A part of Sydney for over 125 years, the Powerhouse Museum has housed science and technology exhibits at the present site since 1988.
With over 400,000 artifacts – many acquired from the original owners – the museum offers one of the world’s outstanding collections. It also offers ongoing and ever-changing displays that educate and entertain – from the history of TV to the most up-to-date results from astronomy.
The site is as inspirational as the objects housed there. Built in a renovated 19th century power station, the museum offers hands-on exhibits of the sort found in any science museum. Fascinating experiments with soap bubbles, electricity and magnetism and the usual gamut. But it goes well beyond these.
There are displays of the history of musical instruments not far from the latest videos of interstellar nebulae. It even houses the first steam locomotive to operate in new South Wales (the region of which Sydney is the capital).
The Locomotive No. 1 exhibit recreates a journey from Sydney to Parramatta in 1863. With audio and video it helps show visitors what train travel was like during that period. One of the rare period trains still in existence, it has been part of the collection for more than 120 years.
Nearby is the Strasbourg Clock, built in 1887, a working model of the astronomical clock in Strasbourg’s Notre Dame cathedral. That’s the cathedral in Strasbourg, not the more famous one of the same name in Paris.
Since most of the artifacts are in storage at any given time, repeat visitors are likely to find something new on every trip.
The computer collection is ever changing as new models join old in the museum’s exhibits. Visitors can sit in a life-size space shuttle cockpit and try out the chocolate tasting machine.
There’s even an exhibit on the history of cinema, the highlight of which is a 1930s Art Deco-style theater. The seats are from the Manly Odeon, built in 1932.
The ‘Inspired!’ section offers dozens of objects that show the history of design.
Here, hand-made items and the machine-tooled sit side by side. The revival of the crafts movement shows many objects, such as glass bowls, inspired by the rebellion against industrialization. Others show the gleaming objects of Art Deco or Scandinavian modernism that embraces and celebrates it.
Everything from kettles and burners of 1878 to 21st century factory made watches are to be found on display. One item of note is an early 1960s armless chair designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, which looks much like a piece of melted taffy, folded onto itself.
Going beyond the variety to be found in most science museums, it’s almost a Natural History museum.
There’s a section of the mast of Lord Nelson’s ship, the HMS Victory, used at the Battle of Trafalgar. There’s also a wheel from Bluebird, the car used to break the world land speed record in the 1960s.
These, along with half the other items in the collection are to be housed in a new building at Castle Hill. The original, modern site of the museum is at 500 Harris Street.
Be sure to visit both and enjoy everything inventive Australians have produced for 200 years or more.