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$15 million donation to create University of Sydney landmark museum

23 September 2015

Comprised of two of the University's historic buildings, joined by a new modern extension, the Chau Chak Wing Museum will allow precious and rarely seen objects from the University's collections to be displayed together for the first time. 

The donation of $15 million from Chinese-Australian entrepreneur and chairman of Kingold Group Dr Chau Chak Wing will establish a landmark new museum at the University of Sydney.

Comprised of two of the University’s historic buildings, joined by a new modern extension, the Chau Chak Wing Museum will allow precious and rarely seen objects from the University’s collections to be displayed together for the first time.

It will house the University’s Macleay, Nicholson and University Art Gallery collections and include a special exhibition area for Chinese art and artefacts.

“Museums are an important part of city cultural life. It is a common aspiration of people all over the world to promote cultural heritage, and it’s our responsibility to ensure it is passed on to future generations,” said Dr Chau.

“In the more than 160 years that the University has been established it has continuously strived for excellence in teaching and research, educating many of the world’s most outstanding individuals. This notion of rigorous scholarship is a view shared by Kingold Group’s corporate philosophy – the relentless pursuit of excellence. I hope that this collaboration will further promote education and enlighten people, building a platform for greater international cultural exchange. This donation is my heartfelt contribution to developing the Australia-China friendship,” Dr Chau said.

The new museum will enable the University to display a far greater number of the 700,000 objects estimated to be in the three collections, 99 percent of which are currently not seen because of limited exhibition space. 

“This generous donation from Dr Chau Chak Wing is an enormous contribution, which will allow us to finally do justice to these magnificent collections by displaying them together in one building. It makes possible the showcasing of some of Australia’s most significant artistic, scientific and archaeological artefacts,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University.

“The museum will enrich the cultural life of the Australian community and our international visitors and will profoundly benefit the University’s teaching and research. It will give academics, students and the community a new appreciation of the relevance and value of the collections.”

The donation will fund the building of a 6000 square metre museum. The University’s historic Macleay and adjacent Edgeworth David Building will be redeveloped and connected via a new modern extension. A 240-seat lecture theatre will be linked to 1,800 square metres of exhibition space, conservation laboratories, and a suite of exhibition galleries. 

The museum will enrich the cultural life of the Australian community and our international visitors and will profoundly benefit the University’s teaching and research
Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney

Admission to the museum will be free.

“The University of Sydney is dedicated to a multidisciplinary vision of teaching and research, to breaking down barriers to sharing knowledge,” said David Ellis, Director of Museums at the University of Sydney.

“In the display and curation of its objects, the museum will embody that approach, which is also international best practice.

“When antiquities meet visual arts and natural history, and collections are viewed as a whole, marvellous conversations can occur.”

The Chau Chak Wing Museum celebrates an outstanding Chinese-Australian resident and will contribute to positive relations between the two countries.

The University will be inviting expressions of interest for the project from architects specialised in adapting heritage buildings. The Chau Chak Wing Museum is scheduled to open in 2018.

About the collections:

The Nicholson collection contains nearly 30,000 artefacts of artistic and archaeological significance from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the Near East, representing the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere.

The University Art collection began with the foundation of the University itself in 1850 and holds 7000 artworks of rare depth and diversity, from Chinese art, Japanese woodcuts, and a broad range of Australian art represented in paintings, prints, watercolours, drawings, photography, sculptures and ceramics.

The Macleay is the one of the oldest collections in Australia. It includes historically rich collections of Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Pacific Islander cultural material of continuing relevance to peoples throughout the region, natural history specimens dating from the late 18th century, a photographic collection recording life in Australia and the Pacific from the late 1840s to the 1960s, and a collection of scientific instruments and apparatus used in research and teaching which tells the story of scientific practice in Australia.

Chinese-Australian entrepreneur and Chairman of the Kingold Group, Dr Chau Chak Wing is known for his generous philanthropy including the recent Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney.

Verity Leatherdale

Manager, Faculty Media and PR
  • Level 7 Jane Foss Russell Building G02

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