Sarah Murray

Registrar and Collection’s Manager, Leeds Museums and Galleries

A big thank you to the UKRG for granting me a bursary to attend the 2022 European Registrars Conference in Strasbourg.

After some rather fraught days of booking and rebooking our train travel due to the strikes it was wonderful to arrive in the French town and catch up with colleagues old and new. We travelled as quite the contingent from Leeds: myself and Chris Bradley representing Leeds Museums and Galleries; Jen Kaines, Katie Robson and Jill McKnight from Royal Armouries and Abigail Harrison and Stuart Bowes from the University of Leeds. As such, I’ve been tasked with summarising the Leeds talks.

5th November 2022: Sustainable Strategies for Future Proofing the Workforce I – A Case Study of over 10 years of a Strategic Partnership. Part 1, Jen Kaines, Royal Armouries, Leeds & Abigail Harrison, University of Leeds & Yvonne Hardman, Leeds Museums and Galleries & Laura Bell, Royal Armouries, Leeds

Jen and Abigail spoke about the review they have done into 10 years of the trainee registrar scheme, which we run between Leeds Museums and Galleries, the Royal Armouries and University of Leeds. A group of Leeds students were tasked with interviewing past and present trainees and registrars who have led training since its inception. The research reviewed the success of the programme, where the former trainees are now, how our learning has evolved over the years and how we adapt to new challenges constantly as registrars, and how we often have to be the ones challenging difficult decisions. It also raised the profile of the registrar to this group of students on their MA course. Following on from this, Jen and Abigail are looking to the next step and how we continue to offer bespoke training; developing a qualification for upskilling registrars and collections managers, and on an international scale too.

5th November 2022: Sustainable Strategies for Future Proofing the Workforce II – ‘The New Normal’ Delivering Registrar Training in Partnership through Covid and Beyond. Part 2, Katie Robson, Royal Armouries, Leeds & Sarah Murray, Leeds Museums and Galleries & Jill McKnight, Royal Armouries, Leeds

Katie, Jill and myself used the session to talk about how the trainee scheme runs practically between our organisations. I talked about how we had to pivot overnight to online training and remote working and the impact this had on the trainee when lockdown first happened. We were grateful for all the online webinars that were launched by groups such as the UKRG and Collections Trust. Katie moved on to talk about how we have learnt from this experience now we have returned to the office and adapted to a more flexible way of working. The upshot has been more regular communication between ourselves and sharing of opportunities for the trainee to be involved in. Although we have predominantly reverted to the model of a chunk of time at each organisation instead of a hybrid system as we came out of lockdown, our arrangement is now more flexible to allow the trainee to move between sites when specific opportunities arise, such as firearms training and exhibition changeover experience. Jill concluded with her experience being a trainee and the variety of experiences it gave her working across the different institutions: Leeds as the largest local authority museum service in England and Royal Armouries a national institution, using this in subsequent roles within then sector, and how she has now returned to the Royal Armouries.

5th November 2022: Restricted Collections, Sector Standards, and Collaborative Insights: Registrar Practice from the Perspective of a PhD Researcher, Stuart Bowes, University of Leeds and Royal Armouries, Leeds

Stuart is working on the first PhD to focus on registrar work which is very exciting. The research is based on the restricted access of the weapons collections at the Armouries and the multitude of complications that adds for effective collections management, engagement and access, and how registrars manage this effectively – balancing practical, ethical, moral and legal obligations for ongoing collections care and development. Stuart has been really drilling down into the work of the registrar, how varied it is and how it involves advocating working with such a range of specialists and stakeholders within the museum and across the sector more widely.