A detective, cleaner, lobbyist, photographer, organiser and professional googler are just some of the things that keep Port Macquarie Museum’s curator Debbie Summers busy every day in the office.
Debbie says she never imagined she would be a museum curator in her retired life, assuming she would spend her days playing tennis, but a case of tennis elbow pointed her in the direction of the museum and she hasn’t looked back.
“Growing up I didn’t have a strong passion for history, I didn’t study it at school but these days I can’t get enough.
“One of my favourite parts of the job is spending time uncovering the hidden stories and histories of the items that come into our collection.
“I love a good mystery and sometimes it can take us weeks or months to find out about a certain item, and even then, we sometime have to go back years later and update information about an object after new information comes to light.
“We have thousands of pieces that we are in the process of cataloging and digitising and it is very rewarding to carry an object from when we get it, to uncovering how, where, when and by whom it was used.
“Because we focus on the history of Port Macquarie, we have people, locals and visitors come in and ask about certain things and it is always lovely to be able to help them, or sometimes us, uncover things we didn’t already know,” Debbie said.
At the moment one of the pieces currently on display at the museum is a doctors car badge which Debbie is researching.
“I am currently researching and investigating lots and lots of items but one in particular is a doctors car badge donated to us, which is really interesting as they are quite rare,” she said.
Debbie said that while no two days are ever the same, the curator life is not necessarily the glamourous life people may think.
“There are some days where I spend the day talking to people and helping them find out about their ancestors or researching and writing Statements of Significance for a particular artifact we don’t know anything about, but then there are days where it takes an entire morning to get into an exhibit to change a light bulb or to dust a section of the museum,” she said.
As curator, Debbie also is responsible for coming up with new exhibits, creating imaginative spaces using the thousands of items in the collection which she says is both daunting and exciting.
“I always have ideas about potential new exhibits but it is just a case of trying to find a theme that works.
“We try and base the exhibitions around relevant themes and then work in our collection pieces as well, but sometimes we have to get creative with what we can work with.”
In the volunteer museum community Debbie is well known and recognised for her wealth of knowledge and attention to the collection and is at the leading edge in knowing the best storage and record keeping practices.
“From Newcastle to Coffs Harbour we have some of the best volunteer museums in the state and because of that there is a lot of sharing of information and training that we can take part in.”