Collections Management comprises three intersecting subdivisions: registrars plan and orchestrate logistics for works of art entering and leaving the Museum; collections care specialists are responsible for supervising the movement and safe handling of artworks within the museum; and collections information personnel maintains comprehensive object files and manages Artemis, the Museum’s centralized collections management system.
The registrar staff organizes all aspects of transporting works of art to and from the Museum. Thousands of objects come and go through the Museum each year, as potential acquisitions, for inclusion in the in-house special exhibitions program, or as loans to borrowing institutions worldwide.
Working closely with all Museum departments and outside service providers and in compliance with laws and regulations of the United States and foreign governments, registrars must:
- coordinate shipping of artworks to national and international borrowers
- ensure safe packing and crating in accordance with conservation requirements
- work with customs agents and brokers to procure security and customs permits
- secure insurance and indemnity coverage
- manage facility reports and contracts
- schedule couriers from the Museum and participating institutions to accompany traveling objects
Preparing official documentation, such as receipts and loan agreements, is crucial for smooth operations. For international shipments in particular, registrars provide proper customs declarations and apply for government indemnity, immunity from seizure and licenses to ship materials comprised of endangered species or from sanctioned countries. Keeping current with international regulations and trends, the registrars continually review policy and procedures to guarantee accurate documentation and safe handling and transportation of all artworks that pass through the Museum.
Collections care staff are charged with managing the movement of artworks within and between Museum facilities for shipping, display, treatment, and photography. Duties include:
- assisting with packing and labeling
- assessing and implementing strategies to improve storage spaces
- monitoring environmental conditions in both exhibition and storage areas
- ensuring safety of artworks during installation at the Museum and at all venues exhibiting Museum objects
- maintaining accurate location records in the collections management database
- cleaning, dusting and vacuuming objects on display
Staff members are also entrusted with designing and fabricating special mounts and supports for both exhibition and storage. While collections care managers are responsible for matting and framing two-dimensional objects, conservation engineers develop mounting systems for monumental sculpture and architectural elements, working with structural engineers contracted to assist in the development of support systems and earthquake mitigation methods for large objects. In addition, the department is responsible for the regular maintenance of indoor and outdoor sculpture, including works owned by the City of Boston but traditionally maintained by the Museum.
The development of Artemis, the Museum’s centralized collections management system, has transformed the Museum’s ability to document curatorial, conservation and administrative information. Serving all departments across the Museum, the relational database is not only a repository for object data and media, but also links artworks with corresponding conservation reports, loan and exhibition records, lender and shipping documentation, and publications.
Along with formulating procedures pertaining to the accessioning and deaccessioning of collection objects, this department also conducts an annual audit, documents previously uncatalogued collections, and ensures adherence to national and international museum data standards and nomenclature.
Moreover, the technology arm of this division continually assesses collections-related operational requirements to facilitate data collection and ensure effective and efficient use of the system. Staff members develop custom software to enhance database capabilities and provide technical support to users across the Museum, training staff, volunteers and interns on using a centralized system that makes possible the sharing of nearly all of the Museum’s collections with the public online.