Australian Museum partners with Westpac and NSW Government to transform Australia’s first gallery for a new era

Published 16th December, 2015

The Australian Museum (AM) today announced an historic partnership with Westpac, and the NSW Government to restore the nation’s first museum gallery, and to showcase its 200 most significant treasures, including two artefacts from Westpac’s and the NSW Government’s collections.

The $9 million project is jointly funded by Westpac, the NSW Government and the AM’s own philanthropic efforts, and it will transform the current Long Gallery into the Westpac Long Gallery in 2017, to mark the AM’s 190th year and Westpac’s 200th anniversary.

Australia’s first bank note was presented to the Australian Museum today on extended loan from Westpac, as part of the new initiative. The note was issued on the day the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) first opened in April 1817.

The Maitland Bar Gold Nugget, the only surviving example of a large gold nugget from the early mining years of NSW, is also on extended loan from the NSW Government to the Australian Museum.

“These significant national treasures are too valuable to be hidden away inside vaults and it’s fantastic that they will be put on permanent public display in the Westpac Long Gallery,” NSW Premier Mike Baird said.

“This type of collaboration demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to developing innovative models of investment in our cultural institutions,”
Brian Hartzer, Westpac Chief Executive Officer, said the partnership and restoration of the Long Gallery was an opportunity to share many facets of Australia’s rich history.

“A partnership between Australia's first bank and first museum is a natural fit. Together, we are creating a new space to showcase Australia's rich educational, scientific and cultural heritage for many generations to come.”

“We are delighted to be handing over Australia's first bank note to the Westpac Long Gallery.”

The AM’s Executive Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, said the historic partnership had contributed renewed vision to Australia’s first museum, with the Westpac Long Gallery set to become the ‘must see’ gallery in Australia.

“The incredible stories of the most significant treasures from the Australian Museum’s collection of 18 million objects will be made available for current and future generations to discover the history of our nation and our region,” she said.

“The Long Gallery is itself a treasure, having an uninterrupted history as a display gallery since 1857, and the announcement of its restoration marks the start of stage two of the transformation of Australia’s first museum.”

Heritage restoration of the Long Gallery is slated to begin in mid 2016 and it will be completed during Westpac’s bicentenary in 2017. To enable the exhibition of the 200 treasures, the Australian Museum is offering donors the opportunity to support each of the priceless objects. Pledges have already been received for 23 of the treasures.

The treasures already supported include a rare and beautiful Kalani’opu’u cape collected by Captain Cook on his third and final voyage, while those yet to be pledged include the complete specimen of a thylacine pup, an object of immense scientific value for its intact DNA.

The Australian Museum recently completed stage one of its renewal with the opening of the new Crystal Hall entrance on William Street and a new permanent exhibition Wild Planet, along with three other new galleries.

Published 16th December, 2015