Local museum curator Debbie Sommers has been recognised with an individual IMAGinE award for her dedication to preserving history in Port Macquarie.
Mrs Sommers has held executive roles with the Port Macquarie Historical Society and at the museum for a number of years and now performs the role of curator, saying she is passionate about looking after history on the Mid North Coast.
“I spend a lot of my time researching the history of the local area along with applying for grants so the museum can be the best it can be,” Mrs Sommers said.
With 76 nominations, this year’s winners represent the best of regional and metropolitan NSW visual arts and cultural heritage experiences.
The IMAGinE awards offer a unique opportunity for museums and galleries to promote their achievements and raise their profile within the community.
“There are people like me all over Australia and I am a strong advocate for volunteer museums all over the country, so it is great honour to be chosen for this IMAGinE award.
“The museum has won an IMAGinE award in the past, but this individual honour is a very special award for me,” she said.
Under her guidance, the museum has seen a 12 percent increase in visitation in the last year with Mrs Sommers also chairing the Mid North Coast Chapter of Museums Australia along with spearheading museum development and training across a number of museums in the region.
In 2017 she was appointed to the Board of Museums Australia and provides an important voice for community based museums in regional Australia.
“I am connected to Museums Australia at every level and embrace the opportunity to engage with volunteers to pass on the knowledge and passion I have for volunteer museums,” she said.
Mrs Sommers said the Port Macquarie museum is always seeking new ways to reinvent itself so that it remains user friendly.
“We are constantly updating our collection to make it as interesting as possible for people when they come to the museum.
“We are also in the process of cataloging our collection and putting it online so that people all over the world can see what we have in Port Macquarie.
“Therefore we as a museum, and myself as curator, take a very hands on approach engaging the community so that people know the great things they can find in our museum.”
Mrs Sommers also says she feels the responsibility to honour the work of those who volunteered at the museum before her, and those that will come after.
“Those who started the museum certainly had a grand vision for what they wanted to achieve and I think we are just trying to continue their legacy for future generations.”