Mining Museum (former)
Statement of SignificanceThe former Mining Museum is of historical and social significance because it functioned as the State's mining and geological museum for 86 years (1909-1995). It demonstrates the early 20th century State government's concern to educate the population in geology and support the development of the mining industry which was seen as important to the development of NSW. The chimney and the lower levels on Hickson Road are also historically and technically significant as part of the earliest establishment of Sydney's electrical infrastructure, and a rare surviving example of an early Electric Light Station. The building is a large and impressive example of the Free Style architecture of Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, and was the first major public building in The Rocks Resumption area. It contributes to the streetscapes of George Street and Hickson Road. The impressive brick chimney which was part of the initial power station for the site is a rare surviving reminder of the early industrial character of Sydney and remains a notable landmark in the area. The place has technical and research significance as evidence of the short-lived group of early DC power stations for its early use of riveted and rolled steel structure to create a large open plan space.
Mining Museum, Chemical Laboratory & The Earth Exchange
Construction Years: 1902 - 1909
Physical Description: 1902-1908. Former electrical power station.; Built By: 1902The principal building on the site is the Former Mining Museum and Chemical Laboratory, consisting of a six storey building and a detached 61 metre high chimney stack, which has been recessed into the side of the rectangular plan of the building. The building addresses two roadways, George Street and Hickson Road. It would appear that considerable bedrock has been excavated to George Street which is approximately three storeys above Hickson Road to facilitate the building on the site. The Former Mining Museum and Chemical Laboratory building has a direct relationship with Circular Quay, George Street and Hickson Road. Positioned between these two important roadways, the building dominates the immediate precinct with its impressive chimney stack, large building scale and its fine proportions. Generally, the building is constructed with a combination of sandstone, brick and rendered facades. The roof is composed of a series of gable roofs, with central sawtooth roof lights. The internal construction is chiefly rolled steel column and beam structure with various sections concrete slab and timber floor construction.Brick chimney - 200 ft high and foundations.Style: Federation Warehouse with some distinctive Art Nouveau and Romanesque detailing.; Storeys: Five+ basement; Facade: Combination of sandstone, brick and rendered facades.; Side Rear Walls: Sandstone, brick and recent plasterboard; Internal Walls: Sandstone, brick and recent plasterboard; Floor Frame: Concrete slab and timber.; Ceilings: Plasterboard lining; Sprinkler System: Fire sprinkler system located in roof space.; Lifts: Brick lift well (south end of the building)
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The site of the former Mining Museum was within the town lease of around 1¾ acres granted to Captain Henry Waterhouse RN in 1796 by Governor Hunter. Waterhouse (1770-1812) had arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 as a midshipman on the Sirius, he left permanently for England in 1800. Robert Campbell (1769-1846) arrived in Sydney temporarily in June 1798 and returned in 1800, and with the Governor's permission he took up residence. In 1800, he purchased Waterhouse's and other surrounding leases and began to build warehouses and wharfage. The leases, totalling over three acres were officially granted to Campbell in 1814 by Governor Macquarie. The subject site was as part of a walled private garden during Robert Campbell's lifetime, which after his death in 1846 was maintained over the following decades under the care of his eldest son, John (1802-1886).In 1876 the Campbells sold to the Australian Steam Navigation (ASN) Company the whole of their land along the western shore of Sydney Cove, which included the subject site. The ASN Company sold the George Street frontage of Campbell's land in 1881 to warehousemen John William Cliff and William Clark for £25,000. The purchase included the old Campbell garden and thus the subject site. The ASN Company subdivided the land into nineteen narrow fronted allotments and Cliff and Clark purchased all of them. Cliff and Clark entered into a mortgage with Thomas Walker of Concord who died in 1886. Then Melbourne based company Robert Reid & Co. bought out the mortgage for £35 000. Robert Reid (1842-1904) was a successful Victorian merchant and politician. The purchase of the former Campbell land occurred just prior to the financial collapse of the early 1890s, which may have accounted for Reid not developing the site. At the time of the purchase in 1889 Reid mortgaged the land to the Circular Quay Land Company Ltd for £45,000. In the down turn of the early 1890s land investment companies were particularly affected. In 1895 Reid took the Circular Quay Land Company Ltd to court to recover £22,455 (presumably their half-share in the company's capital) and won.The ASN Company property was purchased by the Colonial Government in 1887. Within this land a road alignment had been dedicated prior to the 1881 ASN sale. The road was built to provide an approach the horse ferry dock at Dawes Point. It was aligned to skirt the land fronting George Street (including the subject site)and completed in mid-1900. The bubonic plague broke out in Sydney in January 1900. This ultimately prompted the government to resume private property in the The Rocks, Millers Point and around Darling Harbour. The site of the former Mining Museum was resumed under the December 1900 gazettal along with the rest of Robert Reid & Co.'s land along George Street. Besides satisfying the needs of shipping companies, providing new workers housing and licenced premises, the former Mining Museum, completed in 1909, represents the first major new government development in The Rocks resumption area. The building was originally designed in 1902/1903 as an electric light station to generate power for government buildings in the city. Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric lamp in 1879 and from the early 1880s it was being used in England and America. Edison built the first electric light stations in London and New York in 1882. These Edison power stations used a steam engine to drive dynamos to generate a direct current (DC) supply of 110 volts, which worked well with incandescent electric lamps and motors then in use. The Edison distribution system consisted of generating plants feeding heavy distribution conductors, with customer loads (lighting and motors) tapped off them. This resulted in a voltage drop due to the high resistance of the conductors and that necessitated locating generating plants close to where the electricity was consumed. Another problem in Edison's DC system was the requirement for separate electrical supply lines to power appliances with different voltages. A number of private electric light stations were opened in Sydney around 1900 that utilised the Edison system of DC generation. The electric light station that became the Mining Museum was designed by the Government Architect's Branch of the Public Works Department, the Government Architect being Walter Liberty Vernon. Work on the electrical system was undertaken by Thomas Raw, the electrical engineer in the Government Architect's Branch. Vernon was closely involved in this project, he had an interest in the emerging technology of electricity. The building was designed by George John Oakeshott, who co-signed the architectural drawings. Oakeshott was one of a number of young architects Vernon brought into his office in the early 1890s. Like Vernon, he had come from England, where he had studied at the Royal Academy School of Architecture. Oakeshott is best known for his post offices for both the colonial government and, after 1909, the Commonwealth.Thomas Raw (1860-1939) had trained as an engineer in England before migrating to Australia around 1881. He was employed in the Public Works Department between 1892 and 1912, as the electrical engineer in the Government Architect's Branch of the Department. The initial set of architectural drawings were signed by WL Vernon on 9th December 1902, and a revised scheme, the one that was partly built, comprising the lower floor and chimney shaft of the existing building, was dated 2nd January 1903. The building was constructed over 1903 at an eventual cost of £7,880 when work stopped around April 1904. It was not completed and the electrical plant and ancillary items never installed. In early 1905 the government decided to purchase electricity from the City Council. The council began electricity generation from its Pyrmont station in July 1904, and the terms of the commercial arrangement to supply the state government had been agreed to in October 1904.The reasons for the selection of the site was not reported, however, it was vacant ground, and was unlikely to be required by the Sydney Harbour Trust for its port developments. The land to the east (across present day Hickson Road) had access to the harbour frontage, and there was no problems for the loading of coal to feed the steam engines and the removal of waste ash. Water could be sourced from the harbour for the steam generating plant and cooling water. Another factor was an early proposal for an electrified city railway which had received preliminary planning consideration by late 1900 and included the proposal for a terminus at a site around Argyle Street between George and Harrington Streets. However, the settling on Dawes Point as the southern end of the proposed harbour bridge crossing in the 1909 Royal Commission into improving the city put an end to further consideration of the 1900 electric railway scheme.Preparation of the site for construction required 'a good deal of quarrying of rock'. The excavated sandstone was dressed and used to face the walls of the building. The design of the facades in this manner was considered 'plain, but of a bold character'. The balance of the walls was constructed in brick masonry. The internal structure was entirely steel framed. The contractor for the manufacture and erection of the steelwork was RT Ball & Co., whose tender of £1,391 was accepted in May 1903, the steel was imported, the manufacturer being Lanarkshire Steel Co. Ltd., of Scotland. Aside from the chimney it seems only the eastern half of the building (boiler room) and rooms to the west and east of the chimney stack were completed. Only the elevation to Hickson Road (east) had any architectural embellishment in the way of a rock faced sandstone finish. The completed brick chimney stack soon became a landmark in the harbour, it is probably unique in that it has never been used. The station was intended to be the main electrical generator for government buildings in the city and was to replace a system of 110 volts DC plants that had been developed from 1898. In developing this system of 110 volts DC supply no external advice seems to have been sought or consideration given to the limitations of developing a standalone DC supply when the City Council at the time was intent on supplying Sydney with an alternating current supply (AC). The City Council supply introduced alternating current at 230 volts and it became the national standard. In the AC system a transformer is used to increase or decrease the voltage. As the transformer allows power to be transmitted at higher voltage and doesn't have the resistance of the conductors, fewer, larger and more distant generating plants are needed.The aborted electric light station stood vacant between 1904 and 1908 when Charles Wade's Liberal government decided to complete the building to house a mining museum and chemical laboratory for the Mines Department and a museum and offices for the Agricultural Department. The drawings for the completion of the building as a museum were signed by Government Architect WL Vernon and assistant architect Edward L Drew on 11th June 1908. Comparison between the sets of architectural drawings prepared in 1902 for the aborted electric light station and the 1908 set indicate that the museum's design was very similar to what was proposed in 1902, but not identical. These changes were made by Drew (1857-1920) who had been in the Government Architect's Branch since 1883. The architectural style of the museum building is essentially Federation Free Style. The work was completed in August 1909, and it was let to Charles McCarthy for £10,805 in September. Taking in the 1903 build, the total cost of the building was £18,685. In completing the building, the architects retained the rusticated sandstone lower section and a band of brickwork on the east elevation (Hickson Road) and carried up the wall in brick terminating at the fourth floor with a pebble-dashed finish. The west elevation (to George Street) was completely new and presented a building of only three floors owing to the excavated fall of the land. Of the north elevation the lower floors on the eastern half incorporated the existing brick walls of the original electric light station and everything else was new. The south elevation was completely new above the lower two floors and the (proposed) boiler room of the original electric light station became the basement. Aside from rooms flanking the chimney on the ground floor, all upper floors above the basement were completely new.The basement incorporated the steel framing of the original electric light station, while the upper floors had a completely new riveted steel frame utilising steel sourced from Dorman Long. The roof truss was timber. The exhibition floors were lit by natural light, while the chemical laboratory on the top floor was lit by skylights. The impressive chimney was used to vent the gases of the chemical laboratory on the top floor.The impetus for the conversion of the building into a public museum came from the Mines Department. For some years the Department had been lobbying the government to provide new premises. The completion of the building represented a milestone for the Mines Department in that it had secured a practically purpose designed modern museum and chemical laboratory. The building increased in floor area to 7,000 square feet per floor in the new building compared to the total area of 8,000 square feet in the museum's former building in the Domain.The Mining Museum started in 1874 with the formation of the Mines Department under the Mining Act. One of the provisions of this Act was the formation of a 'School of Mines and a Mineralogical Museum of Mining'. The fledging Department immediately set about collecting specimens and had opened its first public museum in Young Street (now demolished) in March 1876. In 1879 the collection was relocated to the newly opened Garden Palace in the Domain. The museum and its collection of over 15,000 specimens were destroyed when the Palace went up in flames in September 1882.The Department set about rebuilding the collection and reopened a public museum in 1886 in the Geological Survey Office in Macquarie Street. From 1894 until the relocation to George Street North in 1909 the museum was housed in a galvanised iron shed in the Domain behind Sydney Hospital. This was last remaining building connected with the Garden Palace Exhibition, but an ignoble setting for such a valuable collection. Under the new Mining Act of 1906 the Mines Department's requirement to operate a mining museum was retained. The Department of Agriculture became a department in its own right under the Department of Agriculture Act of 1907. One of the Department of Agriculture's four main functions was education.The establishment of a mining museum in Sydney was representative of a nineteenth century phenomenon to educate and skill-up the populace. The Mining Museum is representative of a science museum as opposed to a cultural institution such as the Art Gallery. In Sydney, the Australian Museum was founded in 1827, in its formative years it pursued an eclectic agenda of collecting and exhibiting that included minerals. From the Australian Museum sprang the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum. This too collected minerals. The Mining Museum was therefore one of three in Sydney that collected minerals. Technically, these museums had the following specific collection agendas (but there was overlap between them): the Mining Museum collected material that demonstrated the mineral wealth of the state and were available to miners seeking information, the Australian Museum collected minerals for scientific research, and the Technological Museum collected minerals that had general economic importance.The museum opened as the Mining and Geological Museum in August 1909. It was open to the public without admittance charge Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.30am and 5pm. The public face of the Mining Museum was the two floors of exhibition space that exhibited the specimens and provided background information for 'silent' teaching. In addition, there were exhibits of machinery used in the extraction of minerals from the earth. The principal mineral production centres of the state were represented, which collectively presented a diverse range of exhibits. It doesn't appear that the average Sydney-sider visisted the museum, for the curator stated in the early 1920s that the museum was being visited by a 'surprising' number of travellers from overseas, while miners continued to make 'considerable' use of the museum for examining their specimens, and a 'large' number of students paid regular visits. Vice-regal visits are reported to have occurred in 1916 and 1921 and overseas dignitaries were taken to the museum on their visit to Sydney to illustrate the mineral wealth of the state.The museum was under the control of a curator who was a professional geologist. Between the opening of the museum in 1909 and its transformation in the mid 1960s there were three curators: George William Card (1893-1927), Malcolm Morrison (1928 - 1935) and Horace Francis Whitworth (1936 - 1966). Each of these men served in the Mines Department for decades and at one time or another had all worked together. The curator's main duties were attending to inquiries of the mining industry and also included inquiries from other government departments such as the Irrigation Commission, Department of Main Roads, Police, and Public Works Department. Attending to visiting school groups was another duty. By 1950 the casual visitor found the displays of little relevance to contemporary society, being both antiquated in content and presentation and poorly lit. However, by 1960 an advisory committee was established to report on the re-planning of the exhibition halls. In the interim, a start was made on renovating the halls by laying linoleum and some of the showcases were replaced by new ones of a 'modern' design. This modest work represented the first changes in the exhibition spaces since the building had opened in 1909. Over 1961 improvements occurred in the lighting of the displays and repainting the walls and ceilings. The replacement of the old display cabinets continued over the 1960s and the new exhibits were arranged. At the end of 1964 the museum began to open on weekends. The number of weekend attendances over 1965 totalled 14,000. The weekend opening and higher public visitations necessitated alterations to the building. The main people who visited the museum prior to the mid 1960s were affiliated in some way with the mining community. The main tasks of the museum were the examination and identification of rock samples, and forwarding these for analysis in the chemical laboratory. All of this was done without charge. It was estimated in 1899 that almost 90 per cent of visitors were miners, and that does not seem to have changed greatly over the following decades. The nature of the inquiries varied in response to market conditions and the financial return to prospectors for particular minerals. For example, in the 1950s there was interest in uranium and rutile deposits. The economic collapse of 1929 turned the attention of prospectors to gold and staff had to attend to a marked increased number of inquiries about gold. The 'gold seeker' on his return to Sydney turned to the assay office of the museum to await news of success or failure. The average number of samples received for testing increased in this period from 1,138 in 1928/29 to 12,752 in 1930/31. One wit named the place 'the Court of Hope and Despair' as thousands of unemployed men tried their luck. The demands placed on the laboratory by prospectors in this period resulted in the installation in 1935 in the northern yard of a treatment plant capable of handling material of one ton or more. It comprised a 'stamper battery, pulveriser, ball mills, Wilfley tables and flotation cells.' This work was experimental for the geologists had yet to work out how to economically extract the gold from such large stones. The plant was closed down in 1945 and removed in 1949 owing to its dilapidated state. In 1967 the professional miner was still being offered assistance however, after the organizational restructure the miners' needs was dropped from the curator's annual accounts of the museum and from that time the miner turned to the newly appointed mineralogist for advice. Another restructure in 1970 resulted in the forming of the Identification and Inquiry Subsection. This introduced an important change in the way the museum had been managed since the 1870s for now mineral samples were to be sent directly to the chemical laboratory. Aside from the demands of the miner, the Mining Museum provided an educational role for school children. Prior to the 1960s the annual number of visiting school groups was low, for example 20 school groups of around 20 pupils each attended over 1927/1928, with a low of seven groups of around 18 pupils each over 1937/1938. In addition, from around 1936 students of geology began to visit the museum. Organised pupil visitations to the museum ceased around 1940 owing to the Second World War. After a public appeal by the curator that business was back to normal, pupil and student visits recommenced in 1946. The museum's approach to student education began to change in the early 1960s following the introduction of geology into the High School syllabus in 1962. Within a short time after the change in the school syllabus, the number of organised school parties averaged two per week whereas in earlier years the number seems to have been around two visits per month. This marked rise in the educational role of the museum resulted in an organisational restructure in 1967 with the formation of the Education Subsection and appointment of a permanent education officer. A second education officer was appointed in 1976, and by the time the museum closed in1986 there was staff of fifteen. Over the 1960s the children visiting the museum had been of secondary school age, but from the early 1970s primary school children also visited. The need for a dedicated school activity room for use in demonstrations and practical activities was met with new rooms being constructed at the then northeast corner of Level 3 in 1973 and neighbouring the education officer's room. In 1975 the museum began to involve the visiting teachers in the instruction process, and also offered a 'personalized service to schools.'The public entry to the museum was improved in the late 1960s by remodelling the foyers to the two exhibition floors. Over the 1960s and 1970s the number of people visiting the museum continued to increase. While the museum only seems to have counted weekend visitors as bona fide exhibition going members of the public, the visitation numbers increased from 15,465 in 1967 to 21,408 in 1968. For six days in the winter of 1970 the museum exhibited moon rock brought to Earth by the astronauts aboard NASA's Apollo 11. The exhibition was widely reported in the press and provided great publicity for the museum and a record number of visitors; 57,839 over the year, 9,500 over the six days of the moon rock exhibition with 3,200 of that number in one day. This increase continued with 37,630 members of the public visiting in 1972/1973 and 48,640 in 1973/74. The museum acknowledged that this increase was in part due to the rising popularity of The Rocks as a place to visit as a tourist attraction, which resulted in an increasing number of 'off the street'. By the late 1970s the annual number of visitors was over 76,000.In late 1978 the Department of Mines was amalgamated with the Development Section of the Department of Decentralisation and Development Section to form the Department of Mineral Resources and Development. This represented the first major restructure of the department since it had been formed in 1874. There were a number of other changes in the administrative structure of the department over the1980s, culminating in the formation of the Department of Minerals and Energy in 1988.In 1982 the Wran Labor Government decreed that the Mining Museum would need to be financially self-sufficient by June 1984 or face possible closure. In addressing this, the museum at first sought funds from revamped museum shop and formed the Friends of the Geological and Mining Museum Society (FOGAMM). The museum did not attain financial self-sufficiency by June 1984 and in the following month the Wran Labor Government committed itself to:Supporting a 'dynamic' museumAppointing a board of trustees with 'specific financial powers'Encouraging the museum to become a 'Bicentenary project'Special exhibitions continued to be held over the late 1970s and early 1980s, including a major gold exhibition staged in 1979. Against a backdrop of financial uncertainty in the 1980s in the lead up to what became the Earth Exchange, the last major exhibition held in the museum was about the centenary of mining in Broken Hill in 1984.The formation of the Friends of the Geological and Mining Museum Society (FOGMM) in 1983 was another outcome of the early 1980s drive for financial self-sufficiency. With FOGMM the museum sought donations and sponsorships, and catered for the interests of the enthusiast and volunteers began to assist the museum in its operations. Through the quarterly journal and intermittent newsletters of FOGAMM aspects of the history of the museum were written-up.While the museum had collected photographs from the late 1890s, photography of specimens and the inhouse processing of film started in the 1940s. This service developed markedly in the 1950s and also took in processing for the Soil Conservation Service. By the time of the closure of the museum in 1986, the photographic section consisted of three staff and provided photographic services for the whole of then Department of Mineral Resources.The chemical laboratory was located on the top floor of the building. As the Geological Survey Laboratory it operated independently of the museum and quite away from the staff of the lower floors that were under the administration of the Geological Survey Branch. The duties of the laboratory were many and varied. Initially it was routine testing of minerals and research into developing and/or improving aspects of mining. By the mid 1960s the duties included the provision of laboratory services and chemical advice; assistance and control on matters relating to the administration of the various acts and regulations of the Mines Department; and providing the mining industry with the resources to evaluate, treat, discover, etc. minerals, rocks and oresThe new chemical laboratory was fitted out at a cost of £826 and this was inclusive of removal of the fittings from Clyde. It was highly compartmentalised to provide contained spaces for the chemical laboratory, explosive laboratory, balance or assay room, furnace rooms, and a 'special room', which housed electronic equipment. The exhaust of the furnaces was vented by flues to the chimney stack (the vent was removed and the hatch bricked up in 1982). The ventilation of floor was improved in 1916 by the installation of a mechanical extraction system with an air filtration system. The offices of the chief chemist and his assistants were located at the south-west corner of the floor.Technological advances after the Second World War demanded changes in the skills of staff and more specialised equipment. With the rise in interest in uranium resources in the 1950s the laboratory was fitted with equipment to undertake radio-metric tests. Spectrography was introduced in the mid 1960s, among the many new tests that came available. This equipment was located in the basement which was fitted out in 1965 to especially accommodate such highly sensitive kit.The third floor of the building was set up as the Agricultural Museum and had been part of the Mining Museum since 1897. The range of exhibits was diverse and reflected the operations of the ministerial portfolio rather than strictly adhering to type. For example, one of the earliest exhibits on Level 5 was of indigenous fish and crustaceans, which was considered both 'attractive and popular .[and of] great use to school teachers and students.' The museum possessed an 'interesting display of entomological subjects, and specimens of wheat, oats, barley, grasses' etc. In addition there exhibits of 'fibres, preserved fruits and a large and instructive exhibit of insect pests', and an 'exhibit of some 50 species of (the) most useful insectivorous birds'. The produce on display encouraged vermin and by 1917 there was an infestation of rats throughout the building. Rats were a recurring major problem throughout the building into the 1950s and possibly later. Unlike the Mining Museum on the floors below, the Agricultural Museum was only open under prior arrangement, the role of the museum being one to instruct school children rather than engage with the general public and farmer. The floor also housed the Department's biological and entomological branches and the office of its works overseer. The staff of these branches periodically opened the floor to the general public for lectures. Throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, the administrative offices and the specialist branches of the Department of Agriculture were dispersed across the city. This had been a cause of complaint from the farming community and the government resolved the issue in 1929 by constructing the Agriculture Building in Farrer Place (behind the Education Department building).An outcome of this was the relocation of the Department's staff and museum from the Mining Museum. For a period Level 5 was left vacant in the early 1930s until the artist and art teacher Julian Ashton leased it in 1935. Ashton's art school was located in the Queen Victoria Building but was had to seek new premises owing to the building being remodelled. While at the Queen Victoria Building Ashton's art school was named the Sydney Art School, but he changed this to the Julian Ashton School on the move to the Mining Museum. Ashton's new school was officially opened by the Governor of NSW, Sir Philip Street, in February 1935. Julian Rossi Ashton (1851-1942) was born and educated in England. After a brief spell in Melbourne, in 1883 he and his family moved to Sydney to work on the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia. From 1886 Ashton began to teach privately and in the mid 1890s he conducted classes at the Art Society of New South Wales of which he was president between 1887 and 1892. In 1895 Ashton joined a new professional body, the Society of Artists. Sacked from his teaching position, he established his own school in King Street, and moved it to the Queen Victoria Building in 1906. He lectured and wrote frequently, especially for Art in Australia. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1930. Ashton's private art school was well respected and over the years students such as George Lambert, Elioth Gruner, Jesse Hilder, Thea Proctor, Sydney Ure Smith, William Dobell, Jean Bellette, and Douglas Dundas went on to become successful artists. With the possible exceptions of Bellette and Dundas these artists did not study at the George Street school. The Julian Ashton School moved out of the building in 1973 and the floor was remodelled to provide new, much needed, office accommodation for the museum. The new offices provided the opportunity to reorganise the lower floors.In 1974 the land of the museum was vested in the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA). The statutory authority for the administration of The Rocks, Authority, became directly involved in the running of the museum by taking on the task of refurbishing the exterior of the building over 1978/79. The Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority's work represented the first substantial refurbishment of the exterior of building since perhaps the 1920s. In 1982 the SCRA attended to the conservation of the external brickwork of the chimney stack. At this time the Metters sign, first installed around 1960, was removed.The genesis of the Earth Exchange was the Wran government's conditional decision in 1984 to continue to fund the Mining Museum. One requirement of this new funding was the commitment to provide a 'dynamic' museum and also address the possibility that such a museum could play a role in the Bicentenary celebrations in 1988. The Wran Labor government allocated $1.272 million towards the redevelopment of the Mining Museum in late 1985. The board of management engaged Desmond Freeman Associates to develop an exhibition theme. The concept Formation and Transformation was accepted and a scheme developed to 'take visitors on a journey from the formation of the Earth and geological deposits to the transformation of the Earth's resources into useful materials'. No major external alterations were required aside from the roof. The board of management sought financial assistance from the private sector and this was successful with 20 sponsors having signing up by 1987 and some 80% of funding target having been met. The development application for the new museum was approved in May 1986. In August 1986 the museum closed and the staffs were relocated. However, the redevelopment was project was officially launched by Premier Unsworth sometime after in April 1987. By that time the project cost had ballooned to $6.5 million.Following the change in government, Premier Greiner in October 1989 established a new board of trustees under the provisions of the Mining (Geological and Mining Museum) Amendment Act in October 1989. The board comprised ten trustees, one had a museum background, two were political appointees, and seven came from the mining business community. On the formation of the Board, the leasehold of the site of the museum (but not the yard to the north) was handed to the Geological and Mining Museum Trust in November 1989. The Greiner government allocated a total of $5.5 million to the project with the expectation that the balance of $8 million would be met by private donations and sponsorships and this time the new look museum was named the Earth Exchange. The total cost of completing the Earth Exchange was $20 million of which government contributed $16.6 million. The Earth Exchange was officially opened on 30 March 1991 by Mrs Kathryn Greiner, wife of the Premier. The new museum kept the same hours as the one it replaced, but charged an admission fee. Promoted as Sydney's newest museum, it had high expectations for it included a number of 'spectacular' exhibits and at first Sydney-siders visited it in far greater numbers than anticipated.The museum was very much a 'hands on' experience and children were encouraged to run around and make noise. It incorporated an innovative touch-screen computer interactive program named Infomine. The museum's education program that was different to that which had operated in the Mining Museum. The initial proposal was to establish a teacher led program in which students explored the museum and learnt by using their 'senses'. This changed in the first year of the museum's opening to one based on passive learning through notes and instruction. The Earth Exchange closed permanently in October 1995 and with it Sydney had lost an institution that had been part of its makeup since 1876. The reason for the closure was a decline in attendance numbers, the target was 300,000 per year and in the final years the visitor numbers were 120,000 in 1992/3 and 82,000 in 1994/5, resulting in shortfalls in funding. The final decision to close came on the Carr Labor government's withdrawal of its annual contribution of $1.355 million. Treasurer Egan stated 'the Government's assessment of the Earth Exchange is that it is poorly located, too small, too expensive, and too specialised, and now faces terrific competition from other museums.' In October 1995 the Carr Labor government announced the building would be used in future for an Aboriginal cultural centre for NSW. The new centre was to be managed by Tullagulla, a company formed by Blackfella Films, Black Books, Boomalli Aboriginal Arts Co-operative, Bangarra Dance Theatre, and Gadigal Information Services. The development of the Aboriginal cultural centre came under the administrative umbrella of the NSW Ministry for the Arts, which entered into a lease for 95 years from the Sydney Cove Authority. The new centre was to be named Tullagulla and to be opened in mid-1997. Commonwealth funding of $2.2 million was provided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to fitout the new centre. By October 1996 the Ministry had formulated a two stage strategy to implement the proposal. Stage 1 was completed during the 1996/97 financial year at a cost of $400,000. The statutory authority was the Sydney Cove Authority, they were involved in the transfer of the lease from the former Earth Exchange board to the Ministry. The development application for this work was approved in March 1998 on the basis it was for an Aboriginal arts and cultural centre and performance space. Over the 1997/98 financial year the Ministry expended $1.7 million on upgrading the services and fitments to satisfy Building Code of Australia standards, and also repairing the roof. There was some dispute between the Ministry and the ATSIC and in January 2000 the Commission advised the Ministry that its financial support for the project was withdrawn in view of Tullagulla's inability to secure recurrent funding for the project. Consequently, the Tullagulla project was abandoned and the Ministry entered into discussions with individual indigenous arts organizations to lease the premises without success.In 2000 the Ministry renamed the building the Arts Exchange. Over 2000/2001 the Ministry reopened the Arts Exchange and leased parts of it to the Australian Music Centre, the Sydney Opera House, and the organisers of the Sydney Festival. This use continues today.
Historical significance: The building is significant as part of the late 19th and early 20th century establishment of Sydney's electrical infrastructure, being first developed as a power station (Electric Light Station) in order to supply electricity to government buildings throughout the city.The Electric Light Station, although never completed or used as such, is significant as being one of a small number of power stations dating from the late 19th and early 20th century surviving in Sydney. The building is significant for being the home of the Mining Museum for 86 years (1909-1995), one the three major museums with mineral collections in NSW (along with the Australian Museum founded 1827 and the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum c1880). It is physical evidence of the early 20th century government's concern to educate the population in geology and support the development of the mining industry in NSW. This in turn is evidence of the importance of geology and mining in the history of the development of NSW. Along with the majority of The Rocks, Millers Point and Darling Harbour areas, the subject site was resumed by the government in 1900 as a direct response to the bubonic plague outbreak of that same year. The building, completed in 1909, is significant as being the first major public building in The Rocks Resumption area.The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe historical significance of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The building's primary significance as an important scientific museum is demonstrated by the building's form, scale and design and features such as the Mining Museum lettering on the George Street façade.· The prominent brick chimney demonstrates government policy decisions relating to electricity generation for the city.
Historical association: The site is historically associated with several individuals of prominence in business and commercial circles of 19th century Sydney, most notably Robert Campbell, the first merchant to build a private warehouse and wharf in Sydney, located on the western shore of Circular Quay. The Mining Museum is located on land that formed part of the private walled garden of Campbell's residence, Wharf House. The building is associated with a number of noted architects including Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon. Vernon designed the original power station (Electric Light Station) in 1902/03 and the subsequent conversion to the Mining Museum in 1908. George John Oakeshott, who co-signed the architectural drawings joined Vernon's staff in 1891 and became chief draftsman in 1897 and later became the first Director of the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs, NSW Works Branch. Oakeshott is best known for his post offices for both the colonial government and, after 1909, the Commonwealth. Thomas Raw (1860-1939) the electrical engineer who designed the original system for the Electric Light Station. His other works include the feasibility study of harnessing the waters of the Grose, Colo and Warragamba rivers (Grose Valley Scheme), advised Newcastle on its lighting scheme (1904) and the designs for the installation of electricity to government buildings such as the Mitchell Library (1911). The Mining Museum period also has associations with a number of curators and scientists, who worked at the place, although they are not particularly well known today other than perhaps within the geological and scientific community. The principal curators were George William Card, Malcolm Morrison, Horace Francis Whitworth and D R Pinkstone.The place also has strong associations with the various NSW state governments (both Liberal and Labor) whose decisions relating to the future development of the northern end of the City of Sydney and the provision of electricity for the rapidly growing city determined the subsequent use of the subject building. The place has some association with Julian Rossi Ashton (1851-1942), his art school and students who attended the school between 1935 and 1973, some of whom became well known artists.The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe associational significance of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The style and character of the building demonstrates the associations with the designers Vernon and Oakeshott.· The associations with Robert Campbell are demonstrated by the proximity of Campbell Stores and the Harbour.· The chimney demonstrates the association with Thomas Raw and his electrical system.
Aesthetic significance: The Mining Museum is a large and impressive example of the Free Style architecture of Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, whose architectural style which became influential being later adopted by private sector architects. Aesthetic features of note include the impressive arched George Street entrance, the rusticated stone lower storeys, the Free Classical pediment and dentil course on the George Street elevation and the characteristic 'Vernon' finials to the Hickson Road front. This is demonstrated in both street facades which remain essentially intact to their initial construction date of 1908. As a substantial public building it has a prominent place in the group of Free Style buildings constructed as a result of the urban renewal that took place in The Rocks following the outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1901. The impressive brick chimney which was part of the initial power station for the site is a rare surviving reminder of the early industrial character of Sydney. It remains a notable landmark in the area and is visible from many vantage points around The Rocks, Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The subject building also has streetscape significance for the aesthetic interest afforded by its George Street and Hickson Road facades and forms a termination to the group of large and impressive commercial buildings which dominate the northern end of George Street and Hickson Road. The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe aesthetic significance of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· George Street facade· Hickson Road façade· Landmark aspects of the place, in particular the chimneyThe technical significance / creative achievement of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The surviving brick chimney, constructed for the initial power station (Electric Light Station), though never used.· The large open plan internal spaces of the Mining Museum building supported by exposed steel columns and beams
Social significance: The building is socially significant for its long use as the Mining Museum. The building would be remembered by many people who visited the Mining Museum and the Earth Exchange, either as school children or adults, as well as by geologists and people involved in the NSW mining industry. Its social significance is indicated by its inclusion on a number of lists of building of heritage significance formulated by community groups such as the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and representative bodies such as the City of Sydney Council. As part of The Rocks area, the place is likely to be held in high esteem by individuals and groups with a particular interest in Sydney's history and heritage, in public architecture and late eighteenth century power stations. It would also have some significance for past students of the Julian Ashton School of Art which operated in the building for 38 years until 1973.The building meets this criteria at a STATE level
Research significance: The building (albeit only the lower storeys and chimney) is significant in its ability to provide material evidence of the short-lived group of early DC power stations and the oldest extant power supply structures in Sydney. The early use of riveted and rolled steel structure to create a large open plan space has research potential for students of building structures (e.g. the difference between composite column types on Level 2). Given that extensive excavation was undertaken to construct the existing building and given the undeveloped nature of the land from the 1790s through to 1900, the site (both the building site and the northern yard) has very low potential for archaeological resources. However, as the existing building has been in place since 1909 with no known disturbance to the lower floor, any relics found under the ground floor slab may be of high significance. As the building has undergone a number of internal alterations and refits, there is only low potential for archaeological resources being found within the roof space, under-floor and inter floor areas. However, as the building has a history of significant public use, any relics found within the structure of the building may be of high significance.The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe research significance of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The steel structure.· The unfinished stone wall on Hickson Road.
Rare assessment: The building is historically rare, in particular the chimney and the lower levels on Hickson Road are the only surviving elements of the original Electric Light Station (1903-04). The only other comparable example is the Randwick Electric Light Station. The building is historically rare as being one of only three museums that collected and exhibited minerals in Sydney. The brick, octagonal chimney is also a rare element for (perhaps) never being used and for being one of the few industrial features remaining within the city of Sydney, demonstrating the industrial nature of the western side of Circular Quay.The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe rarity of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The lower levels of the building, the brick octagonal chimney and the incomplete sandstone walling located to the northern end of the Hickson Road elevation.
Representative assessment: The building and its former use as the Mining Museum is representative of a Victorian approach to public education. The Mining Museum is representative of the history of the oft-changing state government policies and priorities in terms of infrastructure (electricity), economic development (mining and mineral resources) and cultural development (education and Indigenous culture) and the government's approach to The Rocks area, Sydney's oldest commercial precinct. It is representative of the group of government buildings erected in The Rocks following the 1901 plague outbreak.It is a noted example of the many projects carried out for the 1988 Bicentennial celebration.The building meets this criteria at a STATE levelThe representativeness of the Mining Museum is demonstrated by:· The form and design of the building demonstrates the approach to public education in the early 1900s
Intact assessment: Archaeology Destroyed.
Physical condition: Archaeology Assessment Condition: Destroyed. Assessment Basis: Basements below George Street. Terraced into hill slope from Hickson Road.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Building settlements, towns and cities||Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis.|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0324||Geological and Mining Museum||21/03/1978||14259|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7712||05/04/1976|
|Royal Australian Institute of Architects register||4700847|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01555||Mining Museum||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7715||05/04/1976|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0324||New Metcalfe Bond / George Street Precinct||12/03/1978||2125|
|Public Works Department - Former register|