By Maggie Radd, Director of Registration and Exhibitions

The Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists (ARCS) annual conference took place in Philadelphia from November 7-9, 2019. The mission of ARCS is to represent and promote Registrars and Collection Specialists, to educate the profession in best practices of registration and collections care, and to facilitate communication and networking.

ARCS conference ID
Photo credit: Maggie Radd, Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

This ARCS Conference had record attendance, with as many as 890 Registrars, Collections Specialists and Fine Art Shippers flocking from across the globe. I was privileged to be among them alongside Rose Durand, the Museum’s Assistant Registrar. As the Museum’s Director of Registration I am responsible for collections care. This means implementing policies and procedures enforcing best practice focusing on the stewardship of collections and exhibitions, including object handling, housing, documentation, shipping, and data management. In short, Registrars are the custodians of the Museum’s Collection.

On November 8th, I had the honor of sitting on a panel among peers and friends. The session, Two Peas in a Crate: Crossover between Museum Registration + Fine Art Shipping, was an all-female panel looking to explore the cross pollination between Registrars and Fine Art Shippers.

ARCS 2019 Conference session
Photo credit: Amy Linker, CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art

In my 20+ years in the Museums and Fine Art Shipping industry, I have crossed the aisle between Registrar and Shipper more than once. For six years I focused on exhibition logistics with one of the leading fine art shipping companies. Spread across three museums, I have a combined 18 years of Registration experience.

The other members of this panel shared the same history of having been on both sides of the industry, often collaborating together – even sometimes switching job roles with each other.

ARCS Conference seminar
Photo Credit: Qinglian Zhang, Gallery Systems

The 30 minute session, explored our cumulative 100+ years of experience in the Museums and Fine Art Shipping Industry. Each panelist offered her insight into the changing and evolving relationship between the Registrar – who facilitates the contracts, assembly, and safe carriage (with endless etceteras…) of exhibitions, donations, and loans – and the Fine Art Shipper who answers the same call from the perspective of a service provider.

Each profession is the flip side to the same coin. Each professional is equal parts magician and logistical mastermind. We’ve evolved from the quiet librarian types vs the rough and tumble blue collar truckers, to a more thorough and thoughtful blending of skillsets and partnership. This is in no small part due to the widespread increase of crossover and cross training. This hybridization was not only represented in the panel but also in the audience as a show of hands revealed. Both sides of the aisle are being elevated as we seek to be more in tune with the other, more transparent, and more educated about all the moving parts related to the packing, shipping and display of Museum’ Collections.

In light of the panel’s brevity, we set up a Forum on the ARCS website to continue to discussion, including the possibility of future cross training opportunities.

I wish to extend my sincere thanks and admiration for my exceptional co-presenters, many of whom were (like me) first-time presenters. Honorary mention to Lydia Rivera for being a masterful facilitator, wrangler, timekeeper and ultimate cheerleader.

Panel Participants

Panel Participants
Maggie Radd, Director of Registration and Exhibitions, Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (1st from Left); Kim Schantz, Senior Project Manager of Exhibitions at Atelier 4 (2nd from Left); Sirena Maxfield, Museum and Exhibition Services, Masterpiece International (3rd from Left); Naomi Abe, Registrar, The Getty Villa (4th from Left); Amy Linker, Registrar, CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art (5th from Left)  | Photo Credit: Jonathan Schwartz, Atelier 4