Powerhouse seeks touch of magic | The Australian
THE centrepiece exhibit at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is Locomotive No 1: the steam engine and its carriages comprised the first passenger train in NSW, running between Central Station and Parramatta.
Its Harry Potter exhibition, with costumes and models from the film series, is pulling the crowds unlike anything the museum has seen. A row of buses is parked outside. Queues snake through the entry area. A sign reading “Sold Out” seems to be a permanent fixture.
More than 180,000 people have seen Harry Potter to date, and museum staff are quietly confident that 320,000 will come through the doors by the time it closes on March 18.
The exhibition has been a boon for the Powerhouse which, if a NSW Auditor-General’s report is an indication, was seriously running out of steam. In the dry language of bureaucratese, the auditor’s report was frankly damning of the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
Visitor numbers “fell by 19.3 per cent in the past two years”. There was a “dramatic decrease in the number of exhibitions” since 2007. And so few people went to the Top Secret and ABBAWorld shows last year that the $22 entry fee had to be abolished.
The Powerhouse disputes the report’s findings.
More chronic, though, is confusion about what the museum stands for. The outside signage reads “Science + Design”, which sounds like neither one thing nor the other, and in practice means incongruous displays of locomotive engines and contemporary lacework. As far as curatorial consistency goes, it’s a train wreck.
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