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New Perth museum a four-fold expansion

AAP logoAAP 31/07/2016

Perth's new $428.3 million museum will be almost four times bigger than the old one, which for decades has been considered sub-standard.

The West Australian government has awarded the design and construction contract to Brookfield Multiplex, with early site works to start in coming months and opening scheduled for 2020.

"This has been a project which has been identified as having been needed for at least the last 20 years and for one reason or another, it has never stayed quite on the top of the list of priorities," Arts Minister John Day told reporters on Sunday.

"It will be a stunning physical construction. It is quite a bold and striking design.

"This, I think it's true to say, will be the most significant public building development in the city for the last 50 years."

Mr Day said the old museum had attracted 500,000-600,000 visitors per year in recent years but he expected that figure would rise to 800,000 in the new facility's first year.

While the construction will be good news for jobs, not all museum staff have retained their positions, with the building now closed for four years, although pop-up displays are planned in the meantime.

"All of the permanent staff are retaining their jobs. There have been some staff on contract who haven't had their contracts extended because there's not a need for their positions at the moment," Mr Day said.

"But there's a lot of activity going on within the museum in the designing of the content of the new building as well as the other sites of the museum in Albany, Kalgoorlie, Fremantle and Geraldton."

Mr Day said staff numbers would increase when the new museum opened, compared to the old facility.

He also confirmed the beloved, 24-metre blue whale skeleton - fondly remembered by so many from school excursions - will return to the new building in the Perth Cultural Centre precinct.

The specimen washed ashore at the mouth of the Vasse River near Busselton in 1898 and a crane was needed to lift it into the old Francis Street museum, which closed in 2003 because of asbestos concerns.

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