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Benefactors are supporting the Library’s master plan with $15 million for new world-class galleries and a premier learning centre.

Michael Crouch is the major supporter of the $15 million Mitchell Galleries project, the biggest fundraising project undertaken by the Library in 70 years. John Fairfax is funding a premier learning space. Also generously contributing to the project are the Nelson Meers Foundation, Rob Thomas AM and Kim Williams AM.

New world-class galleries, enabling the Library to display more of its $3.15 billion collection, and the innovative learning space are set to open in the historic Mitchell building in early 2018.

Mr Fairfax — who like Mr Crouch hesitated to identify just one piece in the collection, noting that its significance comes from its breadth and depth — says the Mitchell Galleries project is critical in developing Australia’s cultural institutions.

‘The Library is a superb institution and Sydney should be developing life around culture and arts,’ says Mr Fairfax.

Mr Crouch describes the Library as ‘one of our leading institutions in NSW and in Australia’, stressing the importance of making more of the exceptional collection available to the public.

‘I think we have a responsibility to make sure our heritage and the culture and character that built Australia are made known. If we don’t do that, we’re failing in our duty to future generations,’ says Mr Crouch.

To be known as the Michael Crouch Galleries, the Library’s new gallery experience will stretch across the entire first floor of the Mitchell building to highlight its glorious architectural features. Doubling the galleries’ space to 2000 square metres, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, will create a vibrant place for exhibitions and education.

‘As the largest and most vital living memory institution in the southern hemisphere,’ says Chair of the State Library of NSW Foundation Board, Kim Williams, ‘the Mitchell Galleries project will deliver untold benefits for Australians and visitors to our nation in ways that record and mark civilisation generally and, in particular, the history of Australia.’

‘I hope all Australians will be able to visit this new set of spaces either in person or in a virtual sense through the outreach which digital technologies are increasingly enabling. We aim to secure an ever-expanding body of support for this wonderful place which houses our national memory so caringly. It is a simply wonderful institution.’

Both Mr Crouch and Mr Fairfax support many of the country’s cultural institutions, but believe the Library is unique because of the record it holds of Australia’s history.

About half of the state’s schools use the Library’s learning programs onsite, virtually or through travelling programs, and that participation is set to increase. The new John B Fairfax Learning Centre in the Mitchell building will provide an engaging, digitally rich, hands-on learning environment for school students, teachers and families.

Mr Fairfax says the redevelopment is a timely way to liberate the information within the collection. ‘The Library is very much a part of our educational and social fabric. We now live in a digital age which is instrumental in transforming the way we conduct our lives, so the potential for learning tools is virtually unlimited. The changes being made to the Library are part of this extraordinary revolutionary age.’

Mitchell Gallery donors standing in vestibule

(back row, l to r) George Souris AM, John B Fairfax AO and Kim Williams AM; (front row, l to r) Michael Crouch AO, Sam Meers and the Hon. Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts.

Written by Jemima Whyte, State Library of NSW Foundation Board member and journalist at the Australian Financial Review.
The full article appears in SL Magazine (Autumn 2017)