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Planning Minister approves Powerhouse storage center in Castle Hill

A huge deposit for the Powerhouse Museum’s priceless collection has been approved for northwest Sydney.

The Powerhouse Museum Discovery Center in Castle Hill will double in size with the construction of the 8135 m² center. It will be able to house aircraft, historic trains and helicopters.

Building J, as it is known, will be built on TAFE land and the site of the museum’s eucalyptus plantation established after the war to scientifically assist in the commercial harvesting of essential oils.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes approved the new facility on Thursday and said it would increase the museum’s accessible storage space by 30 percent, allowing for better community access to the collections’ artifacts.

“This means that the entire 500,000-piece Powerhouse collection will be stored and maintained in one location when it is not on display in Parramatta or Ultimo,” said Stokes.

But the expansion raises questions about what the government plans to do with the former Ultimo Tram Depot, known as The Harwood Building, which is the current Ultimo Powerhouse collection store.

The future use of the Harwood Building, including the potential conversion to a lyrical theater, is currently subject to an undisclosed $ 5 million government business case.

In her objection to the expansion, Jennifer Saunders of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance said that funding for the new store would have been better spent on upgrading the Ultimo. No budget was revealed for the Castle Hill project, but initial plans for a much smaller building were budgeted in 2017 at $ 32 million.

“The real purpose of this extravagant and unnecessary project is to expel the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection from its conservation, research and collection storage at the Powerhouse Museum so that the museum can be rebuilt,” Saunders said in the submission.

Powerhouse Museum, chief executive officer Lisa Havilah outside the Harwood Building at Ultimo.

The Berejiklian government reversed its decision to close the Ultimo Power Plant last July.

The government’s expense review committee has been asked to finance the renovation of the Ultimo, which includes plans to redirect Harris St’s entrance to the museum to Darling Harbor and Chinatown and introduce a new downstairs restaurant or retail options.

Arts Minister Don Harwin said the Castle Hill facility would provide more opportunities for research and conservation work in the Powerhouse collection. About 50 museum employees will be based there, with access to new conservation laboratories, collection workspaces and a photo studio for digitization.

The architect of the Ultimo Powerhouse reconstruction in 1988, Lionel Glendenning, was also among those who opposed the expansion of Castle Hill.

“It is not a good practice to replace the Ultimo support facilities in operation with a store distant 38 km from heavy traffic,” he said. “The handling of the collection – the safety and protection of the objects – is compromised and the risks increase. The critical access of the team is interrupted to the point of causing dysfunction ”.

The museum’s former transportation and engineering curator, Andrew Grant, warned that the loss of engineering workshops would affect the museum’s ability to do any major conservation or restoration work on very large objects in its collections.

The Planning Department, however, concluded that Building J was in the public interest, providing “significant public benefits from enhancing [Museum Discovery Center] as a cultural institution in northwest Sydney, increasing community access to the Powerhouse collection and supporting Powerhouse Parramatta ”.

The building would allow the entire Powerhouse Collection to be stored in one location when it was not on display or on loan, and would greatly improve the community’s access to the collection, he said, although it did not foresee any real increase in the overall number of visitors. The approval was conditional on the replacement of the 337 eucalyptus felled by other tree plantations.

Once built, Castle Hill would become a center for the preservation, maintenance, conservation and care of the Powerhouse collection, said museum chief executive Lisa Havilah.

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