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Celebrating firsts at Westpac

18 December 2015

Australia Museum 9413

The Australian Museum (AM) and Westpac share something in common. They are first of their kinds in this country, albeit the bank has 10 years more on the museum.

In 2017 Australia’s first museum celebrates its 190th birthday and Westpac, Australia’s first company and bank, celebrates its 200th birthday. Together, they have formed a unique partnership along with the NSW State 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. The AM’s current Long Gallery will become the Westpac Long Gallery in 2017, to mark the anniversaries.

Australia’s first bank note has also been presented to the AM 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 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 AM.

According to AM’s Executive Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO – who is also an Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee - “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.

“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, AM 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 (pictured above with Kim McKay foreground, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer), while those yet to be pledged include the complete specimen of a thylacine pup, an object of immense scientific value for its intact DNA.

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. He and the NSW Premier Mike Baird attended a special launch in mid-December to mark the projects beginnings.

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