All posts by Fernando

BA, MA in History and Theory of Arts, more courses on Museology and Epistemology. Since 1986 Registrar (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas); since 1993 advisor for registration, documentation and cataloguing of museum and heritage collections. Teacher, lecturer and speaker for different universities in Venezuela. Teacher of networks on registration, documentation and cataloguing of museum and heritage collections at the Instituto Latinoamericano de Museos ILAM, sited in San José, Costa Rica. Editor of the Section "Let's talk about..." of its website, and Project Manager.

Registering furniture and appliances: contemporary art (video-sculptures, multimedia, installations)

With the typical humor of a registrar we could introduce the amusing but serious working hypothesis that registering some contemporary art involves dealing with appliances and furniture. But actually, the artist’s talent has found new ways that transcend the search for originality and pleasure of modern art and modifies them into other, dynamic forms of sensitivity, communication and stimulation of the senses.


Artistic installation on the communication between a couple (Museum for Communication, Berlin). (picture: dalbera from Paris).

So let’s reformulate the hypothesis: these artistic approaches are much more than furniture and appliances. Ergo, to register these works is much more than documenting furniture and appliances. Once they enter a museum collection, they have other implications for the registrar, as well as the curators and the conservators are faced with new challenges. Actually, the registrar is closely linked to the conservation and curatorial instances.


Jean-Louis Boissier. Globus oculi. Interactive video-installation, 1992-1993.

Pipiloti Rist

Himalaya Goldsteins Stube, (Himalaya Goldstein’s Living Room), 1999
Audio/video installation with 13 video projections, 11 players, orange seat, red sofa, desk lamp, high sideboard, low sideboard, chair, table and bar (all with built in players), lamps, wallpaper mounted on wood, audio system, 4 speakers. (Installation by Pipilotti Rist, view at Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich; photo by Alexander Tröhler)
This work is a registrar’s delight …

To the point: what is contemporary art?

There are artworks stylistically classified as “contemporary art”, and among them I will talk about the installations, sculptures, video, multimedia, space interventions, ephemeral art and performances. Defined by the time of creation (after the 1960’s) and other speeches, communication, (re) signification, spatiality, context, they are different from modern art, and break previous aesthetic codes.
Modern art has particular implications, but contemporary art has more technical and technological implications, aesthetic, and conceptual significance: it must be registered as an object in an expanded context.

The registrar requires additional criteria for proper registration, cataloging, documentation and control of this art when it becomes part of a museum collection. For these works of art, the classical concept of “technical data” is far too limited. Contemporary art has additional issues that have to be detected and incorporated into the process of extended registration and get recognized in the data base: labels (tags) and controlled terminologies, fields for free text to add “non-controlled” definitions, taxonomies and folksonomies, conceptual references, indications and aspirations of the artists, measurement that need more advanced measurement technologies than a folding rule, specific requirements of storage and installation, etc. These additional criteria allow better coverage of the material dimension through its extended technical data, and the abstract dimension through its potential meanings. Manuals have been published for the registration of these goods: in Latin America edited by Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos DIBAM of Chile, and Colombian Ministry of Cultura COLCULTURA of Colombia; in Canada by institutions such as the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) and in Spain by the Subdirección General de Museos Estatales (State Board of Museums), among others.

A registrar for contemporary art

For years, I referred to the registrar of collections as a pre-curator and re-powered. This is the leading professional that manages paper and digital files, that computerizes linear search records of typed text so they become nonlinear hypertext information which allows extended and better research. This registrar registers the technical data of objects with appropriate criteria, which will incorporate those aspects of extended information plus certain levels of meaning, relationship and contextualization. This breadth of registration is required because such objects are cultural creations, and these elements of meaning-relation are also part of the technical data of an enhanced registration. So, a registrar that is a re-powered pre-curator relates more actively with the curatorial instances, without invading other spaces, but enhancing his own in the museum. This is an important step with which the registrar is no longer just the scriptwriter of technical information, and it encourages him / her to exercise more capabilities and criteria. If you read some “classic” texts on registration, written thirty years ago you will perceive some differences: in the last paragraph of the original Spanish text of Concha Vela entitled “El Departamento de registro del MoMA” [Registration Department of the MoMA] written in the 1980’s, you will read that “the Registrar must deal with the physical aspects of the art, not the aesthetics”. But beware! In contemporary art the aesthetic aspects not simply refer to the “beautiful”, they also refer to the languages of art, their codes, their meanings, their senses. The material and the abstract are inseparable here.

"bfgf" by Nam Jun Paik. Imagine registering each and every monitor! (picture: Patrick Denker)

“bfgf” by Nam June Paik. Imagine registering each and every monitor! (picture: Patrick Denker)

The registrar as a pre-curator registers art objects, their meanings and aesthetic, as part of expanded technical data. And for contemporary art, he / she records the televisions, computers, media players, chairs and tables that such installations or settings consist of, as well as their contexts. But the registrar must not register only those materials and technical components of a work of contemporary art. Registering contemporary art (not in the sense of “fine arts”) implies to register objects as “artistic unborn.” He must also register purely virtual art (or born-digital), not material, that “doesn’t exist” if there is no computer, software and a monitor to play it.

So how and what will we register?

In the edition of the 2010 Turner Prize, art critics and artists in the UK have honored Susan Philipsz. The winning work is a video in which she sings traditional Scottish songs, in three scenes, each under a different bridge in the city of London. You can see this video, “Songs of the City“, on Youtube. The video is owned by the Tate Gallery in London.

Now, if that same work arrives at our office in the registrar’s department, how do we proceed and what will register? A video? A musical recording? An installation? A virtual or ephemeral art? A landscape “Bridges in the city” or “The River Thames”? What will be their “image” as a work, one or all photograms? What are the technical requirements for playback? What are the physical dimensions and should these include the three-dimensional space of “installation”? Does the work “include” a DVD player, a monitor or a CD? And how will we formally correct record this masterpiece? Under what category item should we record it in our catalog? What kind of information fields do we need and are appropriate? What kind of conceptual references or tags do we have? Is it a work of art only when it is being played? Hypothesis, please!
Different, but with additional implications is the installation (which does not consist of televisions, computers, cables, monitors) of Joseph Beuys: The end of the twentieth century, 1982-83, exhibited in the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.

(picture: Velvet)

Beuys: The end of the twentieth century. 1982-83 (picture: Velvet)

Let us review the concept of Installation (contemporary art). Wikipedia says: “Installation art can be either temporary or permanent. Installation artworks have been constructed in exhibition spaces such as museums and galleries, as well as public and private spaces. The genre incorporates a broad range of everyday and natural materials, which are often chosen for their ‘evocative’ qualities, as well as new media such as video, sound, performance, immersive virtual reality and the internet. Many installations are site-specific in that they are designed to exist only in the space for which they were created”. This shows that installations have features that must be addressed as a new issue for the conservator-restorer, the curator, and of course the registrar: it is a clash with common ways and procedures established for artworks, may they be modern, ancient or traditional. And they also show the need to update our collections criteria as registrars.

Vieja iglesia. Pared de pan. Instalación de arte efímero

Old church, Amsterdam. Bread wall. Ephemeral art installation (picture: Becky Houtman)

Let us also take a look at video sculpture, multimedia, ephemeral art, installations, conceptual art … Registrars that are pre-curators carry on keeping the paperwork organized, registering the object materials that when combined produce a type of art. We also think about them as cultural-aesthetic objects which makes it necessary to register the senses, aesthetics, communication processes and contexts that are generated from these objects, organized according to the direction given by the artist (that’s what makes art). To do that, we must have professionally updated criteria, without which we simply make “a list” of appliances and furniture materials.

For multimedia art forms (also called mixed media or media art), there is an indispensable site: the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). One of its materials is entitled “Media Art and Museums: guidelines and case studies”, that is providing a definition of this art and its documentation, conservation and case studies. Also enter
There’s only a thin line between some manifestations of contemporary art, many are very close related. What’s in this guideline helps us when we work with video sculpture, video art or installations containing elements common to all. In the case of ephemeral art we have a big problem, because it does not last. It is art that disappears shortly after being created, and brings conceptual challenges for the registrar: register the object, the concept, a photo, the idea? It helps a lot to be a pre-curator registrar who has thought about this long before the first piece of ephemeral art drops on his desk..

Conservation issues of this art that the registrar must know

A registrar who has to deal with contemporary art in his collection should know the InsideInstallations. It is the website associated with the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA) and is headquartered in Amsterdam. It is a network of professionals involved in the conservation of modern and contemporary art. Conservators, curators, scientists, registrars, archivists, historians and researchers are among its members, and have access to unpublished information (interviews with artists, condition reports, instructions for installation, etc.) through its data base Artists Archives. Their contributions are invaluable for this kind of art, and there’s a really good teamwork between the instances of the museum curator, the conservator-restorer and the registrar, who are directly involved with art objects and can address alternatives and contextual issues.

“The Inside Installations: Conservation and Preservation Installation Art was a research project of three years (2004-2007) on the care and management of an art form in which the conservation challenges prevail.” There was edited the recent book Theory and practice in the care of complex artwork. Recall that these are complex artworks and we think about them and proceed with equally complex thinking. The registrar pre-curator is a complex registrar, and should know how to register art objects and their contexts – and apply the appropriate terminology. In the book you can see an example from the Inside-Installation, Installation Revolution, a monument for the television revolution, including a specific report of the Registrar. Also, the “Model for registration data” developed by the Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art (SBMK) from the Netherlands in 1997).

A registrar updated with this art

A pre-curator registrar must be updated on issues related to contemporary art and its preservation and aesthetic implications. Important events were: About performing documentation in the conservation of contemporary art ; The Meaning of Materials in Modern and Contemporary Art; and the Forging the Future project. As for the almost ethereal nature of the communication dimension, senses, interpretation and context that is part of the work of contemporary art, see the website of this series of lectures given also in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, in March entitled “Repensar el espectador: teoría y crítica de las artes performativas” [“Rethinking the viewer: critical theory and performance art”].


Woman in fridge – 798. (picture: Televiseus)

In essence, the approach developed is one that calls performing arts, which “are exercised, are acting” are no longer just an object or a product of the artist’s creativity, but now become an event in which the viewer is involved in the creation of meaning. The co-creation of meaning is part of the work, which is the subject and context, event, abstract and aesthetic sense, and all this is public, and all that should be registered, the extended and technical data should also be cataloged. These updated criteria are required for registration forms or formats that include documentation of all these variables (and providing additional spaces for information and ways unthinkable at the time of registering), including guest artist requirements incorporating his own expectations and sense and technical requirements, including those of the viewer and their interaction. It also requires a software that includes fields like these and chances of hypertext interaction. And, by the way, what to do with performance art in which the artist is part of the work? Do you “register” him / herself? And with regards to the documentation of this art, it will be important to link with the next event in the Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art, to be held in Lisbon from 20 to 21 June 2013.

Of references, labels and a registrar with an elastic mind

As we have seen, the informational dimensions of our works of contemporary arts include references, concepts, controlled vocabulary, taxonomies, semantics, semiotics, and folksonomies, in short, expanded technical data. They provide many starting points for (re)meanings and (re)interpretations, and should be part of the records and technical data of this type of artwork. They are search terms for the artworks and their contexts. There are exact terms, standardized, simple, with just one significance, appropriate for objects, and there are others that open more senses as they occur in the re-interpretation of art, are complex and imply multiple potential re-meanings, creating an open matrix appropriate for contexts.

For these resources, the registrar must exert his/her mental conceptual structure, be elastic and open multiple connections. It is a hypothesis which is confirmed in our work by recording contemporary art.

That is the appropriate hypothesis!

Fernando Almarza Rísquez

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


The Registrar Trek blog goes Costa Rica

Some people from the discussion group. Photo: Georgina DeCarli

Some people from the discussion group. Photo: Georgina DeCarli

During this past January I was focused on a project with the ILAM Foundation-Latin American Institute of Museums, San José, Costa Rica. As you know, I am professor of virtual workshops and classroom courses on the registration area and cataloging collections there. These workshops have already seen eight editions, and I have taught for almost all Latin American countries.

On this occasion, Mr. Esteban Calvo, Registrar at the Costa Rican Art Museum who attended one of the workshops, had the great idea to do a talk, an informal chat with some colleagues from museums in San Jose. The event, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in San Jose on Wednesday, January 23, was attended by some directors, curators, registrars and educators from several museums. Georgina DeCarli, Director of the ILAM Foundation, also accompanied us, and updated us about the opportunities and terms and virtual and face trainings offered by the ILAM for museum workers. We talked cordially about interesting topics related to our practice, and we got a valuable feedback loop for all.

We talked cordially about interesting topics related to our practice, and we get a valuable feedback loop for all.

Projection of the website. Photo: Georgina DeCarli

Projection of the website. Photo: Georgina DeCarli

We took the chance and I presented our blog Registrar Trek: The Next Generation by projecting images of the website and inviting them to visit and write for it. There were good anecdotes about the founding of our blog, plus the peculiarities of everyday work in our museums. I have brought with me a couple of pictures of this meeting so special.



Cotton gloves? White or blue jeans gloves?

Why do registrars use white gloves? Well, so you can see when they are dirty! “Registrars do it with gloves on”, this is almost a slogan.


“Registrars do it with their gloves on”
taken from here

All collection objects pass through the hands of the registrar and his / her team of assistants, from the very day of accessioning until they leave for exhibition or lent. And a good registrar never allows anyone to touch the objects without very clean white gloves or gloves with nonslip rubber bullets, also very clean, if the objects are heavy or slippery.
UPDATE 2013/01/15: Forget about the rubber bullets. As you can see in the comments section that’s not best practice. Use of nitrile gloves – or nylon gloves with nitrile palms for the heavy artifacts – is much better.

They are white cotton gloves, they are not blue jeans!

I remember about 20 years ago I gave several pairs of clean white gloves to a new apprentice of mine, explaining how to use them and why, and so on. The next day the assistant came with gloves dyed dark green; this apprentice said to me: “well, this way one doesn’t see the dirt on them.” Please… that’s mentally having blue jeans

All of us know we can wear a blue jeans several days (Oh, c’mon, who doesn’t?), you won’t see much dirt… (as they are dark blue). But the white gloves used to handle objects are white for exactly that reason: to see when they are dirty and so one can exchange them immediately for clean ones and don’t handle the next object with dirty gloves. Imagine to handle objects in the collection with dark gloves “one doesn’t see the dirt on” and the damage and stains that occur to the objects handled.

We can say that if there is a symbol for museums registrars worldwide it’s a pair of white gloves! This holds especially true to registrars who handle art, documents or archaeological artifacts. It is not just a smart advertising idea of the company that sell those shirts. The Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums in the USA have a project called the “White Gloves Gang”, where registrars, collection managers, arcivists, museum studies students… help one day voluntarily in a chosen museum with a collections project.

The “White Gloves Gang” would be a suitable name for registrars and collection managers worldwide…

Fernando Almarza Rísquez

This text is also available in French translated by Kelsey Brow.


"Various" is not a category, and "object" is anything

Accession and Category: encoding or collections division

Each of these 3,000 objects of Mexican Folk Art need - and have - a category.Thanks to Aleida Garcia for the picture.

Each of these 3,000 objects of Mexican Folk Art needs -and has- a category. Thanks to Aleida García for the picture.

In the work of a museum collections registrar, finding accession encodings and a category for each object in your collection is indispensable. They are more than one number, for themselves carry a large amount of information, or open the door to more details.

These codes are a “QR” avant la lettre. Their use in software management and control of collections allows that they become starting points for numerous computerized search criteria; search fields of the software may include all numbering and terminology that contain these encodings.

The code or accession number is used universal and indispensable, the category seems to be less appropriate for some museums. However, I give more attention to this second part. While the code or accession number usually refers to the year in which an item entered the collection, sequentially for each calendar year [for example 2012.0034], the category defines object type, purpose and meaning. The category should be not an encoding that is used for aesthetic concerns or some supposed superiority or natural value, cultural or naturalcultural (artistic, scientific, technological, religious, etc.). A categorization can or should include as many subcategories as necessary. OBJECT TYPES, for example:

[PAINTings / ABStracts-0148];

[FURniture / CONsole-0025];

[VEHicles / AUTOmotives / TRUcks-0012];

[TOOLs / HAMmer-1135];



[PRINt / POSter-1128];

[CLOTHing / SHIrt / MALe / AFRican-0089];

[LITURgical / CHAlice / GREEk / ORTHOdox / CHURch-0051];

[MUSic / INSTRuments / WIND instruments / HEBrew-0129];

[MACHine TOOls / PERCussive / DRIll-0023]…

I refer here only to cultural and technological objects, due to my lack of knowledge about the natural areas, biological or mineral.

I typed in uppercase “OBJECT TYPES” because that little word, when used improperly, generates false information, vague and too generic, which is unacceptable for a museum collection. The same goes for the little word “VARIOUS” (Miscellaneous). Every object, of whatever type (natural, cultural, technological or naturalcultural) has a name and belongs to a genre, type, species, family, etc. This applies even when it comes to intangible cultural heritage or intangible natural heritage. This holds true for everything in the registrar’s universe, which means that he / she should be well aware of this fact and give indeep thought to the classification of every object he / she has in the collection. This means that the regsitrar should cooperate closely with curators and researchers, or even manufacturers, who know more of that object and possible categorizations than the registrar. In codings per category should always be an appropriate term for categorization or division. And if the existing categories in the collection don’t have a place for this type of object: create one! A good collection management software allows and encourages, as a good manager, a good healer and a good registrar.

In my work as a logger I never categorized an object as “Various”, but corrected and relocate some existing cases that were filed as such. Same goes with the truism category “objects”. Obviously, everything is an object! (at least until you create the “Museum of Thoughts and Feelings” … The recorder is in trouble there …).

I have seen cases, for example in a museum of Latin America, in which part of its collection (which appears on their website) is categorized as “Objects”. Even almost a year ago I made some comments and suggestions, but until now I got no response.

The correct title or generic name of an item are a must: I found a case in which an item was called “Armchair with two armrest” … A quick check in books reassured me that a chair that has two armrest is called Armchair … And a bit of reasoning helped me reconfirm that skateboards have rolls, because…

Registrars in museum collections can and should be able to open their schemes and reasoning in order to do their job properly, efficiently and creatively, adapting to the circumstances and type (Category) of the object that needs to be accessioned and documented in the collection. A good registrar must remain critical!


How I became a museum registrar I

The artist that became a registrar – and is now professor

Fernando Almarza Rísquez

Fernando today, in front of the ILAM in Costa Rica.

Fernando today, in front of the ILAM in San José, Costa Rica.

I studied fine arts for four years, and developed an activity as an artist in three exhibitions. Later I studied graphic design for two years, having worked briefly as an assistant designer. I was then 26 years old, and had some knowledge of art history and aesthetic sensibility.

In 1986 I began studying art history in college (BA, MA History Art), and I saw a notice posted requesting an assistant to the registrar at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas (MACC, in spanish), Venezuela. Required studies art history, knowledge of art handling, conservation, English, organizational skills, responsibility, etc. I submitted my CV. I did the interview rigor, including the translation of a press report that made the museum on a grand exhibition of the English sculptor Henry Moore few months earlier.

This was in April 1986. I was excited but worried because there was another candidate who studied Arts in England and had excellent English. But on the 28th I was called to give me the good news that I had been selected for the position. Very happy, I started on 2 May.

I had some “advantage” because I knew quite well the largest museums of Caracas, and much of its permanent collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art itself. The English translation was done very well, as I concentrated on the Spanish translate ideas and concepts rather than to translate word for word. Anyway, I began my career, and to date (December 2012). I have accumulated 26 years of continuous experience, always intense study. Common sense has led me to investigate how different objects are registered, whether cultural, or technological, natural or naturalculturales.

I was at the MACC until 1993, after which I began to provide advice to other museums of Caracas and Venezuela, where I developed a record structure and current computerized cataloging. In 2006 I started writing articles in newspapers and magazines specialized museological on that experience, and develop virtual catalogs for some museums of the Western world. Since 2007 I started as a professor at the Latin American Institute of Museums (ILAM, in spanish), sited in Costa Rica, where I teach courses online and face on the same subject, plus related topics.

I have always held to reflect on our profession, and I am actively linked with institutions and professionals from many countries.


A registrar needs a flexible mind

The professional practice requires to keep up to date. You have to “think outside the box”, without constraining into one thought pattern or routine, especially when there are situations that require reflection and need to be addressed with a flexible mind. The registrar of the permanent collection of a museum should be especially flexible. Continue reading


The critical registrar

More about the registrar in the museum’s collection1

Fernando Almarza Rísquez

On previous occasions I have written on the role and scope of the registrar of museum collections, his professional education and working style. My most recent publication (in Spanish) on this appeared last October.2 Following this, I’d like to add some additional thoughts:

The registrar should be a broad-minded and critically thinking individual. “Smart” registrars have to be up to date with the developments, reflections and concerns that arise and evolve in their professional field and in museums and museology in general. The critical registrar is a museum practitioner as well as a museologist (to the extent that reflects and contributes about theories, trends and analysis of museology).

The information which is recorded on the museum’s collection can be regarded as a mine of knowledge and as a place where meaning and significance is growing. The registrar in the first instance generates, commands and controls that information. He / she is the “gateway” to the museum’s collections, both for the informational dimensions and for the objects themselves.

The critical registrar has to have substantial knowledge of the object or artifact itself. He has to take care that all the important „technical“ data goes into the documentation files in the right form, may it be paper or computer files. Today, this means also that the registrar needs profound computer knowledge so he / she can bring this information in the computer / data base in a way that makes it accessible to other staff members, scientists and the public. Therefore the registrar has to be up to date with current developments in computers and information technology. The critical registrar thinks broadly, innovates and creates and has high standards regarding quality, transparency and honesty.

In addition to the data the registrar collects himself he is responsible for bringing object data from other experts like curators or scientists into the records. The critical registrar has to find the correct form of documenting and making the data accessible. The way he does this depends on the nature of the object and data: this includes (but is not limited to) natural or cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, cultural and ethnological contexts.

The profile of a critical registrar can be summed up by the following points:

In control, but not limited to the bureaucratic aspects concerning the office: files, phones, plans, storage places, locations and security monitoring, insurance paperwork, loan agreements, transportation, packaging, emergency and preventive conservation, legislation, tax concerns, organization, custody;

Working in a team: Working as a gateway to different professions inside and outside of his / her own department. Cultivates an interdisciplinary relationship, in consensus and not in conflict with other museum professionals, especially curators, conservators, exhibition designers3 and educators. He/She knows what identifies and unites, and what differentiates and binds to other museum professionals, in a practical exercise integrator: that of the similarity (to work in the museum and perform its functions) and the difference (of roles, scopes, sights and situations and cooperative organizational structure of the museum and its collections);

More than a boss, a leader, a manager, especially if he/she is leading a team of registrar assistants or aides. He / she does not command, but advises and guides, stimulates, delegates and supervises the work. He / she acknowledges and shares the successes achieved by the team or individual staff members. He / she thinks pluralistic and always in favor of his or her institution and team. He / She cares about his/her staff, promoting their potential and abilities, creating an atmosphere of honesty and devotion to the work. He/she is proactive, resilient, and rejects the procrastination. His or her way of leading is an emotional intelligent one: he / she thinks logical without suppressing his/her feelings and allows feelings without blurring the logical sight;

A co-educator, aware that the information in his/her records provides additional data that helps to enable and facilitate constructive knowledge and to stimulate others (museum professionals, the public and consultants from the collection) to re-learn and re-teach. He/She knows that “teaching is not to transfer knowledge, is to create the possibility of producing it” (Paulo Freire). The critical registrar re-learns permanently and joyfully;

A thinker with extensive concepts and relationships, which integrates into his/her daily practice visualizing, representing and transmitting as living processes of a creative-conceptual mental map of the collection. Together with museum colleagues, the critical registrar develops and shares ideas and strategies for an intelligent, inspiring and interactive access to information. He / she thinks in all possible ways, connects internationally and keeps information about meaning and significance of objects as well as and ideas flowing – using all possibilities including virtual catalogs of the collection and powers of Web 2.0 resources.4

According to the profile of the museum or heritage collection in which he / she holds the responsibility as a registrar and/or team leader he / she must have as far as possible an appropriate education and training. This holds true for the knowledge about the technical aspects of his / her work as well as for the knowledge about history, meaning and significance of the natural and/or cultural heritage of which the collection consists. This means also – like stated before – that the critical registrar never stops learning but keeps up to date with the debates in the scientific community that is linked to the topics of his / her museum and collection.

The critical registrar is aware of these concepts. He / she keeps updated and considers to apply new concepts regarding definitions and categories of assets. This means today there is not only the basic division between the natural and cultural heritage, and the subdivision of the latter into cultural-material and cultural intangible heritage. Today, there is also the division between the natural-material tangible and natural intangible heritage. The current understanding of the dimensions of meaning and significance of the objects of collections have been expanded. New approaches have been developed beyond the dichotomy “natural” versus “cultural”. The concept of“Natureculture” 5

To keep an open and critical look and be willing to integrate new criteria in the everyday working process doesn’t stop here. The critical registrar has to stay informed in all dimensions of his / her profession and in the sciences his / her museum deals with. Fields of knowledge evolve, including the museum and museology. The benefit in staying critical and informed is not only for the registrar himself, it’s also for his / her team, other museum professionals, the museum and not at last for the public.

This post is also available in Italian, translated by Davide Bordenca

  1. I am deeply grateful to my colleague Angela Kipp for all her kind suggestions on translating this article into English. Article originally published in “Let’s talk about…” in the website of the Instituto Latinoamericano de Museos ILAM, in December 2012.
  2. “El Registrador de colecciones del museo”. MUSEA Magazine N° 71 p 4-5. Oct 2012. Spain.
  3. I make reference here to the museologist Angela Kipp, Registrar at TECHNOSEUM, Manheim, Germany, and her recent article “5 tips for dealing with registrars Why curators and collection managers often talk at cross-purposes instead of complementing each other to a perfect team”.
  4. “Cibermuseos o limitado aprovechamiento de la web 2.0” (available in pdf). Revista Digital Nueva Museología/Artículos. Rosario, Argentina. 2011. www.nuevamuseologia,
  5. “Unlike other museological institutions, objects of the natural domain contained in their collections are developed, produced anthropogenically, are collected. (Haraway, 1989). Within this perspective, the objects of natural history institutions allow some thought as elements that seek to represent the nature / culture. At first it was thought that these museums represent objects that were not produced by human agents, why native elements of nature that make their collections can be interpreted as artifacts produced (Haraway, 1992), that is, admitting only those elements turned-mostly as models produced from human activity. Nature and culture are co-constitutive and inseparable. From this view, the objects of these museums would be what Haraway (2003) conceptualized by a neologism in English, as ‘naturecultures’ natural and cultural simultaneously or instead of being dichotomous. (Loureiro, 2007, p. 164)”. Sabrina Damasceno Silva. “O pedaço de outro mundo que caiu na Terra”: As formações discursivas acerca do meteorito de Bendegó do Museu Nacional. Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Dissertação de Mestrado apresentada ao Programa de Pós-Graduação em Museologia e Patrimônio. Orientador: Professor Doutor José Mauro Matheus Loureiro. P. 46. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. 2010. Translation from portuguese to spanish and english: Fernando Almarza Rísquez. 2012.