In January 2017 we announced our plans to transform the Library’s historic Mitchell Building. After more than two years in the planning, work began in earnest in September to reimagine heritage spaces previously used for storage and staff offices.
On 6 October, the Library’s new Michael Crouch Family Galleries and refurbished Dixson Galleries, along with the new John B Fairfax Learning Centre, will open to the public.
For the past 12 months, approximately 160 contractors have been on site six days a week re-shaping and re-creating the interior of the eastern wing of the Mitchell. No less than 900 tonnes of concrete, brick and steel were carefully removed. And 1000 sheets of plasterboards, 1,000 square metres of terrazzo and kilometres of cables have been installed.
Just last week Shape Construction officially handed the building site back to the Library where Exhibitions and Collection Care staff have commenced the enormous task of fitting out the stunning new spaces and installing six new exhibitions across the entire first floor of the Mitchell building. This includes an impressive salon hang of 300 paintings of varying sizes across three galleries.
On the ground floor, Learning staff are putting the final touches on the smart new learning centre where they’ll deliver a whole suite of engaging programs for K-12 students, teachers and families.
On Saturday 6 October, we’ll celebrate the remarkable transformation of the Mitchell building and the opening of our new galleries and learning centre with a free Open Day. Over 3,000 items from the Library’s collection will go on display in many areas of the Mitchell Building not open to the public before.
This landmark project has been made possible through the strong support of benefactors, the late Michael Crouch AC and John B Fairfax AO, and the NSW Government. Also generously contributing to the project are the Nelson Meers Foundation, Rob Thomas AM, Kim Williams AM and Ruby Faris Estate.
The Mitchell building has been a prominent Sydney icon since 1910, so improving public access to it while respecting its heritage features have always been at the heart of this historic project. For this reason, we consulted with heritage specialists and the Heritage Council of NSW every step of the way, from planning to construction.
As a result of this collaboration, some lovely heritage elements have become features in the new spaces. Beautiful arch windows now provide previously unseen views onto The Domain. Ornate 1940s wooden doors removed from the Level 1 northern corridor of the Mitchell have been repurposed, and will now open up into the Michael Crouch Room.
Comparing the artist's impression of what was planned to the progress we’ve made to date, we are delighted with how well this vision has been achieved. We can’t wait to share the results with you when our new galleries open to the public for the very first time on the 6 October.