One year has passed since last Christmas? I can’t believe it! It seems like yesterday since the last season’s greetings.
This year we have seen loads of incredible stuff at Registrar Trek: We’ve solved a Trilemma, attended the European Registrars Conference, added loads of great stuff to our toolkit (for example how to store buttons), tackled barcoding, spoke up for children in museums, found bombs and chased birds and bats in our collections. We’ve seen Matt coming to the cinemas with „Art and Craft“ and supported Rupert Shepherd’s initiative of bringing #MuseumDocumentation into public focus. To sum up: we told many stories worth telling.
But when we raise our glass today, I don’t want to say „Here’s to us, the collections people!“ Recently, there was a funny bit about registrars on Peabody’s Lament (http://peabodyslament.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/registrar-humor/) and in the comment section the author T.H. Grey stated „…we’ve often heard registrars refer to themselves as the “unsung heroes” of museums.“ Well, this may be, but we aren’t the real unsung heroes. When I think of unsung heroes in museum business, immediately the housekeeping and cleaning staff comes to mind.
If they are ever referred to in the museum world, it’s with a funny note, often when they clean something that wasn’t meant to be cleaned, like the installation “When it Starts Dripping From the Ceiling” by Martin Kippenberger in 2011: http://www.dw.de/cleaning-lady-destroys-contemporary-sculpture-with-her-scrubbing/a-15510231 The prejudice that only cleaning ladies are so dumb and uneducated that they can’t tell art from trash is so strong that most people think they are responsible for the destruction of the work „Untitled (Bathtub)“ (created by Joseph Beuys in 1960 and accidentally scrubbed clean in 1973) , while it was in fact scrubbed by two members of a German political party who wanted to clean the dishes from a celebration in it (http://www.spiegel.de/einestages/skandal-um-beuys-badewanne-a-947414.html). Strange that reports on artworks destroyed by other museum staffers or visitors (http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1956922_1956921_1956906,00.html) never come with the same malicious joy…
There is never a report on how cleaning staff saves millions of dollars in conservation and restoration costs every year because they avoid damage from dust, keep museums free from pests and report incidents and issues as soon as they see them. And they do see them, if we just tell them what to look for. It’s certainly no fun cleaning toilets and offices, especially those offices stuffed with paper where it’s really hard to find free spaces to clean (somehow immediately registrar’s and curator’s offices come to mind…). But keeping them clean is one foundation of our work: keeping dust, mold, pests and all the other bad guys out, so our collections are safe for the future. But in all those „keep up the good work“ speeches at the end of a successful year, thanking the board, the friends of the museum, the volunteers, the staffers in the collections, education, exhibitions, marketing and administrative departments, I’ve heard seldom a word about the cleaning staff.
So, at least on Registrar Trek, we are raising our glasses to you, our faithful housekeeping staff, partners in collections care and pest management!
And from the whole Registrar Trek Team to our faithful readers and supporters:
We wish you Merry Christmas and a happy healthy and successful New Year 2015!