Eugene is the registrar for the Getty Museum on Whyville. What the heck is
a registrar? Let's find out!
Q: What is a registrar?
A: A museum registrar keeps track of the art and makes sure it is kept
safe. This is important because many of the artworks are old and fragile, and
also very valuable.
It's also my job to make sure the art travels safely. Museums sometimes
send their art to other museums for special exhibitions, so that people from
other cities and countries can see and enjoy it! And I can't just send
it in the mail! I have to make special arrangements with shippers and airlines.
We're like travel agents for art.
Q: How does art travel?
A: Imagine that you have to get a painting the size of a classroom chalkboard
from Los Angeles to Berlin, Germany. You have to get it out of your museum (are
the doors big enough?), onto a truck (where do you find a truck that big?),
onto an airplane (it can't sit in a seat!), onto another truck, and into the
museum in Berlin. You also have to deal with legal issues with contracts, insurance
companies and customs. And you may have to do it all in German!
We also get custom-made crates to transport the artworks. Just like your clarinet
and French horn have special carrying cases, artworks need special cases built
to protect them.
Q: How do you become a registrar?
A: Most registrars went to college and majored in art history or studio
art. I majored in art history and also went to graduate school for museum studies,
which teaches you about the business of running a museum.
Art classes taught me how artists make art. I know what materials artworks
are made of, so I know what kinds of things can damage them.
For example, if you've ever taken a photography class, you know that too much
light can ruin a photograph. That's why we store photographs in boxes that don't
let any light in. In an exhibition, we also make sure the light in the room
is not very bright.
Q: Do you get to travel?
Sometimes I get to be the personal escort for a work of art traveling to another
city. Most of our art is so valuable that someone needs to keep an eye on it
all the time, just to make sure it doesn't get damaged, lost, or even stolen!
I also go to conferences where I meet registrars from all over the world. There
aren't very many of us who go into this profession, so we look forward
to catching up at conferences.
Q: Since you work with priceless works of art, do you make a ton of money?
A: No, not really. Museums don't usually make a profit like private
companies do. So there isn't a whole lot of money in it. I don't do this for
the money. I love art and get to work with amazing objects. And the decisions
I make today will affect generations to come because I am helping to preserve
the art for the future.
Q: Is your job fun?
A: Yes! It's fun because I get to solve interesting problems and
work with all sorts of art and all sorts of people. I like helping a curator
make an idea for an exhibition into a reality.
But my favorite part of my job is when we install works of art in a gallery
for an exhibition. That's when all the people working on the exhibition come
together. Sometimes the artist is even there. It's fun to see the art going
up on the walls
Q: Do other kinds of museums have registrars?
A: Absolutely! Natural history museums, history museums, and science
museums all have registrars. Historic houses also have registrars, like the
castles in England and the White House in Washington, D.C. And corporations
like Microsoft and Coca-Cola also have registrars to care for their art collections.
Even zoos have registrars! Instead of keeping track of art, they keep track
of animals. Imagine trying to figure out how to get a giraffe from Los Angeles
Q: What's the most important thing you've learned as a registrar?
A: I've become very good at geography. I have to know where places are
so that I can ship the art by the safest and most efficient route. I've always
loved maps and navigating, so I love this part of the job.
Q: What kind of person becomes a registrar?
A: An octopus! Seriously though, to be a registrar you have to like
doing ten things at once and coordinating lots of details. If you like to plan
parties or organize events, you would probably have fun doing my job. But if
you are the type who likes to be the center of attention, you wouldn't
enjoy it. It's definitely a behind-the-scenes job. I'm like a stage
manager for a play, or a production assistant for a movie. I help make it all
happen, but I'm not in the spotlight. It's not very glamorous. And you
definitely have to love being around art!