By Andrew Barclay
A new report shows the number of visitors to the Powerhouse Museum is increasing, contradicting the NSW Government’s claim that the venue should be moved due to declining attendance.
The NSW Government hopes to sell the Powerhouse building to high-rise property developers for a reported $150 to $200 million dollars, with the aim of developing a cultural hub in Western Sydney.
Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant recently argued that patronage and visitation were in “rapid decline”.
Yet, The Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences’ annual report showed a 12 per cent rise compared with the previous financial year. This represents close to 50,000 further visitors.
Co-founder of the Save the Powerhouse campaign Patricia Johnston said she thought the rise in attendance was due to the unique location and surrounding infrastructure of the site.
“Rising visitor numbers and digital economy workers are further evidence of a cultural and digital creative precinct in Ultimo,” she said. “
Ms Johnston said the site was “uniquely situated alongside the leading incubators of tech startups in Australia, in addition to its cultural, heritage and artistic value”.
The rise in attendance comes as the surrounding area undergoes a broader rejuvenation, which includes development of the Barangaroo site, Central Park, the Darling
Square expansion and the recent opening of The Goods Line. All of these are expected to continue to drive visitors to the surrounding area.
Save the Powerhouse campaigners have said these developments, alongside recent initiatives from the Museum such as free entry for children, are further evidence of the Museum’s continued relevance in its current site.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said he thought the site’s fortunes would continue to rise if kept in its current location.
“Ultimo’s creative and innovation hub adjacent to multiple tourist destinations remains the ideal location for the museum’s base,” Mr Greenwich told City Hub.
The proposed development has galvanised community opposition with the Save the Powerhouse campaign, Friends of Ultimo, and City of Sydney Deputy Mayor Robyn Kemmis all arguing against the proposed move.
Those who oppose the move to Parramatta have stressed that they are not against Western Sydney having their own institution, but argue it should not be at the expense of Ultimo having its own culturally relevant institution.
Save the Powerhouse campaigners have said that Parramatta could house a “satellite of the Ultimo Museum and share collections,” in addition to the Discovery Centre already located in the Hills District.
Clr Kemmis argued the site’s importance to the knowledge economy and cultural centres of Pyrmont and Ultimo meant that the site should not just be shifted to Western Sydney.
“Museums are networks, not just physical buildings,” she said.
“Parramatta needs its own culturally relevant institution.”
The planned relocation faced parliamentary attention after Mr Greenwich tabled a 10,000 signature petition to parliament.
The parliamentary debate on the issue will occur on February 25.
This also follows the recent shock resignation of the Director of the Powerhouse Museum Rose Hiscock, who was in the role for only two years. Ms Hiscock originally publicly opposed the move but then changed her position.
A Save the Powerhouse “10,000 evening” will be held on Friday December 4. Speakers at the rally will include Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis, Greens Balmain MP
Jamie Parker and Mr Greenwich. City Hub’s publisher, Lawrence Gibbons, will also attend the event.
You can learn more about the Save the Powerhouse initiative at their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse).