The 2014 ERC Conference in Helsinki was rounded off by two sessions: We Were Promised Jetpacks: What Does the Future Hold for Registrars? and The Next Generation: Breaking Barriers with the Project Registrar Trek.
We Were Promised Jetpacks was presented by Tracey Berg-Fulton, a Contract Registrar and Museum Consultant from USA. The aim of the session was to discuss the possible, impossible and the improbable future for registrars, and museums in general.
The session began with an analogy to Pittsburgh (Tracey’s home town) and how the city has evolved and changed to shake off its old, industrial and dilapidated image and reinvent itself with a new economy based on the arts and technology, specifically bioscience. The future is about embracing change.
The rise of the digital age means that registrars will need to embrace digital developments and improve their knowledge in this area. The integrated nature of a digital future could mean that roles could change, requiring the skill sets of two or three current jobs and may herald the rise of the ‘digital specialist’. The use of digital technology in libraries was highlighted as an example of the direction in which museums could head.
This could lead to new partnerships and collaborations for registrars, such as working closer with marketing or outreach programmes to exploit online uses. An important development with the digital age will be the sharing and retention of knowledge and skills. Given the current economic position and the pressure on smaller museums, it is vitally important that this knowledge is not lost.
The session finished with a reminder that even with the increased development and importance of technology, people’s brains and knowledge will still be required.
The Next Generation was presented by Angela Kipp, Collection Manager at the Technoseum in Mannheim Germany and co-founder of Registrar Trek. The session discussed the ideas of the project ‘Registrar Trek: The Next Generation’, which is aimed at breaking down barriers worldwide. The project seeks to break three key barriers: linguistic, between colleagues and between institutions. The online project can be found at
The language barrier originally started this project. It began with three languages: English, Spanish and German; but now has 30 translators from 19 countries providing 16 different languages. The translations are done by a wide selection of people including museum workers, students, volunteers, interns and retired people.
The project is divided into four sections: Articles (which discuss broad points); Stories (describing real events); Toolbox (which includes practical solutions and facts); and Humour.
Stories are a good way to get across the practicalities of what registrars do, as it can be hard to explain in a few words what the role consists of. Anecdotes and day-to-day real-life activities will also be beneficial to students, as it will give them real insight to the job to go along with the formal teaching of knowledge and guidelines. The benefit of writing stories and articles for Registrar Trek is not only to help and encourage others, it can also be a chance of reflecting on our own position, looking at your own role and practices with fresh eyes and ideas. Sharing knowledge and engaging in museum topics worldwide will also encourage relationships and partnerships. The key aspect of Registrar Trek is that it is a common project of colleagues and to have collection professionals from around the world bringing in their views, their articles, and their stories.
Derek Swallow from the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada, spoke of his personal experiences and of the rewards of contributing. He has written articles on a new approach to conducting collections committee meetings, adopted recently at his museum, and raised the question ‘How does authenticity relate to collecting in the 21st-century museum?’ He has also discussed how our roles as registrars are perceived or misperceived by both the general public and other museum employees.
Derek explained that the feedback he received has helped evolve and clarify his ideas as a professional and develop connections with colleagues in Europe, North America and Africa.
After the two sessions the conference closed with an invitation from our American colleagues to the ARCS Conference in New Orleans in November 2015 () and the announcement that the next ERC conference with be held in… to be confirmed!