The Powerhouse, which was built in 1902 to supply electricity for Sydney’s tramway system, was revamped to meet the requirements of a hands-on, interactive museum. The redesigned Powerhouse was inaugurated in 1988. The original collection was located within the Garden Palace, where the 1879 international exhibition of inventions and industries from all over the globe was held. The exhibits that were there survived the devastating fire in 1882, and the present massive and ever-growing collection was created following this fire.
The museum’s massive size makes it the ideal setting for the vast array of ideas that are contained within the building: everything from the realm of technology and space to the domestic and decorative arts. The museum is a showcase of Australian advancements and innovations and celebrates both the extraordinary as well as the ordinary.
The Powerhouse Museum is the major department of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS), located in Sydney. The other branches are the historical Sydney Observatory, located at Observatory Hill, and the more modern Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill.
Although it is often described as a science-based museum The Powerhouse offers a variety of exhibits that covers all kinds of technology. This includes the arts of decoration as well as science, communication transportation, costumes furniture media and computer technology as well as space technology and steam engines.
The museum has existed under different forms over the past 100 years, before being renamed the Technological, Industrial, and Sanitary Museum of New South Wales (1879–1882) and the Technological Museum (August 1893 – March 1988).
In 2022, The Powerhouse Museum includes more than 500,000 objects gathered in the past 135 years. Many of these are on display or in storage at the location it’s been at since 1988 and for the reason it’s called—a converted electric tram power plant in Ultimo, an Inner West suburb of Ultimo built in 1902, and is now one of the most well-known and well-loved Sydney tourist attractions. The building, which is a Federation-style design, is included on the New South Wales government’s State Heritage Register.
The present building, which was constructed by Lionel Glendenning for the Australian Bicentenary in 1988, has won the Sir John Sulman Prize for architecture. It is equipped with a steam system that is reticulated, running from the boiler house that was once in use for the purpose of driving the huge steam machines that are within the collection.