City News

Powerful plans for Powerhouse

Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia. Photo: Alec Kingham, Tuesday 5 September 2017


The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and The Powerhouse Museum are preparing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the latter’s future, new reports indicate.

A UTS spokesperson confirmed that the university was developing an MOU with The Powerhouse Museum to “facilitate further opportunities to work together closely and better streamline and co-ordinate that effort,” and demonstrated both organisations “shared commitment to working together in areas of common interest.”

The spokesperson elaborated that these areas of interest could include, “co-sponsored lectures, continued investigation of shared research opportunities, including possible research knowledge exchange sessions, further growth of internship opportunities with MAAS for UTS students and expanded Sydney Science Festival engagement.”

This announcement follows recent speculation that UTS was planning to purchase The Powerhouse Museum as the institution prepares for its move to the heart of the western suburbs, Parramatta.
Further involvement with the museum, otherwise known as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), would see UTS continue its recent of expansion throughout the Ultimo area.

Speaking on the MOU, a spokesperson from Pyrmont History Group said that residents welcomed any measures that would help the museum stay in Ultimo.
“We’re entirely in favour of [the MOU], because one of the strengths of The Powerhouse is the fact that it’s close to learning institutions such as UTS, such as Sydney Tech, such as Sydney Uni.
“UTS has been using the theatres for some time for lectures, there’s a good routine in place and the relationship is very good. It’s excellent.”

Member for Pyrmont, Alex Greenwich agreed that UTS was an optimal partner for The Powerhouse Museum going forward, citing the two institution’s similar mission statements.
“The University of Technology Sydney’s science, technology and design focus links well with the MAAS’s core purposes and a partnership between the two could help keep a cultural presence at the current Powerhouse.”

An MOU is usually a preface to some kind of binding legal contract being entered into by two parties, and is the strongest indicator yet that The Powerhouse Museum may continue to have an inner-city presence even with the proposed move out west.
While the UTS spokesperson did not comment on if or when a legally binding document between the two institutions would be announced, however the nature of the MOU would suggest one could be expected in the coming months.

The controversial decision to move the museum from Ultimo to Parramatta was announced in 2014 by the Baird Government, with current NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s $140 million land purchase along the bank of Parramatta River affirming the state’s commitment to moving the museum.
In reports earlier this year, the Premier stated the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta would include “iconic items currently in Ultimo” and that the new museum would be “bigger and better than anything the state has seen.”

Residents, community organisations and businesspeople have been vocal in their displeasure for the move, with over 178 individuals and organisations signing an open-letter against the move published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Convenor of the Council of Ultimo/Pyrmont Associations, Mary Mortimer said that, in deciding to move The Powerhouse Museum out west, the state government has made a dire mistake.
“The idea of moving The Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is nonsense. What Parramatta needs is its own historic museum, which is developed via the input of the Parramatta and Western Suburbs community, [which has] nothing to do with Ultimo.”

The spokesperson for Pyrmont History Group added that the overall planning efforts of the government were underwhelming to the Ultimo community.
“If this is the standard of planning of the NSW government, and the standard of financial management, we are in deep shit.”

Mr Greenwich said while he supported a move to install a museum in Western Sydney, it was the imperative of the state government’s that Ultimo doesn’t lose the site, either to demolition or development.
“I have long supported annexing a Western Sydney museum, in line with the museum’s 2020 vision, provided it does not decimate this longstanding cultural institution.
“I’ve not seen the MOU but it is vital that any agreement sees MAAS continue public exhibitions at Ultimo and does not allow privatisation or development of open space in what is already the most densely populated precinct in the country.”