Rally paper 2: Save Ultimo Powerhouse: Debbie Rudder

(Debbie Rudder was of four former PHM staff who spoke with others at the Save the Powerhouse rally, May 28, 2016)

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Debbie Rudder (second from left) with former PHM colleagues: Grace Cochrane, Paul Donnelly, Christina Sumner, Laurie Adams, Einar Docker, Jeannie Kitchener. Photo: G.C.


Something amazing happened right here in 1988.

The Powerhouse Museum opened, providing public access to a rich array of objects and experiences, across science and technology, decorative arts and design, and Australian history.

Here’s a bit of history. The Technological Museum was established in 1879, moved into a modest building in Ultimo in 1893 and amassed a wonderful collection. For decades many objects, especially the large ones, were stored off-site. Director after director searched for a larger home, and the name changed to Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

So to 1988. Thanks to the vision of Premier Neville Wran, funds from NSW taxpayers, the goodwill of donors and sponsors, and the creativity and hard work of many people, this heritage building was given a new life as Sydney’s only museum of technology and design. Over twenty exhibitions were launched. For the first time, visitors could see the museum’s locomotives, aeroplanes and working steam engines.

From September this year, when the Castle Hill Discovery Centre re-opens, visitors will be able to see many more objects: cars, trucks, buses and trams, more of the world’s best engine collection, beautiful ceramics, furniture, industrial machinery, and scientific instruments. Just a short distance from Parramatta and particularly accessible to the people of western Sydney, the northern suburbs, the Central Coast and Hunter.

The current Premier wants to tear down the Powerhouse, throw out all the money we put up in 1988, and the money we’ve spent since then on keeping the infrastructure up to date and providing new spaces for exhibitions and education. He wants to see its replacement crammed on a much smaller plot, not occupying valuable real estate in the name of culture.

Since 1988, the population of NSW has grown by a third. One state museum has closed (the Earth Exchange) and one has opened (the Museum of Sydney). Surely, with one third more people, the government can afford to keep the Powerhouse at Ultimo AND support a major new museum or art gallery in Parramatta.

But don’t destroy the Powerhouse, Sydney’s first public power station and its award-winning conversion into a museum. People come to see it from around Australia and the world. It’s important for culture, tourism, education and as a place for families and friends to learn together. It’s close to Central Station, accessible to all its owners, the people of NSW, and it has great history, great objects, and gracious spaces to display them.