Karen Jakubec

Loans Manager, Exhibition Collections

Listen and read

If a stranger asks me what I do… I say I am the loans manager at Museum Victoria, which gets them a little bit confused – as soon as you say loans, they think finance, and I say no, no, no, the museum loans objects from institutions, small companies, individual collectors and historical societies to help enhance the exhibitions.

Well, the first thing I’m going to do when I get to work tomorrow is… to check the loan we have of the Judith Durham dress from the National Film and Sound Archives. It’s a changeover object, going on display in The Melbourne Story exhibition and we’re going to have a story about it on the Museum Victoria website and to do that we want to take a photograph. It’s a loan object so we need to get permission to have the photograph on our website.

Later this month… we have a loan going back to the National Gallery of Victoria—a painting on display in the Pompeii exhibition which has been a fabulous success here and the painting is a festival that’s happening and the objects in the painting were all found at archaeological sites at Pompeii.

I first got into this area… in a roundabout way and I’m very happy with where I have ended up. I first started working in a museum-related area when I was a child doing dollar-for-deeds in Girl Guides with the family history rooms and found a course at the Australian National University on curatorship and enrolled in that, so moved from Hobart to Canberra. I came to Museum Victoria in the History and Technology Collections collection management area. Working with the objects is what I really wanted to do, making sure that when they are installed on display, it’s all good, so I can combine my love of playing with objects and doing paperwork and database entry all in one job!

In my job it is very important to be… super organised. I think love of databases is a bit of an integral thing for the position that we do. And to love procedures, and speaking to people as well and negotiating.

Others say I… am organized and they count on me at times to tell them what’s supposed to be happening when. Without trying to be too pushy, of course, but always with the lender at the forefront of the mind.

In my job I never dreamed... I would be handling human specimens. Human brains, skulls, body parts, plastinated and wet specimens and not be creeped out by it.

If I had a magic wand I would… make all the databases run smoothly and everybody would be able to run reports from the databases directly without having to enter information many times over.

In a crystal ball I can see my job will… see me travelling to pick up crazy weird objects from overseas that need to be couriered back home. I’d also like to be able to manage a small loans department where we actually take care of outward loans as well across the collections.

Outside the office I like to... belly dance. I do belly dancing classes, I play softball, I cycle occasionally. I call myself a mermaid historian, or more accurately, merfolk historian. I have an interest in mermaids across art, literature, mythology and it’s one of the symbols that appears in all cultures on all continents and I love that continuity and I have since I was a child. It is the first toy I remember so there you go. And I’m still collecting toys.

What’s that?
loans This tape measure and box is my loans processing kit. When a loan comes in I will measure it and put that information in the database, labeling it with one of our special inward loan labels which explains who the lender is, what exhibition it is in and what segment that object is going to be in so it cannot get lost amongst the hundreds of thousands of objects that the museum owns.

What’s that?
swine That’s a swine flu mask that I decorates as part of the craft cartel who meet once a week and it is obviously completely non-work related with its fluffy pink feathers and bright green mask. So it was a bit of fun, you go along, you learn, you meet people, I love it.

Music by the Orbweavers

“I'm very happy with where I have ended up...”

Image Gallery

Karen Jakubec at her desk Karen ponders the loans paperwork.