Edinburgh 2012

8th European Registrars Conference

5-6 November 2012

Edinburgh, Pentland Auditorium

Think smart!

Public resources are dwindling: this was the premise and framework of almost all the speeches at the conference in Edinburgh. The economic crisis is overwhelming public administrations in European countries and forcing museums and cultural venues to come up with new ideas and a new approach to work. How can collection directors and registrars cope with the enormous difficulties caused by cuts? This is the meaning of the Think Smart title of the conference.

Any proposals?
With dwindling resources, it is necessary to reinvigorate the cultural offer in simple and convenient ways. For example, by responding to the public’s demand for in-depth cultural information with a greater curatorial and popularising commitment.
In a brilliant talk, Paolo Viscardi, naturalist and curator of the Horniman Museum & Garden in London, demonstrated how to attract the public’s curiosity by deepening studies of objects in the collections to offer non-trivial information. Their museum chose to increase access to the collections in storage and to strengthen the benefits of collaborative work with projects such as ‘Object in focus’: single objects not particularly valued in the museum are reinterpreted and exhibited in small local museums that become co-organising partners. In other words, a smarter approach to lending is a way to maximise the potential of collections, developing collaborations between parties and supporting the sector and its own organisation.

Leeds Museums, on the other hand, focused on training and collaboration with the university and local government. In 2009 they developed a training model for future registrars, a specific museum internship project aimed at graduates with the objective of facilitating their entry into the sector. The training, which is of a very high quality and partly paid, is based not only on practical experience but also on knowledge of museums and disciplines related to museum work. The internship programme enables the student in the postgraduate schools of Art History and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds to gain experience of working as a registrar in national and local museums. And at the same time undergraduate study provides the necessary knowledge to place the role of registrar in the right context.

The intervention of a group of French registrars from AFROA was devoted to travelling exhibitions and collections, with which French museums seek new financial revenue. While until a few years ago, travelling exhibitions of collections mainly concerned museums under renovation, these are now projects that respond to the growing problem of self-financing.
The Grand Palais, which has no collections of its own and is only an organiser, co-organised 13 travelling exhibitions with collections of other museums in 2011-12. The Centre Pompidou and the Louvre opened new venues (Centre Pompidou Metz and Louvre Lens). Several projects aim at enhancing museum collections with exhibitions in national venues and abroad at co-organising institutions that are also interested in the know-how of French museums, which thus even ‘export’ curators and registrars. As in the case of the travelling exhibition organised in Azerbaijan by French registrars who were there for two months to plan transport and train the local team. From the former Soviet countries, which are quite rich and resourceful, comes a strong cultural demand for Europe.
For French museums, in short, it has become normal to share the organisation of incoming and outgoing exhibitions with other institutions. This implies a new management by the museum.
From the registrars’ point of view, how are these initiatives managed? How do they share responsibilities, costs and organisation? What are the new tasks of registrars?
In a workshop organised in Paris in June 2012, AFROA gathered the experiences of 30 registrars and exhibition co-ordinators on shared costs and responsibilities; loan requests; transport and escorts; contracts; insurance; conservation. The results of the survey will be published on the AFROA website.
The French registrars concluded by saying that the most useful tools to face the new challenges can be summarised as follows: anticipate – communicate – share.
Think fair! The registrar is increasingly a project manager.

Other speeches and parallel sessions covered specific topics, including the government guarantee in the relationship with private individuals, due diligence, immunity from seizure, European standards in the field of transport, and also a speech by a representative of the Egyptian committees of registrars, curators and conservators set up after the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ to inventory and document damage and draw up lists of lost works.

At the end of the proceedings, greetings from the various associations present and a farewell visit to Helsinki, venue of the next conference in June 2014.

Plenary Session 1: Think Smart! Partnerships and Sharing
Opening introductions
Jon Astbury, Chair of the UKRG

Reform and Cuts
Jeff Dunn, Glasgow Museums

Smarter Loans
Sally Colvin, Museums Association

Objects in Focus – Smarter Loaning
Helen Merret & Paolo Viscardi, Horniman Museum, London

Sharing Collections
Jacqueline Ridge, National Galleries of Scotland

All panel discussion and open floor debate
Chair Kate Parsons, Tate, London

Parallel Session 1: Think Smart! Partnerships and Sharing
Museum partners with model maker’s guild to save collection
Lynn-Marie Richard, Maritime Museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Think  Smart – Registrar training for the future
Jen Kaines,  A Harrison Moore,  & Cassia Pennigton

Due diligence
Freda Matassa, Freelance Registrar, London

The importance of materials & case construction
National Galleries of Scotland Technicians with Momart

Shipping & Couriering Objects by Air
David Giles, Momart and Duncan Capp, Constantine

Parallel Session 2: Think Smart! Digital
The narrative of objects: conservation, capture and collaboration
Arielle Juler and Paul McNulty, National Galleries Scotland

Towards a paperless print room
Sheila Perry and Ottavia Tonelli, National Galleries Scotland

The ups and downs of collections and technology
Tracey  Berg-Fulton, Pennysylvania, USA

Touring Exhibitions – Contracts and Public Bids from an Agent’s Perspective
Ben Adams, Constantine, LP Art, France and SIT, Spain

The importance of materials & case construction
National Galleries Scotland Technicians with Momart

Shipping & Couriering Objects by Air
Stuart Brown, Momart and Duncan Capp, Constantine

Parallel Session 3: Think Smart! Moral, Ethical & Practical Considerations
Shared Liabilities
Blackwall Green

Public Benefit and Private Interest
Daniel Slater, White Cube, London

After the Revolution
Ghada Tarek and Doha Fathy, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran
Dean Baylis, British Museum

The New European Packing and Transport Standard
Freda Matassa,  Florence Caillieret,  Valerie Haerden, Cindy Zalm

Smarter Exhibitions
Jane Knowles, Royal Academy, London and Francesco Donadio, Constantine

Project Management for Museum decants
Mark Hunt, Constantine and the Imperial War Museum

Object Movement & Technical Project Management
John Kidd, Momart

Customs Awareness
Steve Gourley, Momart

Plenary Session 2: Think Smart! Income Generation
Maximising your collection: creating a touring exhibition with AFA
Jennifer Hefner and Anna Evenhouse, American Federation of Arts

Touring Exhibitions and Collections
M. Etave,  R. Beaujean-Deshamps,  L. Petit,  K. Cartacheff, V. Lagane, S. Maziere, France

Concessions for cash or the new way forward?
Janice Slater, National Gallery of Scotland

Closing Address and hand over to the 2014 Organising Committee

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