Thursday 8 June 2017

Saving the Powerhouse Museum – Talk by Dr Lindsay Sharp

The Powerhouse Museum has been a much-loved part of Sydney’s cultural landscape since 1988 but its origins lie in the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879.  The rise of the Powerhouse Museum as a world class institution of decorative arts, science, technology, design and social history drew on a rich tradition of collecting, researching and teaching.  The Powerhouse, the principal public face of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), has become inseparable from inner city Ultimo, the home of its collections since 1893.

In February 2015, the NSW State Government announced its intention to relocate the Powerhouse from Ultimo to Parramatta as part of a new arts and cultural precinct in Western Sydney and to sell the Powerhouse site.  Public reaction to this announcement was mixed but serious concerns were soon raised.  This led to the establishment, in June 2016, of an Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries.  At the time of writing, the report of the Inquiry is with the Government.

In this talk, Dr Lindsay Sharp presents a forensic analysis of how the normal processes of government and due diligence can easily be subverted by political agendas.  It also examines governance issues, the complex nature of museums and their critical relationships with their many stakeholders and the importance of the public voice in changing outcomes.  Dr Sharp will also look at some relevant projects from overseas that will assist planning for more creative, community focused museum options for Parramatta. Lastly, the current state of the “Powerhouse to Parramatta” proposal will be discussed, within the context of the potential benefits of consultation and collaboration.

Dr Lindsay Sharp is a museologist, consultant and writer and was the founding director of the Powerhouse Museum (1979–1988). Born in Britain and raised in Australia, he received his doctorate in the History of Ideas at Oxford in 1976. Other major directorships have included the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (1997–2000) and the National Museum of Science and Industry, UK, where he led the team that replanned the institutions within the entire Science Museum group from 2000 to 2005.   In recent years, Dr Sharp has consulted widely in Asia, Australasia and the USA, assisting cultural organisations to engage with broader audiences and become more sustainable. Dr Sharp, assisting Ms Kylie Winkworth (a former MAAS Trustee), prompted the holding of an Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, commencing in June, 2016.

Venue: History House, 133 Macquarie Street, Sydney

Time: 5.30 for 6 pm

Cost: Includes light refreshments on arrival; RAHS and ASHET members $10, others $12

Bookings: phone RAHS on (02) 9247 8001 or email