Just back from the International Registrars Symposium (IRS) in Houston, attended by more than 400 registrars and collection managers
worldwide. The symposium was organized by the Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums and mostly by that dynamic
energizer Gabriela Truly, Director of Collections Management at the Dallas Museum of Art, who conceived of the recurring event several
Sessions included "Cultural Sensitivity in Museum Stewardship," a moving and important presentation on provenance, restitution of
cultural property and bringing tribal and indigenous peoples into the planning and care of museum collections, whether it be the blessing
of museum storage facilities, or arrangements made to accommodate visits or gifts to tribal objects in a museum's care. Talks by Rajshree
Solanki from the National Museum of the American Indian, and Devon Akmon, of the Arab American National Museum were particularly poignant.
"Extreme Installations: Large, Complicated and Explosive Projects," addressed the challenges of moving and displaying such works of art
and included a fascinating presentation from Tina Tan, conservator at the MFA Houston. Tina's experience includes her work with
celebrated Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang in the preparation of his gunpowder drawing, Odyssey, which fills an entire gallery. Based on
traditional Chinese landscape painting, the artist applied an assorted mix of gunpowders to panels on the floor and then ignited them.
Commissioned by the Museum as a permanent installation, dozens of volunteers from Houston were engaged in the project.
When Pat Ellenwood from Crystallization Systems asked me to be on the panel entitled "From Registrar to Construction Manager:
Checklists for Planning and Survival," I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with her and our long time colleague, Steve Weintraub,
CEO of Art Preservation Services and one of the leading museum environmental specialists in the world. My presentation, "Moving Places
Designing Spaces," focused on preparing for a major collection move, working with architects, and hiring consultants. The three of us have
worked together on numerous projects, including the planning and requirements for off-site storage facilities to new museum buildings; Pat
and I most recently had the chance to work together on the new David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the
University of Florida in Gainesville, a magnificent addition to one of the state's most distinguished university collections, scheduled to
open March 30th, 2012.
Overall, I addressed the steps in planning for the move of a collection, the special needs of architects, and encouraged those working
with art and material culture to secure a seat at the table early on in any project. Steve focused on considerations of relative humidity,
temperature and lighting, and Pat offered a series of room layouts and collection storage furniture solutions.
The symposium underscored the importance of the role of registrars and those working with collections in documenting and preserving
works of art and artifacts. The meeting also offered many opportunities for networking with global colleagues and fine art shippers. The
opening party at the MFA Houston was the epitome of hospitality -- a country band; fried oysters; barbeque and the biggest pieces of pecan
pie I've ever seen caused me to say, once again - I've never had a bad time in Texas!