Introducing Adam

Image: Head and shoulders shot of man in front of flaking brown paint on woodAdam Paterson is one of two curators at the South Australian Maritime Museum. He works on exhibitions, research and collection management, among other things.

Becoming a Curator

I never really decided to become a curator! I’ve always loved visiting museums and heritage sites and that passion eventually led me to pursue a career in the heritage sector. I worked for many years as a heritage consultant before starting post graduate research examining the consumption of heritage in Port Adelaide, including the SA Maritime Museum. Of course when the opportunity to join the SA Maritime Museum came up I jumped at it!

It was while Adam was studying for his PhD, now completed, that he first came into contact with the Maritime Museum. Researching the phenomenon of heritage led naturally to the Museum. When a position opened up towards the end of his studies it seemed a natural fit and great opportunity to build on the work already underataken in partnership.

Day to Day

Adam describes the SA Maritime Museum as a small to medium sized Australian museum and says this means the curatorial role is very broad.

We research the museum collection, usually with an exhibition in mind to guide our research; I’m currently working on a concept for a whaling exhibition. We respond to public enquiries about the collection, assess any potential acquisitions, and maintain the museums object catalogue.


I really enjoy the variety of the work, but I most love developing exhibitions. Being able to work creatively with historical research and material culture is really exciting.

Adam names the Living in Port exhibition as his proudest moment to date. This exhibition saw an overhaul of some of the ‘permanent’ galleries in the museum that told the story of the local area. Adam’s work revitalised the display and brought new objects, stories and interactive elements into the previously tired gallery.

Living in Port was the first exhibition that I curated and it has a special meaning for me, I developed a strong connection to Port Adelaide and its stories prior to starting the exhibition and it was a great outlet for me to explore that. Working with designers Mulloway Studio the aesthetic of the gallery was radically changed, making it a unique and exciting space in the museum.

The exhibition has since been the inspiration for a walking tour app that Adam has plans to further develop this year.

Getting to know Adam

When asked what his colleagues might not know about him Adam revealed that he fences.

i.e. the sport of fencing, not making fences

We’ll be making sure we’re careful about how we take Adam on in curators meetings in future!


  • Dave says:

    With the passion he always had for the heritage to be found in Port Adelaide, what an asset to the curatorial team Adam has become, now that he is onboard at the SA Maritime Museum. Looks like he is fitting in well and has already accredited himself well with the ‘Living in Port exhibition’. Can’t wait to see how the whaling exhibition concept turns out. Maybe while he’s working on it, everyone should call him “Ishmael”? (Ref. Ch.1, ‘Moby Dick’)

  • Catherine Manning says:

    Yes we think he’s doing great work Dave!

  • Heather says:

    Congratulations Adam

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