21/06/2016 - 06:11

Museum takes the world on tour

21/06/2016 - 06:11

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One door has closed but others are opening for the WA Museum collections, which are starting to pop up in interesting places across the state. 

Museum takes the world on tour
INNOVATIVE: Alec Coles believes cultural partnerships will keep the museum brand alive. Photo: Attila Csaszar

One door has closed but others are opening for the WA Museum collections, which are starting to pop up in interesting places across the state. 

The WA Museum closed the doors of its home for the past 125 years last weekend, albeit temporarily.

The closure of the Perth Cultural Centre facility, until 2020, heralds the next step in the museum’s $428.3 million redevelopment, with the state government finalising talks with a consortium led by Brookfield Multiplex.

About $17 million of the funds committed by the state will go towards upgrades to the museum’s Welshpool storage facility.

Since December last year, more than 11,000 items have been moved from the museum’s city location to the Welshpool site, where they will join a million others currently in storage.

WA Museum chief executive Alec Coles said although a lot of items had gone into storage, there were plans to continue to showcase collections on public display, especially across the museum’s five other sites in WA – the Maritime and Shipwreck museums in Fremantle, as well as the Albany, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie-Boulder regional centres.

Other spaces that have adequate facilities and security conditions can also apply to house popular collections.

“You will see us appear in some obvious and considerably less obvious places over the next four years,” Mr Coles said.

The Perth Concert Hall has already appointed dinosaur and megafauna skeletons as ushers greeting guests to events.

In addition to the skeletons, the concert hall’s foyer will host a selection of exhibits from the museum’s earth and planetary sciences collection.

Partnerships have also been formed with the Art Gallery of WA and the State Library of Western Australia, where the popular hands-on discovery zone will be recreated alongside a joint library-museum shop.

“The great thing is we’re not leaving the site, we’re coming back to it bigger and better in four years’ time,” Mr Coles said.

When completed, the new museum will provide four times the display area of the existing facility, which Mr Coles said should assist in opening up Perth’s potential to attract more international shows.

“The standard size for a big international exhibition is usually about 1,000 square metres, our temporary exhibition space at the Perth site is not even 400 square metres,” he said.

Mr Coles said the decision to completely close the museum for the renovation was the best option despite some of the public concern surrounding the closure.

“We are basically developing a whole new museum and because we have to consider the care of the collections and safety of the public as paramount, there’s no other way to do it,” he said.

“We want to do it well and we want to do it right … we don’t want to be coming back in five years’ time saying ‘well, we need to build a bit more on here or there’.”

Designs for the new museum are due to be released next month, when the state government has completed contract negotiations with Brookfield Multiplex.

The museum attracted 400,000 visitors last financial year, and Mr Coles hopes the redeveloped facility will attract many more when it opens for business.

“The important thing for us is assuring people of the true potential in what we do and why it is worth investing in us, and I’m delighted to say they’ve accepted the case and got behind us,” Mr Coles said.

“We’ve got this incredible prospect of creating one of the best new museums in the world and I hope that would be attractive enough to bring people in.”

During the next four years, staff will work to coordinate collections on tour and develop new content, in addition to assessing every item for inclusion in the new museum.

Mr Coles assured Business News there were a few favourite pieces that had already secured a spot.

“The blue whale will definitely be back, I can tell you that,” he said.

“As I say to people, we’re not going anywhere.”

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