New MAAS Museum FAQs

Has the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo site already been sold?
No. The Ultimo site is in the ownership of the MAAS Trustees. As part of the planning process for the New Museum, Government Property NSW has been commissioned by the NSW Government to review how the Ultimo site could be used in future. This information is considered within the context of the extended Business Case.

When does the Powerhouse close? When does the new Museum open?
The Powerhouse Museum continues to operate at the Ultimo site, and will continue to for many years yet. World premiere exhibitions and vibrant programming at the Powerhouse in Ultimo is planned right through until early 2020. The New Museum for Western Sydney is projected to open in 2022.The Extended Business Case will look at a range of models for how MAAS will operate through the design and construction period.

In the meantime, it is ‘business as usual’ – and we invite all members of the community to visit us. Find out what’s on. 

What planning has been undertaken for the New Museum?
There has been a two-part Business Case process for the New Museum. A Preliminary Business Case was conducted in order to compare and understand the benefits of two potential sites for the Museum in Parramatta. The work within this Business Case covered initial modelling for capital and operating costs, urban planning, works associated with safely relocating the collection, a model design for the new Museum, planning for the design and development of the architecture, new exhibitions and experiences, as well as the staffing and resources required to undertake the Project.  In April 2016, NSW Government endorsed this plan, announced the Riverbank site, and request that a Final Business Case be prepared.

With a site selected, the Final Business Case proceeded to undertake works across geotechnical, contamination, hydrology, transport, engineering, heritage, audience demand, financial and economic analysis along with concept designs, commercial, capital and operational models. It also covers procurement planning, change management, stakeholder engagement, governance, risk management, benefits realisation, commissioning and launch planning, collections relocation logistics, and associated workforce and resourcing plans.

In April 2017 Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced that the development of the final business case had been extended to allow consideration of additional options for the arts and cultural institution in Western Sydney, as well as the possibility of continuing a MAAS presence in Ultimo. The extended business case is due for completion in the second half of 2017.

All the Business Case materials are reports for Cabinet, and are treated as Cabinet in Confidence.

The extension was given for the final business case to consider further option for the New Museum. What does this mean?

The original scope of the business case was to consider how best to relocate the Powerhouse Museum’s operations to Parramatta, on the preferred Riverbank site. The extended business case provides the development of a flagship MAAS venue in Western Sydney, further consultation with the community, and consideration for retaining a MAAS presence in Ultimo. All options will then be presented to Government for a decision in the second half of 2017.

What does it mean for documents to be Cabinet in Confidence?
Museum staff and Trust are not able to disclose information from documents that have been prepared primarily for the consideration of Cabinet, as they are considered to be Cabinet in Confidence. This requirement applies to both the Preliminary Business Case, Final and Extended Business Case.

For further information on the role of Cabinet in NSW Government, please refer to the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC): .

How much will the new Museum cost?
The Extended business case will determine the cost of building and operating the New Museum, to be finalised in the second half of 2017.

Who owns the Riverbank site?
City of Parramatta is the current owner of the Riverbank site, which is the preferred site for the New Museum. The NSW Government and City of Parramatta are in constructive negotiations over the best way to develop this important civic space.

Isn’t flooding going to be an issue for the new Museum?
Engineering studies have been undertaken to address the potential for flooding on the site. The results have been incorporated into the business case, as well as appropriate design mitigation measures to ensure both the Museum and its collection are protected.

How big will the new Museum be?
The Final Business case provided a model for the New Museum in Western Sydney to have at least the same amount of public display space as the current site at Ultimo. It also provides for collection storage, learning facilities and studios.

As this will be a purpose built Museum, we can ensure more of the MAAS collection is accessible and on display while creating a 21st century museum that responds to growth and the changing shape of Sydney, and to contemporary methods of content delivery, learning and collaboration. The current museum site in Ultimo is 22,900m², while the proposed site in Parramatta is approximately 20,160m².The Extended Business case will now consider the spatial needs for the New Museum in Western Sydney as the new flagship campus for MAAS.

What will the new Museum be called? The new Museum can’t be the Powerhouse, because it will not be in a power station building anymore.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) has long been the formal name of the Museum. With the opening of the New Museum venue, the Powerhouse Museum, in 1988, the venue name was commonly associated with the whole of the Museum’s practice. In fact, MAAS currently operates three venues: the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and the Museums Discovery Centre. There is no final decision on the name for the new museum and we are using the name New Museum as a working title. The Museum has our incredible collection of applied arts and sciences at its core; this will remain our focus regardless of where we operate now or in the future.

Does the New Museum change what happens to your Castle Hill site?
No. The new Museums Discovery Centre re-opened in September 2016. Newly expanded, this facility is shared with the Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums and provides both collection care and storage as well as visible stores and public programs. We will continue to exhibit our collection across Sydney Observatory, Museums Discovery Centre and Powerhouse Museum.

How will you ensure the safe care of the MAAS Collection during the move?
The Museum takes its responsibility regarding the collection and its care very seriously. We have extensive experience collection objects, basically on a daily basis, and we have some of the country’s most senior and talented registrars on staff.

Detailed planning will be undertaken to ensure that all collection objects are safely and securely transported.

A move of this scale is a large undertaking, but it isn’t unprecedented for the Museum. The Museum first moved from The Agricultural Hall in the Botanic Gardens to Harris Street in 1893 and from there to the Powerhouse Museum in two stages during the 1980s with the second and final stage of the Museum being opened on 10 May 1988. Prior to 1981 MAAS maintained a branch museum system so items were regularly moved between sites. Leased off-site storage was also used from 1951 with the first facility being a former wool store building at Alexandria. Our main storage facility is now based in Castle Hill, and we regularly move the collection between these sites.

When will the community be consulted about these changes?
There have been a number of opportunities for the community to provide feedback throughout the business case process. The Premier and Minister for the Arts have committed to further community consultation during the finalisation of the extended business case.

An inquiry has been launched in the Legislative Council. Does this mean the New Museum is on hold?
No. Planning for the New Museum has continued throughout the inquiry, and now will explore further options as part of the Extended Business Case.

For further information refer to: