Chi siamo

Profession Registrar

The job of managing, from an organizational point of view, incoming exhibitions and outgoing loans is assigned, in practically all international museums and now also in many Italian institutions, to a well-defined professional figure, equipped with specific professional competences, universally identified with the term Registrar, a term which is “not easily translatable in Italian given the range of his tasks in liaising among the diverse competences of the consignee, the curator/director, the restorer, and the professional figures operating outside the museum” (Guidelines on technical and scientific criteria and the standards of functioning and development of museums).

In the United States, this figure has been active in the more important museums since the 50s, and the professionals who perform this function are joined in the Registrar’s Committee, which has been recognized by the American Association of Museums (AAM) since 1978. In Great Britain, the registrar emerged in the early 70s, paving the way for the foundation in 1979 of the Registrar’s Group, which counts some 250 members. In recent years the figure has gained recognition in the more important museums of France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. France and Germany have their own associations, the Association Française Regisseurs Oeuvres d’Arte (AFROA) and Registrars Deutschland, respectively, while the Spanish counterpart is ARMICE.

The tasks assigned to the registrar may vary according to the size of the museum and depending on its internal organization. Basically, however, the registrar is the person who is responsible for everything involved in the ‘movement’ of a work of art (especially in connection with loans), the relative documentation and the procedures that regulate the movement.

The Outgoing or Loans Registrar bears the responsibility for every phase of the transport of an artwork once the direction of the lending museum has given its consent and laid down the conditions regulating the loan. The tasks of the registrar include handling the correspondence with the organizers of the exhibition, obtaining the necessary authorizations, taking care of the documentation, insurance, packing and accompanying of the work by a museum courier, all the while coordinating the work with all the other professional figures involved in the operation. In the meantime, the registrar records and archives the ‘historical’ documentation of the loans granted by the museum over time.

In some museums the Outgoing or Loans Registrar is also responsible for movements within the museum, the management of deposits and the legal aspects of acquisitions and donations.

The Exhibitions Registrar performs the same duties for the counterpart, that is, for the institution that has requested the loan. His or her job begins at the moment in which the scientific committee or the curator of the exhibition supplies the list of the works to be exhibited. Following the indications provided by the coordinator/curator of the exhibition, the registrar has the requests for loans sent, takes care of the ensuing correspondence with the lenders, checks the contracts and lending agreements, gathers, arranges and distributes to the various interlocutors the information about the works necessary for the realization of the exhibition, collaborates on drawing up the budget and the call for bids, coordinates and oversees the operations involving insurance, transport, reception and the supervision and the placement of the works to be displayed.

In the world’s larger museums, or those with a more complex organizational structure, the duties described above are split between the Exhibition Coordinator (who handles the contractual relations with the lenders and the overall organizational coordination of the project) and the Registrar (whose role, in such cases, is limited to logistic aspects, transport and insurance). Similarly, the handling of outgoing loans is divided between the Collections Manager and the Outgoing or Loans Registrar.

In both cases, the importance of this figure lies in the role of liaising between the management of the museum, the scientific curators of the collection or exhibition and the practical realization of the exhibition. One of the principle tasks of the registrar consists in fact in collecting information (from the curator, the restorers, and the keepers of the collections), organizing it, and redistributing it to the various interlocutors (shippers, insurers, installers, etc.) to ensure that the complex machine of the loan or the organization of the exhibition runs smoothly.

In Italy, the figure of the registrar appears for the first time in a document of the Public Administration in the “Guidelines on technical and scientific criteria and the standards of functioning and development of museums.” In the document the registrar is described as the person “who creates, documents and organizes all the acts relative to the loan of an artwork”.

In the Introduction to the volume Registrar di Opere d’Arte. Atti della Terza Conferenza Europea, published by Registrarte, then General Director for historical and artistic heritage writes: “The registrar is in particular responsible for the holding of what we could call the procedural chain, making sure that there are no weak links, that is moments of risk for the safety, protection and conservation of the works. It is a job that requires not only specific competences but also a deep-seated sense of responsibility, the ability to deal with the unexpected, and a spirit of service and collaboration”.