Out of the Ashes…an exhibition of fire destroyed artifacts from the 1882 Collection of The Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum of New South Wales.

Aug 1-20


JL. Campur Aduk
Kelurahan Sa’ penake

Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is the major branch of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, the other being the historic Sydney Observatory. Although often described as a science museum, the Powerhouse has a diverse collection encompassing all sorts of technology including Decorative arts, Science, Communication, Transport, Costume, Furniture, Media, Computer technology, Space technology and Steam engines.

 It has existed in various guises for 125 years, and is home to some 400,000 artifacts, many of which are displayed or housed at the site it has occupied since 1988, and for which it is named — a converted electric tram energy generating station in the Inner West suburb of Ultimo, originally constructed in 1902. It is well known, and a popular Sydney tourist destination.

The Powerhouse Museum's origins date to 1879, when the Sydney International Exhibition was held in the Garden Palace, a purpose-built exhibition building located in the grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. At the conclusion of the Exhibition the Australian Museum (Sydney's museum of natural history) appointed a committee to select the best exhibits, with the intention of exhibiting them permanently in a new museum to be sited within the Garden Palace. The new museum was to be called The Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum of New South Wales, and its purpose was to exhibit the latest industrial, construction and design innovations, with the intention of showing how improvements in the living standards and health of the population might be brought about.

Unfortunately, in September 1882 before the new museum could be opened a fire completely destroyed the Garden Palace, leaving the museum's first curator, Joseph Henry Maiden with a collection consisting of only the most durable artefacts including a Ceylonese statue of an elephant carved in graphite that had miraculously survived the blaze despite a 5-storey plunge.

Undaunted, Maiden commenced rebuilding the collection, but for the subsequent decade the new museum found itself housed in a large tin shed in the Domain — a facility it shared with the Sydney Hospital morgue. The ever-present stench of decaying corpses was not the best advertisement for an institution dedicated to the promotion of sanitation, and eventually, after intense lobbying the museum was relocated to a three storey building in Harris Street, Ultimo, and simultaneously given a new name — the Technological Museum.

On August 23 1978, New South Wales Premier Neville Wran announced that the decrepit Ultimo Power Station, several hundred metres north of the Harris Street site had been earmarked as the museum's new permanent home. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences spent an interim period exhibiting as the Powerhouse Museum - Stage One in the nearby tram sheds before re-opening as the Powerhouse Museum at the new site on the 10th of March, 1988. The main museum building encloses a space larger than that of the Sydney Opera House, the whole complex containing five levels, three courtyards and a cafeteria, as well as offices, workshops, library and storage in the annexed tram sheds (still known in-house as "Stage One.

Following its closure as a working observatory in 1982, Sydney Observatory was incorporated into the Powerhouse Museum.

Key attractions

The most popular exhibit is arguably "The Strasburg Clock Model", built in 1887 by a 25-year old Sydney watchmaker named Richard Smith. It is a working model of the famous astronomical clock in Strasbourg's Notre Dame Cathedral. Smith had never actually seen the original when he built it but worked from a pamphlet which described its timekeeping and astronomical functions.



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