Museums & Libraries

Powerhouse Museum

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About Us

The Powerhouse Museum is located in Ultimo near Darling Harbour, Sydney. It is a public museum operated by the State Government for the people of New South Wales. Its unique and diverse collection spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration. It is also home to the material heritage and stories of Australian culture, history and lifestyle, providing a comprehensive insight into this rich and diverse country. There is estimated to be well over 500,000 separate items in the Museum’s collection.

An ever-changing program of temporary displays complements a range of permanent exhibitions. Interactives, education and public programs, new technologies and creative interactions bring the collection to life. Learning and creativity are a strong focus of the Museum. Exhibitions and programs are based on the ideas and technologies that have changed our world, and the stories of the people who create and inspire them.

There are regular tours and demonstrations, performances, workshops, forums and other special events held throughout the Museum. The Powerhouse has a range of education services from pre-school to tertiary level and a member’s organisation.

This inspiring organisation began at the 1879 International Exhibition in Sydney's Garden Palace - a showcase of the colony's greatest achievements. A fire swept through this magnificent building, destroying virtually all it held, except for a small selection of objects which became the genesis of the present collection.

The Museum moved sites several times as it grew until securing its present home in the Ultimo power station on the edge of Sydney's central business district. The power station dates back to 1899 when it was built to power Sydney's electric tram system which finished service in 1961.

The old tram depot adjacent to the power station, later to become offices, workshops, laboratories and storage, opened as Stage One in 1981. The Powerhouse Museum opened in 1988 as the flagship of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).

The Powerhouse now presents a magnificent backdrop to the Museum's vast and diverse collection - from planes, trains and steam engines to fashion, furniture, design and technological and scientific innovations.

The Museum Shop offers a range gifts, souvenirs and books, two cafes provide meals, snacks and coffee, and a state of the art playground in our courtyard caters for the Museum’s youngest visitors.

Sydney Observatory is also part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. This historic site overlooking Sydney Harbour is a museum of astronomy as well as an observatory for our visitors. With an array of exhibitions, telescopes in the historic domes, a 3D theatre that allows you to undertake virtual travel through space and a range of programs, Sydney Observatory is a dynamic and modern institution in a well preserved heritage building.

The Powerhouse Discovery Centre: Collection Stores at Castle Hill is the Museum’s offsite, publicly-accessible collection in storage. Following a world wide trend by museums to try and increase access to their collections, the Powerhouse has developed a way to allow the curious to visit much of our varied and fascinating collection in our storage facility. Over 50,000 objects are stored at the Castle Hill site and a purpose built Display Store allows visitors a glimpse of the range of our collection plus an insight into its care and maintenance. Tours through the deep stores are also available by arrangement.

The NSW Migration Heritage Centre is also located at the Powerhouse Museum. The Centre manages community partnership programs to record the history and heritage legacy of migrant communities. While some projects are developed within the Museum, many others are developed with the Centre’s network of partners, in particular, Local Government bodies and Sydney metropolitan and rural and regional museums.

Statement of Purpose
To discover and be inspired by human ingenuity
We conceive exhibitions and programs around the primary theme of ‘human ingenuity’
We base our exhibitions and programs on the ideas and technologies that have changed our world, and the stories of the people who create and inspire them.  The Museum’s unique collection informs these experiences.

From its foundation in 1879, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences exhibited and interpreted the wonders of the Industrial Age.
As a twenty first century museum we will reinterpret the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to engage with contemporary technologies to showcase Australian innovation in the creative industries, developments in science and ecologically sustainable technologies.  These will be interpreted alongside the Museum’s rich collection, which contains the diverse narratives of our moveable heritage.

We will –

    • Be an 'open' Museum – open to rich engagement, to new conversations about the collection and transparent in how we work and make decisions
    • Offer visitors diverse ways to interact with the museum
    • Present programs and exhibitions that reflect the spirit of the times and explore new ways to engage with audiences that may challenge, involve experimentation or generate controversy
    • Support new kinds of learning and knowledge creation inside and outside the Museum
    • Develop a comprehensive customer service ethos throughout the Museum
    • Promote an internal culture of dialogue, experimentation, transparency and individual accountability

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Museums & Libraries

(02) 9217 0111

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500 Harris St
New South Wales 2007