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 befor 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:

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. 🙂


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…

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.)

Unmanaged Collections – Final Adjustments


Maybe you wonder how the book project about managing unmanaged collections is going. Well, last week I got the proofs from the production editor so at the moment I spend much of my free time proof reading. I contacted all the contributors so they can check their real-world examples and photo attributions and add their corrections.

In addition I’m creating the index which is not as easy as I thought. My assumption was that I more of less type a search term, let the computer scan the document, note the pages where the search term does appear and that’s that. Now I realized it doesn’t work that way. My experience with museum documentation could have told me that it doesn’t work that way… Here’s why:

Let’s say someone wonders if there is something about “deaccessioning” in the book. Well, there are a lot of pages where I talk about making decisions what to keep in the collection and what not, but chances are I did not use the term “deaccessioning” on those pages. Of course, the computer would skip those pages. So, as I read through the page proofs I take notes of keywords I think would make sense in an index and write down the page numbers.

I do this on outdated business cards, which I haven’t thrown away because you never know when you need a set of small but sturdy cards of the same size. Well, now, about 10 years after they became outdated they finally found their new purpose. I sort the keywords in alphabetical order so when I come across a term I already noted I can find it quick and add the next page number. I decided to collect broad, write down whatever I think might be helpful instead of being too restrictive. I will decide on the terms that will finally make it to the index at the end of the process. While “deaccessioning”, “collections policy” or “cataloging” will definitely make it to the final index, I’m not that sure about “Grandmother’s Fixes“, “upper management, dealing with” or “numbers, spellbound by”.

What is really interesting is that these cards even now show somehing like a topography of that book. “Hazards” seems to be the most important topic, with 12 mentionings thus far and I’m only half way through. Well, let’s see if it will stay that way. Onward! I have to meet that deadline so this book can be out in May.


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

From “Kojak” to “Go-Jacks”

Go-Jacks Image :

Image :

This day you are translating an article for Registrar Trek, and you discover that what carriers call “Kojak” (term you thereby always use since you had to use it to move carriages) are called in reality “Go-Jacks”…


(Update of the vocabulary in my little head : done !)



Demonstration of the use of Go-Jacks :
The article that enabled this discovery : Art work, Artefact, Auto, and Pop-Culture Shrine, Part 2


Préparation des « petites charriotes » qui seront visibles à la ré-ouverture de la Galerie des Carrosses du Château de Versailles dès mai 2016.  Image : © Aurore T

Preparation of the « little carts » which will be visible at the re-opening of the Gallery of Carriages at the Palace of Versailles in May 2016.
Image : © Aurore T

Awesome Picture of the Day: Box Construction

I work with a lot of awesome people. Of course I know that, but every now and then I even get a reminder. While tidying our packing space I found a piece of paper where one of our assistants has carefully constructed a custom box for one of our vacuum tubes. I couldn’t bring myself to just throw it away, I had to share it with all you packing nerds out there:

kiste roehren

Whooops – Little Registrar sent a note to you all, but shouldn’t have…

Dear Readers,

please accept my apologies that our faithful newsletter informed you about a post that was password protected. This was a mistake, as we are testing our new data logger at the moment and I needed a website to test if we all could have access to our climate dates from all over the world (or, in fact, from all our storages and offices). Didn’t have an idea that this would be sent out via our RSS feed just like any other blog post.

Well, anyway, to keep you in the loop: what is happening at the moment?

Over Christmas I was experimenting with arduino and other microcontroller boards. Of course, even if I try to do something just for fun, I end up doing something museum related. As I needed something to build, I built a data logger. And if it’s already built, why not take it to work with me?

There it glows... the experimentation zone at Christmas.

There it glows… the laboratory at Christmas.

At the moment one little prototype of the “Little Registrar” keeps a good watch over our climate in one of our offsite storages and sends its data to a website. And since this week this other little fellow records the climate in a storage room at our museum and logs it to a SD-Card:


As you see by the q-tip that serves as the restart button this is all in the prototyping stage at the moment. In fact, the “Q-tip Registrar” was a quick answer to an urgency call by our conservators. Assembled with parts I still had at hand, including an old cardboard box, a screw anchor, some ethafoam and, yeah, a q-tip.

Those who follow @RegistrarTrek on twitter know that I promised to write what we did and how and I will do, as soon as we passed the prototyping stage (and stopped creating e-mail bombs).

Have a great weekend, all!

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