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Moving the Powerhouse Museum’s monumental collection of 500,000 items will be costly and pose risks to heritage objects, including a priceless steam engine, a former curator at the museum says.
Debbie Rudder, a former science and technology curator, says the museum’s collection, which is housed at its Ultimo site, features several large objects, including two heavy locomotives with tenders, three railway carriages, four large stationary engines, the Catalina flying boat, several smaller aeroplanes and engines, a tramcar, horse bus and cars.
Rudder, who worked at the Powerhouse for more than 20 years, says the Saturn V rocket motor is a loan object that will probably have to be returned to the US at great cost.
Moving smaller objects as well as the library, archives, conservation laboratories and tools and equipment will also be costly and time-consuming, she says.
“I am sure it would exceed $200 million,” Rudder says.
“It is not impossible, but it would require a great deal of staff time, and it would pose risks to heritage objects.”
She says the 1785 Boulton & Watt engine, one of three in the world and considered priceless, will pose the greatest challenge.
“To remove the engine to storage or a new museum would likewise be a long and costly project; trying to rush the process would risk compromising original parts and their placement relative to each other,” she says .
An opponent of the Powerhouse’s relocation to Parramatta, Rudder says a “huge investment” has been made in the Ultimo site by NSW taxpayers.
“Most of this investment would be lost under Premier [Mike] Baird’s plan,” she says.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences spokeswoman Rebekah Waite says a “business case” for the museum’s relocation to Parramatta will provide details of size requirements.
“With over 500,000 objects in the MAAS collection, we are always looking for opportunities to increase their display,” she says. “Over the last 12 months, MAAS has achieved a five-fold increase in the display of the state’s vast collection.
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