Powerhouse to open new $44 million state-of-the-art facility at Castle Hill

Powerhouse Castle Hill is the new home for the display, storage and conservation of more than 500,000 objects in the Powerhouse collection.

How do you clean a clock the size of a small car, and why are lights kept down low when dealing with some of Australia’s most iconic objects? These are just some of the questions that will be answered when Powerhouse Castle Hill opens its doors to visitors for a magical behind-the scenes tour at the unveiling of the museum’s new $44m state-of-the-art storage facility on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March

From historic buses and planes to the controversial Sydney monorail and test girders from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, close to 100 of the museum’s Very Large Objects will be on display. Powerhouse curators will share stories about the significance of thousands of collection objects during talks and tours throughout the opening weekend. 

Powerhouse Castle Hill J Store – Image 2 – credit Rory Gardiner

Members of the public are invited to join NSW Arts and Tourism Minister John Graham, Dharug Aunty Rhiannon Wright, Powerhouse Trust President Peter Collins AM KC and Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah when they officially open the new building with a Welcome to Country at 10am on March 23. 

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Over two days from 10am – 4pm, visitors can enjoy free, family-friendly workshops, artist talks, architectural tours and performances by musicians, DJs and dancers including First Nations group Jannawi Dance Clan, Sydney Youth Orchestra and one of Australia’s oldest lion and dragon dancing troupes, Jin Wu Koon

Jannawi Dance Clan (Image: Supplied)

The opening weekend will also premiere the first major exhibition in the new building, Alchemy, presenting commissions by First Nations female artists from across Australia who specialise in natural dyeing techniques.

Designed by Lahznimmo Architects and built by construction company Taylor, Powerhouse Castle Hill is the new home for the display, storage and conservation of more than 500,000 objects in the Powerhouse collection. This is the first time in the museum’s 140-year history that the entire collection will be stored in one location and co-located alongside conservation, curatorial and collection management staff. 

At more than 8,000sqm, Powerhouse Castle Hill is significantly larger than the basement storage that was previously used by the museum in the Harwood building in Ultimo. 

The building boasts a “visible store,” a six-metre high and 20m long window allowing public viewing into the 3,000 sqm Very Large Object storage area that includes planes, trains and automobiles. 

Powerhouse Object no 2007-143-1 Genairco biplane

One of the southern hemisphere’s largest cycloramas is also installed and operational on site, measuring 10m by 9m by 5m high, with a 4.8m turntable that can carry up to 4 tonnes. This device features a fixed gantry allowing objects in the museum’s collection to be photographed and filmed from directly overhead, signalling another stage of public access and display for the museum’s internationally renowned collection. 

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The new building will also provide public access for education programs, workshops, talks, exhibitions and other public events as well as working spaces for academic researchers, scientists and industry partners. 

The design of Powerhouse Castle Hill has already earned Lahznimmo Architects a nomination in the Australian Institute of Architects 2024 New South Wales Architecture Awards in the category of Public Architecture. 

The opening of the building is the latest evolution of the site, which was originally a botanical research station for the museum after staff planted many Eucalypts and Melaleuca trees in the 1940s. These trees were used for Eucalyptus oil experiments and distillation in the early days of the Powerhouse Museum. 

From the late 1970s, the Powerhouse started storing some of its collection at Castle Hill. In recent years, this facility became shared storage known as the Museums Discovery Centre for collection objects from the Powerhouse as well as the Australian Museum and Museums of History NSW. The new Powerhouse Castle Hill building sits alongside the Museums Discovery Centre, and both are open every weekend. 

The expansion of Castle Hill is an integral component of the $1.2 billion renewal of the Powerhouse which includes the new flagship museum currently under construction, Powerhouse Parramatta. Designed by Paris-based architects Moreau Kusunoki with Australian architects Genton, Powerhouse Parramatta is the largest cultural infrastructure development since the Sydney Opera House and is located 10 kilometres from the new collection storage at Castle Hill. 

Powerhouse Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah said, ‘We have over 500,000 objects in our collection across the applied arts and applied sciences. One of the really transformative things we have been able to achieve with the development of this new building is to consolidate for the first time the whole collection and co-locate our collection with our exceptional collections management team. 

‘Powerhouse Castle Hill will feature exhibition spaces, open storage and learning spaces, and it will be a catalyst for communities to see and engage with the collection in new ways.’ 

Regular shuttle buses between Hills Showground Metro Station and Powerhouse Castle Hill will be running throughout the weekend. This service is free and delivered by Castle Hill local business Craig’s Mini Buses. Parking is also available in the main TAFE NSW car park, entrance via Green Rd. 

For more information about the program and to register to attend visit: ph.au/43dGq8x

About Powerhouse

Located in Sydney, Powerhouse Museum is the largest museum group in Australia. It sits at the intersection of the arts, design, science, and technology, and plays a critical role in engaging communities with contemporary ideas and issues. 

Powerhouse Parramatta is the future flagship site of the museum and is one of the world’s most significant new museum projects. Community, industry and collection will intersect to create a dynamic culturally engaged program that will redefine museums. As the first NSW State Cultural Institution to be based in Western Sydney, Powerhouse Parramatta will be a transformational cultural precinct in the fastest and largest growing city in Australia. It will be the largest museum in NSW with over 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space, attracting 2 million visitors a year. 

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