Inside the Collection

Meet the curator – Paul Donnelly

Portait, Paul Donnelly.
Photography by Sarah Rhodes ⓒ Powerhouse Museum. All rights reserved.

Paul Donnelly

What is your specialty area?
Curators ‘specialities’ seem to grow by the year (!) but my background research is the Bronze-Age archaeology of Jordan and Syria, and I look after numismatics, antiquities, ceramics of Europe and the Mediterranean region (before 1700), and Australian ceramics. At the moment 20th century furniture is also part of my dilettante empire!

How long have you been working at the Museum?
Over twenty years and still loving it!

What is your favourite object in the collection?
I often ponder this and find it hard to prioritise one that is special in a specific area compared to other objects that are special in other areas! I love the Bugatti racer, but then again I really appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of the Japanese lacquered hair-comb collection, the finery of which contrasts to the historical significance of the Boulton & Watt engine or the rarity of the Hope Chairs . . . . perhaps I’ll add to this daily . . . ?!

What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum?
The 1000 Years of the Olympic Games was an amazing exhibition with which to be involved. It was the premier cultural event of the Sydney Olympic Games and a real coup to have antiquities on loan from Greece. On a personal level it was a great thrill going to Greece and seeing the items – and then when they were here in Australia I could hardly believe that the Museum was host to so many iconic pieces that years before at university had only been pictures in books.

5 responses to “Meet the curator – Paul Donnelly

  • Ye gods. The man looks like a Bond villian. Though he seems more interested in chairs than shark-tanks and butchering Mi6 agents.


    • Dear Mr. Donnelly

      I am researching Aboriginal swords. I recently saw a collection of them and am seeking further information about them. They were made from meteors and were passed down through families and were a form of numismatics. Sometimes the handles were separated from the sword. The handles are an artform unto themselves.

      If you have any information or can point me a direction it would be much appreciated. Thank you, D. Bruno

  • Dear Paul,
    we met on the SHAJ Conference in Sydney some years ago. Now, I am working in Jordan on Tall Zira’a. I can remember, that you were writing your PhD thesis about chocolote-on-white ware. Did you publish it? It would be nice, if you could give me a hint where I can get your thesis.
    Thank you in advance and best regards,
    Dr. Jutta Häser
    Director GPIA Amman

  • Dear Paul,

    thank you very much for your hint. This piece was found in a LB II level. For the time being, we reached the MB levels only in a small area. Therefore, we do not have so much MB material until now.
    However, next year we excavate the three lower levels of the LB city and will reach the MB levels in a larger extent.
    If you are interested (and you have the time) to read more about the site, you will find the complete list of publications on our homepage “Gadara Region Project” “Publications”. A good overview give the article in “Near Eastern Archaology” 70/3 (2007). The latest article has been published in ADAJ 52.

    Best wishes,

    2009/5/21, Donnelly, Paul :
    Dear Jutta

    There are rarely two the same so the variety is almost endless! The
    type you have in terms of fabric, finish and style is also found at
    Pella – no doubt
    – and you will see similar in my thesis. Is it from levels of early LB?


    Dr Paul Donnelly
    Curator, Design, History, and Society
    Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, PO Box K346, Haymarket, Sydney
    Australia 1238
    T: 61-(0)2-92170185 F: 61-(0)2 – 92170355

    From: Jutta Häser
    Sent: Thursday, 21 May 2009 3:54 AM
    To: Donnelly, Paul
    Subject: chocolate-on-white-ware

    Dear Paul,

    thank you very much for your offer to look at some of our material. At
    the moment we have problems with one jar which you will find in the
    attachment. It has two triangles side by side and no other designs in
    between. All comparisons which we found have change between a
    triangle, another design, a triangle. Do you know a good comparison
    for this piece?

    With my best regards,

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