Thursday, July 16, 2009

Behind the Scenes: What's a Registrar?

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar
The job of a museum registrar is one that is often the least understood, and the registrar’s office the least visited or seen by the public and even other museum staff. This is because registrars are inherently concerned with the care and security of the collection and its files, and work in areas of the museum that have high security access. Although a registrar’s work is mostly behind the scenes, their job is extremely important.

Registrars typically have cross-disciplinary education and training and work closely with the Collections, Exhibitions and Security staff at the museum. Because there aren’t many formal classes for registration as a profession, one often learns how to be a registrar by working under a mentor. Many people become museum registrars unintentionally, finding over the course of their studies or career that their skills and interests make them perfect for the position. You must like detail oriented work and have great multitasking and organizational skills to be a successful registrar!
What exactly does a registrar do, you ask? Well, the registrar really wears many hats. Among other things, the registrar is responsible for overseeing the institution’s collections files and database, managing incoming and outgoing exhibitions loans, coordinating and updating insurance coverage, processing new acquisitions, overseeing rights and reproductions requests, and ensuring the security and care of collections and loaned objects and constantly monitoring their location and condition.
Museum registrars often spearhead the design and installation of exhibitions. As compared to some smaller institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum has an entire exhibitions team that takes on this responsibility. This allows me much needed time to manage the logistics of paperwork, shipping, condition reporting and insurance for the many incoming loans. For example, our current exhibit America’s Rome has 24 lenders and 134 objects that the Registrar must oversee!
Next time you wonder how the artwork you see in a gallery at Fenimore Art Museum made it there or how it is cared for, think of me. You may not see me but I’m happily working hard behind the scenes to make it all happen.

1 comment:

LS said...

It is good to hear from those who 'get the job done'. American's Rome sounds like an interesting exhibition I hope I get to see it.
Linda Stubbs, NYC

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