From cataloguing collections and updating databases to conceptualising exhibits, the role of a Collections Manager is a varied one. With items over a century old, the QPAC collections help us understand and appreciate how the performing arts have shaped life in Queensland.
QPAC’s Collections Manager, Monica Podesta, has spent her career conserving, restoring, and interpreting historical objects both here in Australia and overseas. We chatted to Monica to find out more about her role and how collections management is evolving in a contemporary world.
What does a typical day look like in your role?
There is no typical day for a Collections Manager, ironically the environment around objects is never stagnate. Every day is different - full of new objects, surprises, new people (donors, researchers, service providers and other interested people) and found treasures. It involves researching those treasures, collecting and storing their information, planning for their care, creating reproductions, considering exhibition potential and determining how each object can be used to inspire people. There is also the continual planning and reviewing of policies, procedures, and processes.
What is your favourite thing about working in the creative industries?
It's creative! Creativity means variety, and variety means you can flow where inspiration guides you. For me, working within the creative industries is a project centred approach. It has defined beginnings and ends whilst having a larger vision which encompasses all work.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is a gift, it finds me.
Why is the management of collections so important, especially in the performing arts?
Collections are important because they capture actuality within a time frame. They provide us with snippets of information about people and culture at a given moment in history. Collections should be accurate and objective and each object in a collection should show its significance linked to the Collections Policy. All museum collections hold a unique significance that is not present in any other museum, there may be overlaps but their Collections Policy should identify their uniqueness.
Here at QPAC our Collections Policy identifies that we predominantly collect significant objects connecting to the journey of performing arts in Queensland from its beginning.
Performing arts collections are unique because they show the social construct at a specific period of time and they show us what types of performances captured an audience. Both the successes and failures tell a story of a time. Our collections show multi-generational and multi-genre connections and contain a vast number of materials and objects.
"The QPAC collections hold over 100 years of connections to the positive contribution that live performance has made in Queensland."
How has the internet and technology as a whole impacted the sharing and management of collections?
The sharing of information is always at the forefront of Collection Management tasks. We do not collect to hoard, we collect to share. Sharing information is why we have museums and collections; they are an essential educational tool and as such have been affected by the increased use of technology.
Technology, while attracting some of the existing museum attendees, draws on a wider audience. Having an internet presence for a collection can attract a group of people that would not have attended a museum. From a technology perspective, the impact is greater on educational institutions as students can gain information for assignments digitally, without the necessity of a school trip. Technology also has the advantage of reaching international audiences.
Previously, external researches would have visited a museum or collection and started their research then. Now an additional step has appeared where researchers will review a collection online before making an appointment to see the objects in person.
Has this impacted the physical sharing of collections?
Despite the impact of technology, it is important for museums and collections to maintain the hands-on experience of connecting with a physical piece. At QPAC, we receive many requests for reproductions of the materials in our collections to be put on display and feature in exhibitions at external organisations. The fact that we service multiple of these requests each week shows that people are still engaging with collections in a similar way to previous generations.
The advancement of technology allows organisations to show their collections in unique ways and replicate physical spaces for those who may not have access to a museum. We still share our collections in the tradition manner because people enjoy the ‘museum experience’.
"We do not collect to hoard, we collect to share."
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