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In 2017, the Australian Museum celebrated 190 years.
During this milestone the Museum commenced plans to grow in order to continue their leading work in scientific research, STEM education and creating world-class exhibitions for Australians and visitors alike. The Australian Museum will play a critical role in not only explaining Australia’s natural science history, but also our Indigenous and Pacific Island culture.
NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced in 2018 the Australian Museum will receive over $50 million to expand its touring exhibition halls, opening with the exclusive blockbuster exhibition, Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh – the largest and most impressive Tutankhamun exhibition to ever leave Egypt.
NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin revealed Sydney will host Tutankhamun in early 2021 for a six-month run at the Australian Museum – the fifth city as part of a 10-city world tour to mark the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter.
“The Tutankhamun exhibition is a game-changer for Sydney and Australia. Sydney is the major cultural city in the Pacific/South East Asian region, and the significant upgrades to the Australian Museum will ensure we have world-class museum exhibition spaces for visitors to our State as well as residents to enjoy,” Mr Harwin said.
The funding enables the Australian Museum to repurpose existing storage space to significantly expand the touring exhibition halls to 1500 square metres across two levels – allowing the AM to host either one big blockbuster or two exhibitions simultaneously.
“As well as the transformed exhibition spaces, the refurbishment will also create new education facilities, enabling school student visitors to double to 100,000 a year, and space for a new museum shop and café and other amenities – all completed in time to host the Tutankhamun exhibition,” Mr Harwin added.
To cater for the increased number of visitors, the Australian Museum’s award-winning Crystal Hall entrance will be further extended along the William Street façade.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the museum upgrade will deliver a boost to the culture economy.
“The Australian Museum is a national treasure and this expansion will not only bring the world’s biggest blockbuster exhibitions like Tutankhamun, it will also bring flow on benefits for local businesses,” the Treasurer said.
The expanded touring exhibition halls will be able to accommodate up to 800,000 visitors during a blockbuster the size and scale of Tutankhamun.
Director and CEO of the Australian Museum Ms Kim McKay AO said that the refurbishment is a critical step in the future development of the Australian Museum.
“By expanding our exhibition space to secure international blockbusters, we’re creating new facilities and visitor amenities, allowing us to remain competitive and relevant for generations of Australians and international visitors,” Ms McKay said.
“The project, now known as Project Discover, has a BCR of 1.55 and it will provide great flexibility to the AM to ensure the very best exhibitions and experiences are presented at the AM in the future. We have a world-class collection and now we’ll have world-class spaces to exhibit them.
“Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh is the ultimate museum exhibition for Sydney and I’m very proud that the Australian Museum will be able to host this international blockbuster,” Ms McKay added.
Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh features more than 150 objects from King Tut’s tomb, including 60 treasures never previously displayed outside Egypt. Produced by IMG, it is the last time these objects will travel outside Egypt now that the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza is nearing completion.
Currently on exhibit to sold-out crowds at the California Science Center in Los Angeles – the first stop on the 10-city world tour – the exhibition also features advanced display technology and the latest science about King Tut's life, health, death and lineage.
Australian Museum to undergo $50m refurbishment
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Key service upgrades
- Repurposing existing storage space within the museum to create a new, flexible 1500sqm touring exhibition hall capable of staging major international exhibitions
- Expansion of the award winning Crystal Hall public entrance to streamline ticketing and queueing
- Provision of a dedicated groups entry directly off William Street, with a new bus drop-off bay
- Improved circulation and wayfinding throughout the museum with a new central staircase to relieve bottlenecks
- Enhancement of accessibility options by provision of a street level entry directly linking to one of the museum’s elevators
- Provision of a new family-oriented café/restaurant on Level 2
- New Members’ Lounge overlooking Cook & Phillip Park and St Mary’s Cathedral
- New escalators providing seamless circulation throughout the museum’s major public spaces
- Revealing more of the museum’s sandstone heritage building for public enjoyment
- Creation of dedicated education facilities enabling a doubling of student participation onsite from 50,000 to 100,000 annually
- Development of new purpose-designed education/exhibition facilities catering for toddlers through to Year 12 students, integrating museum programs linked to the syllabus
- Development of a garden that will serve as an education resource highlighting First Nations culture and knowledge
- Replacement of a number of the museum’s public amenities (including more bathrooms and cloaking facilities) catering for families and people with accessibility needs
- Development of a new AM Store located adjacent to the expanded entry / exit zone
Employment generation and sustainability
- Project Discover will deliver significant economic benefits to NSW through increased state revenues and employment opportunities
- Creation of 60+ jobs in the construction industry and up to 14 new full time roles within the museum
- Inclusion of solar panels to facilitate the museum’s move to renewable energy in line with its objective to become carbon neutral by 2020
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