Tuesday, 11 September 2018

UKRG event: It’s Good To Talk – Sharing Training and Development Ideas

Following group discussion at the UKRG CPD day, 6 July 2018 Cinema Museum;

On a very, very hot afternoon, UKRG members were welcomed by the Cinema Museum for their annual CPD event. The aim of the day was to share personal experiences of development opportunities and to share what resources and courses were available.
After hearing presentations form several speakers, the UKRG members were asked to split into groups and discuss with their fellow Registrars ‘What makes good CPD and what goes wrong?’. Also, they were asked for suggestions for future actions to be taken by UKRG to improve their training offer. I have summarised the results below, with some future actions. 
Summary of Discussions:
  • Practical, hands-on training and scenario/problem solving is more effective (Momart airport security training quoted as a good example)
  • Use in-house training opportunities – shadowing, across the floor, anecdotes
  • Training notes or manual limits a loss of knowledge, can be referred to
  • Use feedback as a way to inform future training
  • Specialist training offered by large organisations can benefit smaller organisations with more generic posts
  • Training can be too generic or too niche – need clear guidance for course/event content
  • Mandatory attendance for non-relevant subjects
  • Quality of training – Train the Trainer plays a vital role, the trainer has to be good, and have specialist/practical knowledge
  • Quality of training – draw from real life experiences
  • Cost and time can be prohibitive
  • Placements with legal experts
  • Make time after training to ‘unpack’ new knowledge
  • Cross training across organisations to share colleague’s skills
  • Consider training outcomes
  • MA and Museum Studies courses required for jobs, but not always put into practice
  • Break out of specialist areas and learn from other areas – interdepartmental learning

Actions to be taken from suggestions and comments:
  • UKRG to send CPD email alert, same as the job email alert
  • On membership list add specialist knowledge/experience to signpost expertise to membership

Future actions to be considered by Committee and next Development Officer:
  • E-learning podcasts
  • Whatsapp Members Group
  • Job swap or secondments network scheme (nationally/internationally) Museums/Galleries/Shippers
  • More UKRG bursaries like the joint one with IAL, to attend expensive courses such as CLORE
  • Networking and soft skills events
  • Making sure Registrar skills are represented on Museum Studies courses

Thank you to everyone who took part.

Written by Lyn Stevens, Registrar, National Museums Scotland and Professional Development Officer, UKRG committee. 

Friday, 24 August 2018

IAL: Law and Ethics: An Introductory Course for Museum Professionals

Institute of Art and Law
Law and Ethics: An Introductory Course for Museum Professionals
21st – 22nd June 2018 Edinburgh

The National Galleries of Scotland were delighted to host this keenly anticipated two day IAL course - the first held in Scotland - and a great opportunity for collections management professionals unable to access the London-based IAL Diploma in Law and Collections Management. This intensive course aimed to cover the most essential topics of the Diploma, focussing on intellectual property and collections on day one, and on the law and ethics of museum acquisitions and contracts on day two.  
Scotland has its own legal system based on a mix of civil and common law traditions, and for me one of the most interesting aspects of the course was that it pinpointed where there were differences. A full report on all the course content is available on the Resources > Top Tips pages of the UKRG website - www.ukregistrarsgroup.org/top-tips/#4733 - but here I am just highlighting the key differences, found most notably in Property Law but also in Contract law.

Differences in the effect of Scots Property Law were considered in relation to scenarios whereby items had entered the collection on deposit or on loan, but the lender could no longer be traced. Possession is an important feature of Scots Property Law, giving rise to a ‘strong presumption’ of ownership, with the onus being on the person claiming ownership to prove their title, compared to English law whereby a person claiming ownership would bring an action in the tort (wrong-doing) of conversion (treating someone else’s property as though you were the owner). It was interesting to consider whether in theory this might give rise to a practical difference, allowing Scottish institutions more freedom to use these types of works in their collections (for example lending, conserving etc).    

A further difference, giving rise to the so-called ‘Scottish Conundrum’, is the operation of the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973. Under the Act, positive prescription (whereby a person can gain title following a defined period of ‘open possession’) only applies to heritable property, and in relation to moveable property it is only possible for a person to lose title under negative prescription, following a period of 20 years where ownership has not been exercised by possession, or for example, the existence of a loan agreement. This leads to a situation where title has been lost by the original owner, but not gained by the possessing party. This differs somewhat from the situation in England where it is understood that the original owner of property can lose title (and thus the possessor gains title) 6 years after the relevant act of conversion (which, in certain situations can be the first good faith purchase of the property).  

This lack of absolute certainty of title leaves Scotland at a disadvantage, and in 2015 a consultation on a draft Prescription and Title to Moveable Property (Scotland) Bill was carried out. The intention of the Bill is to introduce positive prescription, with a 20 year time period for moveable property provided the owner has made no attempt to assert ownership and the possessor is in good faith and not acting negligently, with a 50 year period proposed for moveable property lent or deposited where the original owner is untraceable. Whilst being broadly welcomed by museums and galleries, a number of concerns were raised more widely regarding its operation in relation to issues of spoliation and restitution and its interaction with other areas of law, and a further review of comparative law in this area was thought advisable. A recent meeting with Scottish Government indicated that it is likely to return to the Scottish Law Commission for further research and development. 
Although contract law in England and Scotland has developed in a broadly similar trajectory, with shared authorities, there were some key differences to note. In Scots law, consideration is not required for a contract to exist, and a gratuitous promise can be enforced. There were also a number of pieces of Scottish legislation to be aware of:
  • The Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 specifies which contracts must be in writing to be valid, and how a document can be made probative if it has been witnessed.
  • Third Party Rights (Scotland) Act 2017 which came into force 28th February 2018. This Act makes provision for the creation and enforcement of contractual rights in favour of third parties, replacing the common-law rule known as jus quaesitum tertio.  
  • The recent Scottish Law Commission proposals for reforms in the area of contract formation.

Written by Rosalyn Clancey, National Galleries Scotland 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

UKRG event: Insurance and CPD, Cinema Museum, London

Written following the UKRG event on CPD and Insurance "It's Good to Talk" at the Cinema Museum in London on Friday 6th July 2018.

There is a sense of defiance about an old building nestled between modern flats and high rise living. One of the best things about the members meetings is experiencing different Museums and Galleries, challenging perceptions over what a Museum is and how the role of the registrar fits within modern museums and galleries. Is the biggest challenge explaining to others what registrars do in a modern institution?
The day itself had a really wide breadth of speakers and experiences they are sharing are real.
If you’re wondering about attending a UK Registrars members meeting, I can tell you it’s definitely worth coming along, I find the chance to meet fellow UK Registrar members is so valuable.

Following on from the security theme at the members’ event in York, it was perfect timing to look at insurance during the first half of the day, and I really enjoyed hearing first from Blackwall Green about how a commercial insurer works with museums and galleries. It was particularly applicable where you might be dealing with a high number of loan items, in a temporary exhibition scenario for example or you deal with loan items going out of your institution.
An Absolute Liability Clause (a clause whereby you as borrower will be liable for anything not explicitly covered by your policy) tends to be more common where private lenders are concerned but is also becoming more frequently employed in institutions in Europe, particularly Germany and Austria. 
We can’t completely escape the complexity of getting the right balance of insurance and indemnity, and the three things that really struck me were:
  • Take a practical approach
  • Seek advice where needed (so you need to know when to ask for help!)
  • Blackwell Green can provide support to institutions
  • Make sure there are no gaps in cover, or contradictions
Nickos Gogolos from the V&A gave an update on National Museums applying to use commercial insurance. A piece of work has been undertaken jointly with DCMS, V&A and the Arts Council to gave a practical approach to the application process and discussion is ongoing to explore whether a threshold could be introduced, below which no formal application need be made. DCMS can also assist in advocating for indemnity if required.
The rest of day was devoted to the discussion of CPD opportunities. There is an amazing breadth of CPD opportunities available to the Museum and galleries sector and CPD is something that is very relevant and has real personal resonance as I have recently taken quite a dramatic career detour.
I am studying for a MA in Museum Studies and currently volunteering as a Collections Volunteer at Salisbury Museum documenting the Rex Whistler archives. I have worked for National Trust for 9 years focused mainly in Visitor Engagement with latter roles involving key representative duties, practical conservation and liaising with curatorial teams; it was these areas that I felt most at home with and could contribute most towards in our sector.
Hazel Shorland gave a really useful insight into her experience of applying (with success) for the “2017 Institute of Art & Law Diploma in Law and Collections Management Course” The course itself was delivered over the period of a week with a different theme each day. Practical examples were provided including issues around copyright and ownership, with case studies including Star Wars & Lucas film and Henry Moore’s public sculpture. Lots that can be applied in the role of the registrar.
Fiona Thornton and Cassia Pennington from National Museums Scotland shared their work on the NMS Knowledge Exchange. It has not only strengthened staff and volunteer skills but also looked at the learning and engagement opportunities with collections for different audiences. I was really fascinated by the “Next of Kin” project, it commemorated the centenary of the First World War with a touring exhibition, learning programme and online resources. 
It was really inspiring to hear about the different ways of learning, including the V&A’s learning academy. The programme is well publicised and constantly evolving with a wide range of courses with different funding options. I found it really useful to hear about the process of designing a training course from Malini Balluck. The V&A team gets to know the course participants and work with organisations to produce courses that are in tune with their career paths. It makes for a powerful programme of offerings and enables the V&A to design bespoke packages when required.
I wasn’t aware that Sotherbys offer a training programme so I was intrigued to learn how a commercial organisation offers learning and how it can be utilised in a museum setting. Katie Robson from the Royal Armouries attended the Art Market course, this was largely via online delivery and was fairly flexible. It also included a day in London at Sotherbys institute. The course gave an insight into the links between Museums and auction houses and how the relationships work and the part we play as registrars.
We broke into small groups to discuss our experiences of CPD, and both the group sessions and the remaining talks demonstrated the breadth of training opportunities available across the heritage and cultural sector. One thing that did strike me was how difficult it can be to find the right courses, and also to attend (ie funding and time etc.).
In our small group session there were some common themes about what makes for a really good course including:
  • Well organised in the lead up, on the day and post course
  • Course participants are engaged in the learning experience and willing to share experiences
  • The course delivers what was promised
I always think the acid test of a great course is one that sits in your memory, informs your practise and you feel confident in sharing your learning. A course that delivered that for me was Emergency Salvage training. It was devised by English Heritage, Historic England and National trust. It was delivered by a number of industry professionals including Steve Emery, Fire Safety Adviser for English Heritage. It was well organised and you knew what to expect from the 3 days. It brought together a real mixture of staff and volunteers including Museums, heritage sites, country estates and even an aquarium! We worked with firefighters in a non-emergency situation prior to a simulated salvage exercise at the fire station. We also had time to share experience and also network over dinner. The follow up post course also helped reinforce the learning experience. 
Rachel Coman, student & Collections Volunteer, Salisbury Museum

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

UKRG Event: Security: Be Alarmed_William Brown, Security and GIS

Government Indemnity Scheme, Security requirements and how to meet them.

A write up of the talk given by William Brown, National Security Advisor, arts Council England.

Firstly we started by congratulating William on his 12th anniversary as the NSA, he is longest serving NSA and, from the queues of people around him at tea breaks he certainly seems to be very popular.

I’m sure many of us thought William worked alone, running around the country assessing a whopping 1400+ applications per year. But it turns out William has some colleagues - several of whom he introduced – who cover different areas of the country and have different security specialisms.

After a whistle stop tour of GIS security conditions, William ran through the three most likely risks to museum collections and loans: losses (theft or criminality), damage (deliberate or accidental including consequential), and natural forces (such as fire or flood).

He then discussed examples of the three using some of the most famous UK museum thefts and accidents, including some which had not been fully resolved. The examples covered a wide variety of museum objects, scenarios, personnel, and locations. William also used quite a few “What’s wrong with this photo?” games to get us thinking for ourselves and assessing hidden and obvious risks. William also discussed the ‘at risk' parts of museum buildings – such as copper and lead roofing - which really hit home the point that risk management is not just about the collections. The discussion then moved on to recognising and reporting suspicious activity in the galleries and the importance of this for early detection and deterrent.

At this point, when the audience was getting really paranoid, William talked about how positive actions and professional collaboration can mitigate both immediate and future risks. These simple steps of working together, sharing advice, developing professional skills, and ensuring information is accurate all enable us to work in confidence knowing that our collections and loans will remain safe and secure wherever they may be sent. 

Considering this can sometimes be a depressing subject, William did an excellent job of mediating the “doom and gloom” by focusing on how our everyday actions can have the most positive impact.

Joanne CS Smith, Registrar, Projects, National Trust.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

UKRG Event: Security: Be alarmed_UKRG facilities reports

A write up of the talk given by Carol Warner, Manager, Government Indemnity Scheme and Sanne Klinge, Collection Registrar, Tate.

UKRG facilities reports and supplements are intended for all museums and galleries as standard documents, and we are using them all the time. They list general requirements and are the basis of information needed when negotiating loans. Carol Warner and Sanne Klinge spoke about the background, purpose and use of UKRG Facilities reports and an introduction to a proposed review.

Carol refreshed our minds about what they are and what they cover; providing information about security, fire protection, environmental conditions, the borrowing museum’s practices, display details as well as general practical information. She reminded us that the reports should be regarded as a serious declaration as they are required to be signed and dated at the point of production. They also often form the basis for the National Security adviser’s (William Brown) reports and recommendations.

There are other known report formats such as the American model; however these hold different types of information and are not fulfilling our criteria so require additional questions to be asked of the borrower.

Sanne Klinge is heading up the process for reviewing and potentially changing the current UKRG reports. It has been some time since a serious revision and for this to be successful it will require effort and input from Registrar colleagues. The review will happen in the following stages:

Stage 1: A short survey will be sent to UKRG membership to gather feedback to identify key areas for improvement. The UKRG committee, Carol Warner and William Brown have already provided their views. The survey is due to go live in spring/summer 2018 – so please keep an eye out for this and respond.

Stage 2: A working group will be formed to discuss the survey results. If you want to be part of the working group let Sanne know. Other colleagues and stakeholders will be contacted for their input.

Stage 3: Implementation of changes. Some changes can probably be changed very quickly but other processes might take longer.

The length of the process is unknown and will be dictated in part by the results of the general survey. Areas for consideration: is there duplication in the reports or do we require more information? Should reports be consolidated or new reports created? Should the design and layout be changed?

Comments from colleagues in the room included having term definitions or glossary to accompany the reports; having facilities questions translated into other languages; making facilities reports more efficient to save our workloads; creating a standard that could potentially be used across other European or World institutions.

It would be fantastic to have a large involvement from the Registrar’s community so voices from all different areas of the sector can be heard.

Christina Gernon, Ashmolean Museum, Collections Registrar

UKRG event: Security: Be Alarmed_Andy Davis - Protecting the Protector

A large part of our workload is dominated by loans in and out of our collections and ensuring best collections care. But what about those we send to ‘protect’ our works whilst in transit and/or installation? Andy Davis’ engaging talk at UKRGs April event in the beautiful Hospitium at York Museum Gardens, made me reflect on just that, and the often ‘selfless’ plight of the courier.

The courier trip is often coveted by my colleagues and I can see the eye rolls when I attempt to emphasise that a courier trip is really not as glamorous as it may sound. However, despite spending months speculating and approving every minutiae of our work/s journey from loan request to crate specification, display plans to transport routes, it is often that I am only left to give a cursory glance over my courier itinerary whilst on route to the airport.

Landing on my most recent courier trip 

Only recently did a colleague refuse a courier trip as they were not willing to travel and stay in a particular city. This, in light of Andy’s talk, made me think about the policies and procedures in place when selecting a courier or agreeing to lend in the first place. When we discuss our loan requests the emphasis tends to be on the suitability to loan and the associated environmental conditions or risks to the work/s at the Borrowing venue, as opposed to scouring the crime statistics or infrastructural risks to sending a member of staff to a particular city.

Andy’s talk certainly emphasised the importance of researching the place you are visiting, from simple things like the weather and packing appropriately, to transportation and logistics, awareness of disease, conflict or communication infrastructure. The importance of planning is essential for the safe transit of both yourself and the work/s being couriered, but also to ensure a greater enjoyment throughout the courier experience and to gain more from the opportunities that acting as a courier can provide.

Olivia Macguire, Gallery Registrar, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Monday, 5 March 2018

UKRG event - Wellcome to the Jungle (1/3)

Provided by Sally Ann Coxon - Collections Registrar (Loans & Acquisitions) at National Galleries of Scotland - upon receipt of a UKRG bursary to attend 'Wellcome to the Jungle: Loans of Fun, 9th February at the Wellcome Collection, London. 

Simon Chaplin, Director of the Wellcome Collection kicked the day off by giving us a short overview of the Wellcome Collection and its founder, Henry Wellcome’s vision – as a place that explores research, ideas and health, and exists at the intersection of science, life and art.

'A museum of modern nature’. 
Emma Smith, Exhibitions Registrar, Wellcome Collection
What is nature? How do we put nature into a museum?  
This exhibition was made up entirely of objects lent or donated by the public, with their accompanying stories. There was no curatorial voice, the individual stories made up the interpretation for the exhibition. The public were invited to attend an event with an item that best summed up what nature meant to them.
Emma explained some of the questions and challenges raised.
How do we handle the loan? What on earth might they bring!?
A simplified two-page loan agreement was produced and advance planning was needed with the conservation department in case anyone brought hazardous items. Over 200 people took part in the weekend event dropping off objects. Most visitors used common sense. 
The most challenging material included was a piece of bread. After some thought and advice taken from other institutions, the bread was dehydrated and sealed in resin to prevent mould or decay pests becoming a problem.
Emma played us some voice clips of a few of the contributors talking about their objects and gave us a fascinating account of the June 2017 exhibition and how a crowd-sourced exhibition can work. 


How do you solve a problem like a Fatberg?
Helen Parkin, Assistant Registrar, Museum of London

The world’s largest Fatberg (a huge congealed mass of fat, wet wipes and generally unpleasant stuff) was found in the sewers under East London in 2017, and the Museum of London decided to acquire a portion of it.

Helen explained some of the amusing yet very real collections management challenges presented with acquiring and displaying a piece of sewage. The initial questions were:
  •  A) Why would anyone want to collect that!?
  • B) What is it made of?
  • C) How can it be made safe for display?
  • D) How do we acquire it?
The Fatberg was felt to be an important and relevant addition to the displays in the year-long ‘City Now City Future’ season.

Conservators assessed it like any other acquisition, and the Due Diligence was considered. It was thought that there would be a low risk of people making a claim as they'd discarded the matter in the first place.

Much consideration was given to display. Should the fatberg be pickled? Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde pieces and Marc Quinn’s refrigerated objects were considered for inspiration. The best solution seemed to be to air-dry the piece, resulting in a hard, dry substance which could be displayed in a double-thickness enclosure, removing the risk of toxicity, disease etc. to staff and visitors.

In collaboration with Thames Water, close attention had to be paid to the hazards of working with sewage and use of the necessary personal protective and handling equipment.

These are not things you imagine you’ll have to study when you become a Registrar!