18/09/2007 - 22:00

New home for Berndt museum

18/09/2007 - 22:00

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The University of Western Australia plans to build a $30 million museum to house its indigenous arts collection on Stirling Highway after ending negotiations with the state government to use the former Sunset Hospital site.

New home for Berndt museum

The University of Western Australia plans to build a $30 million museum to house its indigenous arts collection on Stirling Highway after ending negotiations with the state government to use the former Sunset Hospital site.

UWA vice-chancellor professor Alan Robson said he had in-principle support from the university’s senate to seek to develop a site on the corner of the highway and Fairway to rehouse the Berndt Museum of Anthropology.

The move is part of a wider plan to create an arts precinct incorporating the existing Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, which is on the opposite side of Fairway from the proposed new development.

A second new building on a car park south of the existing art gallery could also be built.

UWA launched a campaign to fund the Berndt Museum development some time ago, but was waiting to reach an agreement with the state government over using the Sunset site in nearby Dalkeith before it promoted the venture.

With three years of negotiations ending last week, UWA has moved to press on with the development on land it owns.

Professor Robson said that, while UWA owns the land, it was not within the university grounds and would require council approval.

He said the centre could become a major drawcard, pointing to the University of British Columbia’s Native American museum in Vancouver as one of Canada’s most popular attractions.

Founded by UWA anthropologists professor Ronald Berndt and his wife, Carol, in 1976, the Berndt Museum is currently housed in the social sciences building, allowing limited access to its collection of 11,000 anthological objects and artistic works, 35,000 photographs and hundreds of sound and video recordings.

“We have a wonderful collection of art and a lot of it is not on display,” professor Robson said.

Aside from the Berndt collection, which is a mix of indigenous Australian and Asian pieces, the university has many other works it can’t display.

“We have people travel from London to see our Nolans in the Lawrence Wilson Gallery and we have to show them in storage.”

UWA has been well-endowed when it comes to art. In recent times, WA-raised media businessman, Sir James Cruthers, and his wife, Lady Sheila, have donated a collection of works by female artists as part of their significant generosity to community causes.

Also, in 2000, the university received $3 million from Perth dermatologist, Dr Harold Schenberg. Two thirds of that was to be used to establish the Dr Harold Schenberg Arts Centre encompassing the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, the proposed new building to be constructed next to the gallery, the Berndt Museum, UWA Press and the Perth International Arts Festival offices.

The new precinct would add to a major building program, under which the university has expanded significantly.

The arts precinct would be adjacent to the relatively new Motorola Building, which is the centrepiece of a $50 million software engineering precinct.

There is also the University Club building on Hackett Drive, completed two years ago at a cost of $22 million, and the current construction of a $25 million headquarters for the university’s business school. The school is the focus of a successful fund raising campaign, which has raised about $18 million towards its target.

The university has also committed $50 million to the expansion of the WA Institute of Medical Research facilities located at the nearby Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre in Nedlands. The state government has also invested $50 million.

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