following recommendation:

That the relocation involves the full sale proceeds of the existing Powerhouse site in Eastern Sydney being quarantined to establish the new Museum in Western Sydney — with any surpluses used to fund future Powerhouse Museum programs in Western Sydney.

The Inquiry demonstrated that far from there being any surplus, the net cost of the move would be over a thousand million dollars. If this statement still reflects the position of these business leaders, then they are obviously incompetent.

A few thought bubbles expressed in media and attributed to Ms Berejiklian and the Western Sydney minister Stuart Ayers have canvassed some alternatives, but the government policy is still to continue with the move.

It is also disappointing that the opposition is also supporting the move. Mr Foley said on February 22 ‘I fear the move of the Powerhouse to Parramatta could be the next thing to be scrapped’: The sensible reaction to the present situation would be to abandon the idea of the move while requiring the government to spend the money saved to enhance the arts in Parramatta, along the lines proposed by NPRAG.

For what it is worth, I think that the government, in the forthcoming budget, will stall progress on the move, and that eventually it will be quietly dumped. This is not satisfactory. To get the best outcome, the money needed for the move must to be spent on the arts, effectively and effiently. The rather tired permanent exhibitions at PHM, which are its core attractions, need refurbishing.

And another thing:

There is another battle to be fought, this time within the museum, and that is the general direction it is taking intellectually.

This is exemplified in the contrast between two recent exhibitions: The Egyptian Mummies, in its last days, and The Art of the Brick, which involved Lego sculptures of superheroes (!). The Mummies exhibition was mounted in conjunction with the British Museum and is a world first. It encapsulates cutting-edge imaging technology. It served as a catalyst for creative expression by the amazing young Egyptologists that Australia is producing. It brought to the forefront the fact that Australia ‘punches well above its weight’ in the field of Egyptology. It encouraged over 40 volunteers – university undergraduates, post graduate students and postgraduates, to come to the exhibition to enhance the visitor experience. It supported a great children’s activity that gave a practical understanding of archaeology. It highlighted MAAS’ own collection of ancient history objects. It set up a game of Senet that emphasised the long culture of Egypt and provided many hours of co-operative activity. The museum’s young CSOs entered into the spirit of the exhibition providing lots of fun for the children. Art of the Brick had some positives, but I believe they do not compare with those of the Mummies.

If you agree, please email PHM ( info@maas.museum ), the director dolla.merrillees@maas.museum , and also the Australian curator Melanie.pitkin@maas.musueum. Why not add your local member, the Premier ( form email at http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/contact or her electorate office willoughby@parliament.nsw.gov.au , the Minister for the Arts (form email here ), Arts NSW (form email here ) and anyone else you can think of. It would not hurt to mention that the present position of PHM made it far more accessible to the many interstate, intrastate and even international visitors than Parramatta would be!

The Mummies exhibition closes on 30 April.

And finally.....

On a less grinchy note, look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cra0MUi6Www – the Museum’s entry in an international competition. The 24 hour voting window opens on Monday 17 April at 11pm. You can vote here: http://whenyouworkatamuseum

Tom Lockley
(tomlockley@gmail.com , 0403 615 134, PO Box 301 Pyrmont 2009)

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/  https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/ http://lockoweb.com/phm/