Event: Dinner for Dr Nicholas Pappas’ Farewell and Fundraising for the Powerhouse Museum Revitalisation Program
Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
27 November 2010
Over the past two years we’ve been asking ourselves how we should be addressing the interests and needs of the audience in the twenty first century.
We’ve spoken to a great many people, and have seen some consistent messages emerge – about relevance, engagement with diverse audiences, and the importance of the museum as a place of discovery and learning.
In response, we’ve committed ourselves to become an ‘open’ museum – open to exhibitions and programs developed collaboratively or in partnership, and open to the creation of experiences which encourage dialogue, involve experimentation and, on occasions, generate controversy. And we’ve taken this concept of the ‘open’ Museum to the five groups of architects invited to develop design concepts for changes to the entrance, to make this a more welcoming and functional space, to reinstate a major 1,000 square metre temporary exhibition gallery, and to enhance the shop and café to enable those people who are passing the Museum to stop for a coffee or tea, or to buy a gift without having to visit our exhibitions.
The reinstatement of a major temporary exhibition space is critical to the Museum and Sydney continuing to attract major international exhibitions. As many of you know, over the last couple of years Brisbane and Melbourne have enjoyed great success, whilst limited gallery space at this Museum has limited our competitiveness.
In the coming weeks we’ll announce the architects to develop the detailed plans for this revitalisation.
We have, and we’re very excited about the imaginative concept that is proposed. Our aim is to have this project completed by the third quarter of 2011.
Equally exciting is the opportunity to redevelop the exhibition spaces on level 1, and on Level 2. We see this as the second stage of our masterplanning process. Whilst we’ve been allocated $3.1 million by the Government this year to undertake the entrance and major temporary exhibition space works, additional funds are required for this second stage.
Design artfully blends logic and intuition. Our focus will be twofold – the exploration of the creative process that is part logic and part intuition, and the social impact of design, and its contribution to changing lives.
Underpinning this will be the scholarship of our staff, whose collection based research is critical in maintaining our authority as a museum of applied arts and sciences.
In December we will publish ‘Brilliant. Australian gold and silver 1850 to 1950’. This museum has one of the most significant collections of Australian decorative precious metalwork and jewellery – both historical and contemporary.
If you define lace as an ‘open work structure’, artists are given licence to work with a whole new range of materials. The one hundred and thirty entries, drawn from twenty two countries, use steel, human hair, glass, gold and silver, paper and wood in ways that will excite and surprise audiences and challenge the traditional ideas about lace.
And in October 2011 we’ll celebrate the 50-year bilateral relationship between Australia and South Korea in an exhibition titled Shining Treasures. The loans from the National Museum of Korea will include the famous Silla Crown from around the 5th century and other national treasures from the ancient kingdoms of Korea.
The technology and artisanship of metal craft from ancient times will be seen alongside contemporary objects sourced from the Powerhouse Museum collection and various artists and designers in Korea.
How might the Powerhouse enhance community debate and understanding about ways to improve urban life, transport systems or energy use? How might we promote actions with social value?
The design process often involves a quest for simplicity. As designers strive to simplify production processes and consume materials in smaller amounts, the quest for simplicity is shaping design’s economic and ethical values as well as its sense of beauty.
These are the exciting challenges our staff, and our creative design partners, will be exploring at the Powerhouse in the years ahead.
I’d now like to talk about our plans for Level 1, which are also part of the Masterplan’s second stage.
The gallery spaces that surround the Turbine Hall where we are gathered this evening will be devoted to the sciences, technologies and mathematics.
There are compelling reasons to develop new and appealing ways to communicate the sciences and scientific methods to a broad audience.
Less than half the students sitting for this year’s Higher School Certificate studied a science subject, and 25 percent of HSC students are now studying no mathematics – an increase of 10 percent in less than ten years.
The Powerhouse has the challenge and the opportunity to develop the gallery spaces around us to excite young minds to the sense of discovery and enjoyment that can come from an understanding of the sciences and mathematics.
I mentioned earlier that design blends logic and intuition. The same can be said of the practice of science. Perhaps though, there are occasions when scientific breakthroughs involve counter intuition.
We have the opportunity to create permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, which explore scientific process, and its impact on changing lives.
In partnership with the University of New South Wales, this three year project will research the effectiveness of commonly accepted methods of science communication.
The research will be conducted around an innovative program for high school students to be installed at the Powerhouse, which will combine the hands-on experience of conducting a simulated robotic Mars mission with the opportunity for students to interact live and via telepresence with real scientists, engineers and postgraduate students.
What a powerful way to encourage young audiences to experience the logic and intuition that informs the processes of science.
We are also committed to extending a program piloted with Glebe Public School this year that saw students in years three to six visiting the Museum as part of their after school care program, and working with our staff on a maths enrichment program.
This used collection items and exhibitions as the framework to support maths learning, and the results have been sensational. Apart from the learning dimensions of the program, we were heartened by the way in which it introduced young children who would not normally visit a museum to the Powerhouse.
And our links with our local community will soon be further strengthened through the creation of a Museum garden – a community facility using our car park to grow food and to learn about sustainable living. It will be a great complement to our recently refreshed EcoLogic exhibition.
This is by no means a complete summary of plans. Central to our future plans is research and the development of programs and exhibitions using the Powerhouse’s amazing collections and I have no doubt that with our very talented staff, creative partners and numerous supporters we will continue to follow the pattern of success achieved in the last financial year 2009-10 when we achieved the highest numbers of visitors for a non blockbuster year since 1994-5.
The years ahead are exciting, and I look forward to sharing them with you.