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.

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 Powerhouse will continue to be a major destination while we plan for Parramatta. The new museum is projected to open in 2022 and we are aiming to minimise any ‘gap’ between when the new Museum opens and the Ultimo site will close.

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

There has been some discussion about documents from the planning process being Cabinet in Confidence. What does that mean?
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 and the Final Business Case.

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

What planning has been undertaken for the New Museum?
There has been a two-part Business Case process for the New Museum Project. 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.

Both Business Cases form reports for Cabinet, and are treated as Cabinet in Confidence.

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 MAAS 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 much will the new Museum cost?
A detailed business case will determine the cost of building and operating the new museum, to be finalised by the end of 2016. The Premier has confirmed that the money raised from the sale of the Ultimo site, as well as additional funding, will be used to pay for the construction of the new museum.

How big will the new Museum be?
The New MAAS Museum will have the at least the same amount of public display space as the current site at Ultimo. It will also provide 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 site for the new Museum has been selected. What happens now?
The riverbank site will now be subject to a detailed business case, which will offer further detail on the project timeline and budget. We are anticipating a 5-7 year timeline for this project. While the planning for the new site continues, MAAS remains committed to delivering outstanding exhibitions, festivals and programs across its three venues.

Who owns the Riverbank site?
City of Parramatta is the current owner of the riverbank site. The NSW Government and PCC 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 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?
Throughout 2016, as we continue the planning process for the new Museum, there will be a series of opportunities for the community to contribute to the discussion and planning for the new Museum.

An inquiry has been launched in the Legislative Council. Does this mean the New MAAS Museum is on hold?
The Deputy Premier has stated that, the Upper House inquiry aside, the NSW Government is 100 per cent committed to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney. The Government will continue to progress its planning for the relocation. With a site now selected, exciting work has begun to shape what the Museum will look and feel like in its new home on the Parramatta river bank.

For further information refer to: