The Australian Museum has applied for A$48m ($37m) in funding from the Government of New South Wales to construct an exhibition space large enough to host blockbuster touring exhibits.
The new exhibition space is part of a revised master plan that aims to raise the number of visitors to the Australian Museum to 1 million a year by 2020. It would be 1,800sqm large, allowing the museum to host large touring exhibits such as Tutankhamun, which it typically loses to institutions in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Kim McKay, the museum’s director, is asking the government to fund A$48m of the A$55m ($42.4m) project. The final A$7m ($5.4m) is to be supplied by private donors.
To create a space for visiting exhibitions, the glass Crystal Hall on William Street would be doubled in length with the new exhibition space constructed in the open-air void below the structure. Existing office space and storage in the Parkes Farmer building adjacent to the Crystal Hall would also be converted into exhibition space.
McKay told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We are losing out to Melbourne and Brisbane on major exhibitions. We don’t have the floor space, we don’t have the ceiling height and we don’t have a floor that can take the weight.
“Until we have that, Sydney won’t be competitive. It is about ensuring that we remain competitive as a museum and continue to grow and thrive.”
The Australian Museum currently has 6,500sqm of public space, which makes it hard for it to compete with others such as the Melbourne Museum, which has 40,000sqm. Most blockbuster touring exhibitions need at least 900sqm of floor space and a ceiling height of 5m.
The Australian Museum is expected to face stiff competition for the funds as the New South Wales government is considering a A$2.5bn ($1.9bn) plan to expand and rebuild its stadiums. It has also received requests for funds from many other art institutions in the area, including the Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Dance Company and the Opera House.