Culture Buff

Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo

20 February 2021

9:00 AM

20 February 2021

9:00 AM

Second thoughts are sometimes better thoughts. The NSW government had second thoughts about closing down the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo last July prior to its removal to Parramatta to premises not yet built. It is apparently a permanent reprieve; there are to be two Museum campuses. So it is pleasing to read the announcement of the Museum’s program for 12 new exhibitions at Ultimo drawn from the collection that holds more than half a million objects of which scarcely 10 per cent have been seen by the public.

Opening on 19 March will be Iranzamin, the first exhibition to explore the arts and crafts of Persia. On show will be over 100 rarely seen objects collected from the Museum’s earliest years in the 1880s to 2020 and chosen to show the social and cultural history of Persian arts, focussing on the Qajar era (1789-1925).


Is it Persia or Iran? Well, in the Western world, Persia was historically the common name for Iran which actually means ‘the land of Aryans’ in Persian. In 1935, Reza Shah asked foreign delegates to use the term Iran while his son Reza Pahlavi, sadly the last shah, announced that Persia and Iran could be used interchangeably.  Recent major historical exhibitions in Europe have used the more evocative name Persia.

Internally, the debate continues as to the appropriate usage but many Iranians in the West prefer Persia. Either way, this is likely to be a beautiful exhibition reflecting the fascination this country has always held for us.

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