Collection FAQ

Our Collection
Our collection contains more than 500,000 objects collected over 135 years.  Globally recognised for its breadth and diversity, our collection is Australia’s largest and most significant collection of science, technological and design ingenuity.

From the first locomotive in New South Wales and the oldest working steam engine in existence, to engineering marvels like Jorn Utzon’s original model for the Sydney Opera House and Charles Babbage’s automatic calculating machine that predicted the modern computer, our collection is the Museum’s foundation resource to deepen the understanding of the role in human innovation.


To enquire about using an image, or for information on copyright please contact the Photo Library. The MAAS Photo Library has content available under several different rights categories. Find out more about image rights and permissions.

The Museum is unable to help with requests for assistance with or advice about valuation or rarity of privately owned objects. If you wish to have an object valued, you may find an appropriate valuer from the downloadable list of approved valuers for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program (you would need to pay for this service).

Otherwise you may be able to gain an estimate of the current market value of your object by looking at the value of similar items on online auction sites or in auction catalogues.

I would like to know more about an object of mine
Curators may be able to provide information about an object you own without charging a fee if that response can be undertaken in less than half an hour (most likely if your object is very similar to something in the Museum’s collection).

The Museum will not reply to object valuation requests for privately held objects.

You can access the Online Collection for records and images from our collection database. These records may help you research your own objects.

I would like to donate an object to the Museum
The Museum welcomes donated objects if they meet the requirements of our Collection Development Policy (for example, the Museum is unlikely to accept an item if it already has a similar one in the collection.). The costs of storing and looking after an object to museum standards (temperature, humidity, light, pest controls, etc) can often be more than the value of the object, so the Museum is only able to acquire objects assessed as having considerable value in terms of the knowledge they convey and the ‘fit’ of such objects within the MAAS collection.

If you have an object which you wish to donate, please contact the Museum using the collection enquiry form, so that Museum curators can assess whether your object meets the Museum’s Collection Development Policy.

In the case of a high value object accepted as a donation, you may be able to claim a tax deduction. Museum staff will assist in obtaining valuations of your gift and submitting your claim through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Curators will endeavour to make an initial response to offers to donate objects within ten working days.

I would like to know more about an object
Information about objects in the Museum’s collection is accessible from the Museum’s Online Collection which contains information on approximately 70% of the active collection, however the quality of the documentation is variable depending on when the object was collected (objects more recently acquired are more fully documented), and not all objects have been photographed. The Museum continues to work on improving object documentation.

Here is a list of object research resources (books, websites, specialist collecting societies, etc) which may help you undertake further research.

I would like to see an object that is not on display in an exhibition
Objects that are not on display at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory or the Museums Discovery Centre are generally in one of the Museum’s storage areas either at the Museums Discovery Centre or the Powerhouse Museum.

Some of the 50,000 objects at the Museums Discovery Centre are accessible to the public on monthly open days or by booking a group visit.

Viewing of other objects in storage may be arranged with the curator.

I would like to provide information about an object
The Museum welcomes new information or supplementary material directly linked to objects in the collection (such as photographs or other documents) which enhances our understanding of objects in the collection.

Curators will investigate such information and, if verified, change or add to object documentation in accordance with the new information.

Curators will endeavour to make an initial response to such information within ten working days.

To provide us with information about items in our collection please use our Enquiry form.

I would like to purchase an object from MAAS
The Museum does not sell items in the collection.

The Museum shop sells books and other items related to the MAAS collection and exhibitions.

I would like to sell an object to the Powerhouse Museum
The Museum purchases objects only if they comply stringently with the requirements of our Collection Development Policy, ie, the expenditure is warranted because the object is an integral addition to the collection and adds considerably to the knowledge conveyed by the collection.

The Museum has limited acquisition funds.

The Museum will not respond to requests that the Museum bid for objects on online auction sites, nor provide advice regarding buying and selling of objects.

If wish to sell an object which you believe may be of interest to the Museum, please write to:

Curatorial Department
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
500 Harris Street
Ultimo NSW 2007