Inside the Collection

Meet the curator- Kerrie Dougherty

Portrait of curator Kerrie Dougherty
Photography by Sotha Bourn © Powerhouse Museum all rights reserved

Kerrie Dougherty

What is your speciality area?
I’m the museum’s Curator of Space Technology and my areas of interest cover the history of astronautics and space flight, space education and public awareness, and social and cultural responses to space. In addition, since I’m also interested in science fiction and pop culture, I’ve also been involved with the museum’s Star trek, Star wars and Lord of the Rings exhibitions

How long have you been working at the Museum?
Almost 27 years!

What is your favourite object in the collection?
My favourite object in the museum’s collection overall is the Boulton and Watt beam engine, which I’ve always thought of as a gentle giant. Despite its massive size, it produced what we would today consider only a small amount of power-yet it represents the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution that shaped our technological world. It’s actually a lot harder for me to nominate my favourite object in the space technology collection: since I acquired them all, I’m fond of every one of them. I can’t just choose one, but I’ll mention a few: a small Apollo Lunar Module model, produced by the Grumman company to celebrate the Apollo 9 mission, when the LM made its first space qualifying test flight; the fairings (nose cone sections) from a British Black Arrow rocket that were recovered from the Woomera Rocket Range; a waste management system from a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft (yes-a space toilet!) and an Australian space experiment-the Aggregation of Red Cells apparatus-that was twice carried on space shuttle missions.

What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum?
I’m very proud of developing Australia’s first major museum space display, the Space-Beyond this World exhibition (1988-2007), which was the first exhibition anywhere in the world to bring together examples of the space technology of the three Cold War superpowers. When I look back on it now, I am astonished that we were able to accomplish this in a period of Cold War tension. But I think that, even more, I love the ongoing challenge of developing the first international space technology collection in Australia. While the museum’s collection is very modest when compared to the major aerospace museums overseas, the Powerhouse is the only museum in Australia actively collecting in the space field and I am proud to have been able to develop the current collection essentially from scratch over almost 25 years.

6 responses to “Meet the curator- Kerrie Dougherty

  • Kerrie, very nice to learn something about you and your interest in the Australian space program. I am planning a flying 1:2 scale model of the HAD vehicle (I am a high power rocket hobbiest, level 3 certified by Tripoli Rocketry Association). I have a scale drawing from Rockets of the World by Alway, your article from Acta Astronautica (2006), and a photo of a Gosling motor (with the angled nozle). I am looking for more source material; the more detail the better. Photos are especially needed. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

  • Hi Kerrie–

    So great to see you on this site and get an update on the museum and your doings! Our traveling has been self-limited this past year or so with Sol still heavily involved in his Writers Group and his own writings and me continuing on artistic projects for our little town of South Palm Beach. My latest is a series of three mosaic glass pieces to hang along our sidewalk on A-1-A.

    Any plans for a trip out this way? with NASA apparently being out-sourced to private companies, I’m very concerned about out shrinking part in space research as well as exploration. I don’t suppose that will impact you at the Powerhouse however.

    Please let us know what’s up down under.

    Been such a while,

    Penny & Sol Davidson

  • Hi Kerrie,

    I am an Artist in Residence with Swinburne University – Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

    I am also project manager os THE APOLLO 11 – a collection of videos paying tribute to the 1969 Moon landing event created by 9 professional Australia artists and 2 American artists to reflect the co-operation between countries and facilities in broadcasting the event to a global audience. (please read blurb below)

    Is it possible to send you a preview of this in the possibility of screening it at MAAS museum. It can’t hurt to have a look.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    Pamela Bain


    THE APOLLO 11,

    Roger Alsop, Daniel Armstrong, Pamela Bain, Brigid Burke, Dirk de Bruyn, Melinda Capp, Tim Chrepta, James Josephides, Rebecca Kamen, Stephen Smithyman and Eiichi Tosaki.

    A diverse and entrancing video collection of creative visions and screen expressions from eleven artists pays tribute to the 1969 Moon landing and its anniversary this year.

    THE APOLLO 11, a screen-based exhibition, features video works from professional artists, contributing their creative responses to the Moon landing event in honour of its fiftieth anniversary. Included are two American artists to reflect upon the teamwork between countries and facilities in 1969. As the Moon landing was almost beyond comprehension and pushed boundaries to achieve a milestone goal, so too does THE APOLLO 11 push boundaries – creative boundaries – to present a film of originality, excitement, fanciful play and philosophical reflection. Not only will THE APOLLO 11 contribute to the historical Moon landing narrative via image and sound it will be an experience that prompts nostalgia for some while also delivering visual stimulations and cognitive engagement.
    Interpretations of the historic event incorporate a range of abstract expressions, sensory atmospheres, and profound observations, while blending a variety of descriptive, playful, quirky and whimsical contemplations. The video anthology is conveyed via a multitude of screen perspectives including stop motion animation, video montage, animation, rotoscope, bimanual coordination drawing and motion graphics.
    Engaging the mind, imagination and the senses THE APOLLO 11 pays tribute to a moment in time when a footstep made history. It took many thousands of people working behind the scenes to engineer Armstrong and Aldrin’s journey to the Moon surface and in the same spirit of co-operations, THE APOLLO 11 brings together individual artists and creative teams to collaborate on a show for the enjoyment of all.

  • Hi! Kerry,
    Listened closely to your interview on ‘Night Life’ last night.
    I understand a piece of Captain Cook’s ship, ‘ENDEAVOUR’ was taken to the moon in a space shuttle of the same name. Are there any records of this historic item & was it brought back from the moon or left?
    Any assistance in this matter would be appreciated.

    • Hi Ross,

      Sorry no one got back to you sooner. Kerrie left the Museum some years ago (and is now working with the Australian Space Agency). You’re almost right! A piece of wood from Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour was carried on the Apollo 15 mission (ref:, which landed on the Moon on 30 July, 1971. However, the piece of wood itself never landed on the Moon – it remained in orbit above the Moon aboard the Endeavour Command Module (named for Cook’s ship), while the Falcon Lunar Module descended to the surface. It was returned to Earth and, according to the Captain Cook Society website and can be seen at the Newport Museum, in Rhode Island, USA, where the Endeavour ended her life (I can’t vouch for how accurate or up-to-date that information is). The later Space Shuttle Endeavour, which operated from 1992 to 2011, was also named for Cook’s ship. I hope that helps answer your question!

      Sarah Reeves, Powerhouse Museum

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