The Government has released artist's renditions of the WA Museum's Welshpool collections and research centre to be renovated before the $428 million city showcase is built in the next few years.
Work will begin later this year on the $17.5 million Welshpool revamp, which will include wet laboratories, storage and fit-for-purpose preparation spaces.
The centre holds more than 4.5 million artefacts and specimens, including the famous blue whale skeleton to go back on display when the new museum in the Perth Cultural Centre is projected to open its doors in 2020.
The building design and exhibition planning is continuing ahead of a planned construction start in 2016. The project was allocated $21 million in last week's State Budget, with another $204 million of the overall cost mapped out over the forward estimates to 2017-18.
The procurement process for a managing contractor will be advertised in late 2014.
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the new Perth complex, almost four times bigger than the existing facility, would showcase to the world the importance of WA heritage, history and biodiversity.
"The Welshpool improvements are vital to the operation of the new museum and the management of the State's valuable scientific and cultural heritage collections," Mr Day said.
"They will improve the safekeeping of the State's collection, increase the storage capacity for future collecting needs and improve the ability to conduct research."
The Cultural Centre complex will knit into the current heritage buildings and cover 23,000sqm over five levels. About 8500sqm will be devoted to gallery space - more than the National Museum of Australia in Canberra (6600sqm) and the Australian Museum in Sydney (6000sqm).
The early planning phase has included a series of focus group meetings which have generated ideas in areas ranging from the landscape gardening and eco-friendly design to the foyer and services areas, auditorium, cafes, shops, gallery spaces and toilets.
The ideas include a "see-through museum" of glass walls to give glimpses of the treasures within, an Aboriginal welcome ritual to be performed upon entry, an Apple store meet-and-greet staffing mode, a rooftop bar-restaurant and exhibit-themed toilets
Museum director Alec Coles has said he wants to double the 370,000-380,000 visitors to the Perth site once the new building opens.
Hands-on interactivity, ease of access and circulation, social usage, more animation and engagement with museum scientists, technicians and curators would be key guiding principles, he has said.