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Registration at the National Museum

The National Museum of Australia's Registration team is connected with all aspects of the life of objects as they move through the Museum.

Registration manages the physical, intellectual and legal control of the National Museum's collections.

The team is responsible for cataloguing, collection storage, access, loans, security and transport. Registration also covers information and archives management and photography.

Registration is organised into four teams: Documentation and Accessions, Locations, Operations and Photography.

Sarah Streatfeild measures the size of one of the Museum's wet biological specimen cases
Sarah Streatfeild examines one of the Museum's wet biological specimens. Photo: George Serras.

Registration case studies

Learn about the work of the National Museum's Registration team and how it deals with large collections, both old and new.

audio_w15 Audio and transcript of Door to store caring for your collection talk - Listen to members of the Registration team discuss the documentation, photography, uplift and transport that was needed to make the Saw Doctor’s wagon a part of the Museum’s collection.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Art collection
A rich collection of artworks and significant Indigenous objects from across Australia, transferred to the National Museum.

Support for national museum in Lao
George Serras assists the Luang Prabang National Museum with photographing its collection.

The Springfield collection
The challenge of moving 2000 objects from a family museum on a major grazing property to a new home at the National Museum.

audio_w15 Audio and transcript on the Springfield collection - Listen to members of the Registration team share the challenges and rewards of bringing the Springfield collections to the Museum and making it part of the National Historical Collection.

Tackling the backlog
A two-year project to accession, document and digitise records for more than 10,000 objects from the National Historical Collection.

Documentation and accessions

The National Museum's Documentation and Accessions team registers – or catalogues – material coming into the collection.

Team members capture and enter information about objects into the Museum's collections database. They also physically number new acquisitions approved by the Museum's Council.

The Documentation and Accessions team:

  • liaises with curators to complete collection assessments
  • compiles documentation for objects being prepared for exhibition
  • documents objects being loaned to other institutions
  • develops and implements documentation standards for improved intellectual access to the collection.

The team is also working on the accessions backlog project. This includes:

  • working with curators to process backlog collections for inclusion in the National Historical Collection or other Museum collections
  • accessioning collections, either fully or partially completed, before the National Museum opened at Acton in 2001
  • transferring paper records to the National Museum's database
  • assessing collection material for possible de-accession or disposal.
Karen Peterson guides a trolley past a plinth where Tim Moore is placing a wooden shield.
Registration's Karen Peterson and contractor Tim Moore work on the installation of a shield for the Papunya Painting exhibition. Photo: George Serras.

Locations

The National Museum's Locations team is primarily responsible for managing the storage and tracking of collection objects.

The Locations team also:

  • retrieves objects from storage for exhibitions and conservation assessment
  • tracks the movement of objects and ensures all objects on the National Museum's database are barcoded
  • packs objects for travelling exhibitions and outward loans
  • safely transports objects between the Mitchell repositories on the outskirts of Canberra to the National Museum in central Canberra
  • packs and returns objects to permanent storage
  • carries out collection stocktaking
  • maximises storage facilities, including the organisation
    of appropriate storage systems and conditions.

Three women looking at small coin.
Registration's Jane Steinhaeuser, Senior Curator Martha Sear and exhibition designer Laila Christie examine a convict love token. Photo: Lannon Harley

Operations

The National Museum's Operations team manages the physical transport of new donations and acquisitions, and inward and outward loans.

The team is also involved in the planning and installation of exhibitions.

It manages the changeover of objects in the National Museum's galleries.

The team also coordinates these areas:

  • Access to the National Historical Collection for curators and designers working on the gallery development program.
  • Cultural Gifts Program donations. Valuations are sourced and documentation is submitted to the Office for the Arts. 
  • Public requests to access the collection. Collection searches are coordinated, along with access to the collection for researchers and visitors.
  • The National Museum's paper and photographic archive. New acquisitions are catalogued and assistance is provided for people wishing to access the collection.
Two cranes and a camera linked to a computer screen are used to capture an image from above of a large Aboriginal dot painting.
Photographers work to capture an image of a large Aboriginal dot painting. Photo: George Serras.

Photography

The National Museum's Photography team is responsible for creating professional quality images.

The Photography team's work includes:

  • documenting National Historical Collection material for archival purposes, publications, the Museum's website and the collections database
  • documenting events, exhibition launches and education activities
  • documenting exhibition galleries
  • providing graphic material to support exhibitions
  • providing marketing images
  • providing images for gallery catalogues and other publications
  • documenting objects and events for use on the website.

More

Follow the links below for information about the registration profession, associated agencies and guidelines which inform the work of the National Museum's Registration team.

Cultural Gifts Program on the Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website

Movable cultural heritage on the Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website

Australasian Registrars Committee website

United Kingdom Registrars' Group website

Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums website

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species website

Patrick Baum and Antonia Ross prepare to move an Australian flag into a display case in the Museum's Hall
Registration's Patrick Baum and Conservation's Antonia Ross prepare to move an Australian flag, retrieved from the ruins of the World Trade Center, into a display case in the Museum's Hall. Photo: Lannon Harley.