Access to Government Information

Agency Information Guide

The Structure and functions of the agency

The Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Staff Agency is an executive agency related to the Department of Planning and Environment under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is governed by a Board of Trustees constituted under the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Act (1945) (‘the Act’). The Act provides for the appointment of nine Trustees, appointed by the Governor, on the recommendation of the Minister one of which should have knowledge of, or experience in, the arts or sciences, and at least one person should have knowledge of, or experience in education.

Section 15 of the Act provides that the Trustees may exercise functions including the control and management of MAAS and the maintenance and administration of MAAS in such manner as will effectively minister to the needs and demands of the community in any or all branches of applied science and art and the development of industry.

MAAS is responsible for the operation of three sites:

  • The Powerhouse Museum, located in Ultimo, and adjacent to Darling Harbour to the north and east, and to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney Institute of TAFE and the ABC headquarters to the south.
  • Sydney Observatory, located on Observatory Hill, in the heart of the historic Rocks district, and
  • The Museum Discovery Centre: a collaboration between MAAS, Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums, provides facilitates for collection storage and care, alongside revitalised and expanded facilities for visitors to see more of our precious state collections.

Read more about the Act, the role of the Board of Trustees and the structure and functions of the Museum.

View MAAS’s current organisational structure.

The way MAAS functions affect members of the public

MAAS is Australia’s contemporary museum for excellence and innovation in applied arts and sciences. The MAAS vision is to be a catalyst for creative expression and curious minds. It is uniquely placed to demonstrate how technology, science and design interact and how they impact Australia and the world. Internationally, MAAS is acknowledged for the calibre of its collection, scholarship, exhibitions and programs. There is estimated to be well over 500,000 separate items in the MAAS collection spanning science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration. It is also home to the material heritage and stories of Australian and Indigenous culture, history and lifestyle, providing a comprehensive insight into this rich and diverse country. The Museum places strong emphasis on learning and creativity. A calendar of temporary exhibitions and programs complements a range of permanent galleries throughout MAAS venues. Online resources include a collection database, interactive experiences and learning resources.

The Museum also engages with regional NSW communities, The Regional Program includes presentations, workshops, video conferencing and initiatives that support regional NSW collecting organisations and communities.

MAAS is committed to advancing knowledge through research. Our evolving collection is a key part of the way in which we inspire and foster scholarly inquiry, sharing new knowledge we generate with the public. Guided by our Research Strategy (2015-2020), we will play a key role in identifying areas of future research and investigation to enable us to continue undertaking a rigorous program of interdisciplinary research across applied arts and sciences.

The MAAS Centre for Fashion is Australia’s first public centre for fashion excellence, giving unrivalled access to arguably the largest public fashion collection in Australia. Working closely with local, national and international designers, and industry and tertiary partners the initiative will foster creative excellence, scholarly inquiry and public curiosity through exhibitions, interactive events, fellowships, designer residences, publications, acquisitions, programs and research. The Centre for Fashion provides a tangible access point for exploring often abstract concepts of design, form and style.

The current MAAS Strategic Plan outlines our strategic goals and ambitions.

Arrangements to enable members of the public to engage in the formulation of policy and the exercise of the Museum’s functions

MAAS is committed to providing opportunities for the engagement of the community in key strategic and policy developments. Ways we do this include:

  • An ongoing program of audience research – This evaluates the visitor experience for all temporary exhibitions and enhancements to permanent exhibitions, and through a sequence of year long visitor studies which enable comparison over time of trends in visitor behaviour.  The Museum’s Executive, Leadership team and the monthly All Staff meetings are provided with briefings on the key findings of all visitor research activities.
  • Customer feedback – Visitors are invited to use forms provided at the Museum, or links available online, to provide feedback on their experience.

MAAS invites public engagement to support the delivery of programs and services through its volunteer and internship programs. Volunteer programs  operate at the three sites – the Powerhouse, Museum Discovery Centre at Castle Hill and the Sydney Observatory. Internship opportunities are also offered at the Powerhouse, Sydney Observatory, and through the Regional Services Co-ordinator.

The kinds of government information held by the agency

The most significant information held by MAAS relates to the Museum’s collection. All objects acquired for the collection are recorded in the Museum’s collection database. Information regarding the collection includes the history and significance of the objects as well as personal information relating to owners and donors.

The MAAS Research Library and Archives contain valuable information of interest to people undertaking research into the collection, and to wider themes relating to the state’s industrial and cultural development. The library contains books, magazines, journals and other records dating from 1880, whilst the archive holds numerous unique institutional and personal collection records, along with the Museum’s own records, dating from 1880.

Information regarding key MAAS policies and functions is available both through our website and in our annual report.

MAAS holds personal information about its clients relating to the provision and delivery of services and programs, and sponsorship and donor information.

The ways in which the Museum makes this information publicly available

Information regarding an estimated 70 percent, over 134,000 object records, of the Museum’s active collection is publicly accessible through the Online Collection. This percentage will increase as further records are digitised and added to our online database.

The website also provides information regarding:

Details of the annual operations of the Museum, including financial reports and other statutory reporting, is contained in the Museum’s annual report. The annual report is also made available in hard copy on request, dependent on availability of printed stock.

More detailed information about access to information at the Museum can be obtained from the Head of Governance, Planning and Reporting.

The kinds of information publicly available free of charge and those kinds for which a charge is imposed

MAAS is committed to providing a range of content, including images, text and video material used in exhibition spaces free of charge, and to ensure that new acquisitions have fully documented copyright with maximum rights assigned.

Access to the Library and Archives is provided free of charge, in consultation with the relevant staff to ensure the necessary access support is available.

Conservation advice, linked to the online fact sheets, is provided free of charge.

Collection advice is provided free of charge. A large volume of requests for advice on objects means that reply times can vary and a set time for a response cannot be made. This DOES NOT include valuation advice.

Whilst committed to providing free advice, professional development, conservation support, loan objects and travelling exhibitions to non profit and public institutions in NSW, there is a schedule of charges to cover the provision of these services to local government, other state government agencies and the private sector.

The Museum’s Photo Library contains over 250,000 images (colour and black + white) of objects in the collection, exhibitions, and Museum events. The primary purpose of this collection is to record and document the Museum’s collection, and to provide an image bank for the Museum’s publications and exhibitions. The Photo Library also caters to a growing demand from external publishers and authors for illustrations of objects in the Museum’s collection. Images are also made available for appropriate commercial purposes. Fees are applicable to any external use.