The Powerhouse Discovery Centre: Collection Stores at Castle Hill is part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, along with the Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour and Sydney Observatory at the Rocks.
The Powerhouse Discovery Centre is the Museum’s off-site storage and collection care facility, located on the corner of Windsor and Showground roads in Castle Hill in northwest Sydney.
The Museum’s unique and diverse collection of 385,000 objects spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration.
But, like most museums, only a small part of the collection can be exhibited at any one time. The Discovery Centre houses 40 per cent of the collection (by volume), or about 50,000 objects. Now, we’ve opened this treasure trove to the general public.
The Discovery Centre’s mission is to provide a world-standard museum storage and collection care facility that is publicly accessible to diverse audiences through a range of tailored behind-the-scenes programs.
Our access programs include monthly public open days (on the second Saturday of each month); themed supervised tours into stores on site; educational programs and workshops, tours for school groups and special-interest groups; school holiday programs; community engagement programs; regional partnership events; and specialist/industry and professional development programs.
These provide insight not only to the Powerhouse collection but to the important preservation work we do.
Download the PDC brochure (pdf version) here.
The Powerhouse Collection at Castle Hill
Since we were founded in 1880, the Powerhouse Museum has changed in many ways, including our name, our location and, to some extent, our role. But we have always collected.
The objects stored at Castle Hill reflect that long history. In the Museum's early years, the focus was on the 'science of everyday life', explaining how things worked and why. Since then, new collection interests have emerged. In the early 1900s, the applied arts became increasingly important, and in the 1980s the significance of Indigenous culture and NSW history was further recognised. So at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, you'll find everything from engineering models to the costume that Kylie Minogue wore in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games closing ceremony.
History of the Castle Hill site
The Powerhouse Museum’s association with Castle Hill began in 1947 when we acquired nine hectares on Showground Road for planting eucalyptus trees.
This was part of a research program, started in the 1880s, that aimed to identify commercial applications for Australian plants.
Until the 1940s, the Museum collected eucalyptus leaves in the bush – or had them sent in by enthusiastic supporters – for distillation in its laboratories in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo. But increased competition created a demand for greater efficiency and high-yield strains that could be grown commercially. The solution was to trial plantation techniques and, beginning in 1948, a range of eucalypt species was planted including Eucalyptus dives, E citriodora, E staigeriana, E Australiana and E wilkinsoniana. A laboratory was also built at the Castle Hill site.
This kind of research continued until 1979 when the Museum’s chemical and botanical departments were transferred to the Department of Agriculture.
With the laboratories closed, the site became a much-needed storage facility for museum objects. In March 2007 the Powerhouse opened the Discovery Centre, providing public access to our collection stores for the first time.