Registrar Trek goes Milano!

Dear Registrar Trekkers,

I’m all excited that I will present a short paper together with Rupert Shepherd from the National Gallery in London at the CIDOC Conference in Milano. It is called ”Spreading the word: Explaining what Museum Documentation is and why it’s important“. We are part of the ”Introduction to Documentation Standards“ session that is scheduled for the 4th of July, 4 to 6 p.m.

photo by hikersbay via pixabay

Duomo di Santa Maria Nascente (photo by hikersbay via pixabay)

At the moment we are finetuning our talk which will be about the importance of initiatives like the hashtag #MuseumDocumentation, this very blog and all other projects who aim to make documentation and collections management more visible for the public and decision makers.

As the CIDOC conference is part of the big ICOM conference it will also be a great opportunity to meet colleagues I haven’t seen in years as well as meeting people I know so far only from the internet. I’m especially excited that I will meet our Italian translator Marzia Loddo in person. 🙂

And of course, I will write a short report on how it’s been when I’m back. Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #CIDOC2016 if you want to know what is going on.

See you in Milano!

This post is also available in Italian translated by Silvia Telmon.


Nomenclature 17.2 – A Registrar’s Vision

CC0 - by Master Tux via pixabayOkay, I have a vision flashing in front of my eyes as I go through the database cropping photographs and renaming artifacts. Like the toasting fork that had been catalogued as a Pan, Roasting. My vision is of the future of the ungainly, poorly bound green book that tells me what I am and am not allowed to call these objects. Some of these things are difficult for a child of the mid twentieth century to identify. So I am seeing a future digital version of Nomenclature, and if you are willing to fork out the extra bucks, you get a version like Leafsnap where you photograph the item on your portable device and show it to the Nomenclature 17.2 program and it says, aha! And you say eureka! Because the device tells you what to call the item. How cool is that?

Anne T. Lane


Have a great time at ERC 2016 in Vienna, dear colleagues!

As we are close to the opening of the European Registrars Conference in Vienna, I wanted to send a quick reminder that we are glad to post session reports or general reviews and impressions about the conference at Registrar Trek. We already got some volunteers (thank you so much!) but we also have enough web space to post more reports. 🙂

I’m glad to inform you that Else Prüstner from the Steering Committee dropped me a line saying that the organizers are glad to provide information and help for our reporters. The ARC (Austrian Registrars Committee) colleagues who are with the organizing group will be visible at the conference, so just ask them for assistance if you have questions.

Have a wonderful time!


Unmanaged Collections is here – We celebrate with “The Outtakes”

As you know, I was taken a little by surprise by the publishing of “Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections”. Now, after I recovered, I’d like to celebrate with you, the readers of this blog and faithful supporters. I thought I’d compile a couple of “outtakes”, things and stories that didn’t make it into the book.

The Cover
ManagingC1-1oldI received a few compliments for the cover. Thanks a lot. Actually, the first cover looked a little different, as you can see in the picture.
As much as I loved the idea of having something shabby and chaotic and something clean and well-ordered on the cover I thought it didn’t convey the message clear enough, besides the fact that one could assume the bottles were emptied while writing the book…
I experimented with alternative pictures when Bernd, my colleague and significant other said “You know what? I think we can do it better!” A couple of hours later we were equipped with a collection of old toy cars, archival materials and camera equipment. We experimented with different setups which, quite to our surprise, revealed that a bunch of cars bagged and labeled looked a lot more chaotic than a line of cars without labels. So we ended up with the “parking lot of toy cars” you now see on the cover.
For those who desperately tried to match the cars of the picture below the title with the ones above: sorry, the upper ones are German while the lower ones are probably from the U.S. – and they never met each other.

More Stories!

There were a lot of awesome stories about unmanaged collections I heard along the way and I would have loved to publish them all. However, it didn’t always work out. Sometimes there was a change in upper management and people didn’t get permission, sometimes the work contracts ran out before the submission was approved, sometimes life just got in the way in some other form. I hope that I can publish some of these stories here on the blog some time in the future.
However, there was one story that always brought a smile on my face when I thought about it, but one I couldn’t use because… well, I somehow managed to delete that email and that way couldn’t get back to this person to ask permission. And even if I had the mail, I’m not sure if it would have been appropriate to publish it in the book. However, I think here is the time and place to share my smiles:
This person was interviewing for a position to manage an unmanaged collection. When they showed him/her the collection that was, as far as I recall, a shack crammed with objects from roof to floor he/she exclaimed “What the f**k??” Out loud in front of the people responsible for hiring. And got the job.

Curious Corrections!

My dear friend and colleague Darlene Bialowski certaily spent a crazy amount of time on this book project, helping me with corrections and conundrums. More than one time those corrections were not only helpful, but also hilarious. Like, when I discovered that yes, there is such a thing as too much documentation or when I asked her for the correct American term for the German “Sägebock”, sending a picture, and she answered: “‘the best assistant of the non-human variety’ tool I adore is called a ‘sawhorse’.” I don’t know how often I passed this phrase along since then…
When the final proofs came she realized that in one real-world example I used the term “tin can” and until she saw the picture of what it really was she always thought of it as, well, a can in which food is preserved. Only when she saw the picture she realized that it was actually a coffee pot. To correct this ambiguity I nearly ran out of correction signs:
correction oddity1

More Pictures!

When I was negotiating the contract the editor told me they would like to have pictures. I was so convinced that no one would be willing to share the crammed shacks of objects that I insisted on no pictures in the contract. To be honest, at this point I wasn’t even sure I could talk anyone into sharing real-world examples in written form…
Then, as I was collecting real-life stories I found many colleagues actually had pictures. Unfortunately now I already told some contributors that I don’t need pictures… I did what I always do when in doubt: I sent a mail to the RC-AAM listserv. I asked if anyone was willing to share their before/after pictures from their collections. I was delighted to receive a whole bunch of awesome unmanaged collections that became managed and most of them made it in the book.
One, however, I received after the deadline. It is Alicia Woods’ favorite picture of the place you will find in the book under the title “Artifact Morgue”:
Artifacat Morgue
That mannequin leg sticking out from between the shelves says all about unmanaged collections doesn’t it?


This post is also available in Russian translated by Helena Tomashevskaya.


Ooops- Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections is already out!

Yesterday, I was taken by surprise when our library sent me a mail that they had just received their copy of “Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections” and were about to catalog it. Two hours later I received an email from my dear colleague Susanne Nickel with congratulations as she received her copy. Throughout the whole day, while I was desperately waiting for an important transport to arrive at our museum, the mails from contributors saying “just received my copy” hit my inbox. It seemed like literally EVERYBODY had my book in hand before me.

When I finally came home my heart missed a beat when I saw a parcel sitting in my backyard – soaking wet in the pouring rain. But fortunately, when I opened it, all was well:

P1020449 (2)

The best news is: My publisher, Rowman & Littelfield has provided a special perk for you, our faithful readers: you can get 30% off the list price if you order it directly from them, see this flyer for details (unfortunately, this is only valid for U.S. orders):

Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections Flyer

Now, with one day delay I finally managed to inform you all. Thank you so much for the support and I’m about to produce a more thoughtful celebration post. 🙂


This post is also available in Italian, translated by Marzia Loddo and in Russian translated by Helena Tomashevskaya.


Beyond Shelf Life – A Registrar’s Garden Bench

Getting new shelves is good news for every registrar. More storage space, better storage conditions, you name it. But for some it doesn’t stop there. You know the wooden planks that keep the shelf parts separated on the pallets? Well, look what my colleague Bernd just built from it:


The plan is an adaption from Jay’s Custom Creations.


In Search of Reporters for ERC 2016 in Vienna!

Dear readers,

Totally unrelated cat content. But isn't she cute?

Registrar Cat wants YOU to volunteer. Well, kind of…

sometimes life gets in your way. Due to more important family duties I will not be able to attend the European Registrars Conference in Vienna (more info: next month. As I initially planned to inform you all with session reports I am now looking for volunteers to step up. Who will attend and feels like writing something about the event? Or reporting on a single session that inspired him or her? Or a session that made him/her mad? These reports are all very welcome. Please leave a comment if you are willing to volunteer.

Thank you all very much!


A thing that can do things – Taking a look at the Arduino from the perspective of a collections specialist

An Arduino with a LAN shield - a thing that can do MANY things

An Arduino with a LAN shield – a thing that can do MANY things

Being the collections manager for a Science and Technology Museum has a whole range of downsides. For example, you never, ever get big industrial storage halls so tight that dust and pests aren’t an issue, people think you are crazy when you insist on various security systems and archival packaging for “old junk” and one of your duties is to explain that, no, you don’t sell spare parts for vintage cars or old radios. But sometimes it has its advantages, for example that you are much closer to all those techy, nerdy things that happen “out there” (Because, yes, there IS a world outside of the museum, I know people who have been there).
One day a colleague showed me a little blue thing that was blinking frantically.

“What’s that?” I asked.
“An Arduino”, he replied.
“What’s an Arduino?”
“It’s an amazing little thing! It’s a thing that can do things. It can do everything!”

Basically, when he showed it to me all it could do was blink a little red LED. But as I was digging deeper I discovered that there is a whole community of makers out there who do amazing projects with that little thing. You can really do everything, from reading sensor data to steering an electric motor and everything in between. When I saw that someone had realized a game of Tetris inside of a pumpkin ( I was sold. I needed such a thing.

Actually, if you look sharp at the picture on the post for our second Registrar Trek Birthday 2015 you get the idea when I first made contact with this thing...

Actually, if you look sharp at the picture on the post for our second Registrar Trek Birthday 2015 you get the idea when I first made contact with this thing…

Granted, the moments when a registrar or collections manager is in urgent need of a tetris in a pumpkin are rather rare. But for a whole range of tasks it would be useful and – compared to a computer game in a pumpkin – not too hard to put into action.

How about an alarm when it’s much too bright in a gallery and someone should close those curtains? Or a data logger that writes temperature and humidity in your off-site storage to a SD card? If there is LAN or even WiFi available, it’s starting to get really interesting as you can monitor the climate via the internet and even get alerts on twitter or in your mail when someone turns on the light or a climate value exceeds a certain level.

The big advantage of the arduino is that you can do those projects yourself and at a reasonable price. It requires that you familiarize with the topic, but, compared to former times, you don’t have to be an expert in electronics to do it. The few necessary components are available via the internet and thanks to a large, world-wide community that is committed to the spirit of Open Source you find a solution or even complete code to nearly every problem which you can adapt to your own situation with a little thinking and a few changes.

The first thing that can do things that actually DOES things for the TECHNOSEUM: A data logger that records the climate in a certain area of our museum.

The first thing that can do things that actually DOES things for the TECHNOSEUM: A data logger that records the climate in a certain area of our museum.

Recently I have experimented a lot with this “thing that can do things”, so I plan to use this blog to present some of my projects that have to do with museum work every now and then for you to have a look and maybe try yourself. Our readers who are not so much into technology will hopefully forgive me. One or the other might even feel inspired to have a closer look into the world of microcontrollers…

For a start I suggest the starter kits who contain not only an arduino but a whole bunch of useful accessories like resistors, sensors and LEDs so you can experiment right there and then. There’s nothing more frustrating than missing one little component when you start learning and who has a fully equipped electronics workshop at home? Usually those kits come with some instructions for simple experiments (if they don’t, you can find plenty of them on youtube) that I highly recommend to conduct. Along with a general understanding of the topic you explore what can be done, may it be a tetris in a pumpkin or a data logger.

And there is one thing I can promise: when you manage that a little red LED is blinking exactly how you planned it for the first time, you get a feeling like you just discovered new territory…

This post is also available in Russian translated by Helena Tomashevskaya.


High-Flying Project: Reconstructing the Junkers J1

Ever happened to you? You lose sight of a former colleague or fellow student and then, years later, you stumble upon an awesome project, just to discover that exactly this colleague is involved. When I learned that there will be a kickstarter campaign to reconstruct the first all-metall aircraft, the Junkers J1, I, as a technology enthusiast, was excited.

The Junkers J 1

The Junkers J1, undergoing flight preparations in late 1915 in Döberitz, Germany

Even more when I learned that Fabian, my fellow Museum Studies graduate and colleague from the days we developed the clay brick exhibition at the Deutsches Museum in Munich was involved. Of course I had to support the campaign, so here he introduces the project:

Dear Collegues,

we start on May 2nd, one of the largest support campaign for a museum project in Europe at Kickstarter.

It is one of the most important pioneer aircraft, the Junkers J1 that should be reconstructed in a 1:1 scale model. The J1 was the world’s first all-metal aircraft and it had its first flight 100 years ago. It was such an important masterpiece of aviation, that it was exhibited in the Deutsches Museum Munich. However, the plane was unfortunately completely destroyed by a World War II bombing raid.

Our campaign will to support the detailed reconstruction by the technical museum “Hugo Junkers” in Dessau. Please help us to make our campaign a success by posting the J1 Project page ( Join in at our Kickstarter campaign ( For every amount donated, we have come up with something very special: a limited Junkers J1 wristwatch, a J1 model plane, a postcard set with 24 facsimile designs, aviator glasses and more.

Only when many supporters participate in the crowdfunding campaign, we can finance this ambitious project and rebuild the Junkers J1 on the basis of the original plans.

Many Greetings from Munich

Fabian Knerr



Waste Separation: What to do with old emails?

Oh, fear not, you who struggle with a crammed inbox. Just today a colleague sent me the ultimate answer to the question: “How to properly dispose of those spam mails, outdated telephone lists and irrelevant listserv postings?”



(In fact this crate was used to store a collection of enamel (German: “Email”) signs in the past who now have a new and better storage.)