Beatrix Schopp - Procedures at Museum Ludwig Cologne
Registrar at Museum Ludwig, Cologne – a chance to be differentAmsterdam 2010Dear colleagues,Dear fellows,The general theme for the conference is being green, a theme takenfrom a 1970´s song performed by Kermit the frog which not only refers toenvironmental sustainability but also to the courage it takes to bedifferent.This general theme was the main point which made me think it could beuseful for registrars joining this conference to hear about my daily workat Museum Ludwig.Kermit is also present in my office as a life guard. I thought it was a goodidea to have a sympathetic life guard near whilst working in a museumand allowed him to move with me when I became registrar!Being green is not only thinking about ecological and technical resourcesbut means a lot more in connection with working processes andprocedures.As you see I have chosen Max Ernst´s painting „Au Rendezvous desamis” as background for my speech.It shows a group of artists and literary figures which met in Paris in the1920ies to discuss, organize congresses and exhibitions as well as toargue. They finally founded a new art movement – The Surrealism.
I think that registrars are all in many ways part of a Rendezvous desamis! We work together on exhibitions and permanent collections.Each of us has to fulfil requirements not only of our home institution butis also part of the international registrars community looking for commonstandards to make work more efficient. For these reasons we togetherdiscuss and sometimes argue while we are organizing congresses andexhibitions!As you all know this has to do with a lot of self responsibility.Each of us – as individuals - has to develop his- or her own self everyday in response and sometimes in advance to the changing and thedifferent demands and. Being flexible is daily essential.Most of us work single or with less personal equipment but stillincreasing quantities of work.On the other hand there are new opportunities supported by electronicdata processing and more experiences we make from working togetherwith international partners - for example - on exhibition tours includingvarious insurance companies, art shipping companies and otherindustries involved in loan business.Influences are coming from in- and outside. Let us bring them togetherwith – each his or her - own ideas. Please remember the painting: It´s arendezvous of friends working in close association but each one still isan individual, looking to construct an own space.Well anyway: I was asked to give you an example of how a registrarworks in a museum of modern art in Germany
So please enjoy some reflections about my work at Museum Ludwig!When I started to be the first registrar in a Cologne museum in 2004 oneof the curators – wohe had been working at Museum Ludwig for a verylong time - asked me: “And now – do you know what you have to do?No, of course I did not know what to do at this time but was kindly askedto find out!Before Museum Ludwig had a registrar the curators, conservators andthe administration all were involved in parts of organizing exhibitions andhandling outgoing loans – works a registrar normally is in charge to do.But they were happy to be released from these jobs when I began mywork.Because of more than 25 years working for the Cologne museums I amaware of most of the facilities and problems of all museums in Colognebut especially of those at Museum Ludwig as I have been working theremost of the time. I was always interested in all working fields at “my”museum and was asked many times for my opinion, which ist a greathonour to me! Very quickly I learned that being a registrar does not onlymean working in the museum but also working outside as courier and incooperation with colleagues from all over the world. From the firstEuropean Registrars meeting I joined in Wolfsburg I learned that there isa close relation between all museums and institutions working on loanbusiness and so there is a great chance for cooperation. Of course I amnot only due to my work very much interested in optimizing workingprocesses in German museums and institutions and so I did organize awork shop for German registrars according to packing specifics, aspectsof quotations for transportation and customs formalities. This work shop
was very well attended by the colleagues and brought a lot of newmembers for the German association called Registrars Deutschland.Joining local registrars communities is the first step. What is needed nextis that the membership continually discusses work issues in order toencourage the exchange of views not only during meetings but alsowhile working on a project.Remaining flexible while the quantity of work is still growing made methink about more effective and efficient solutions and also to ask for!I realized that before I can step in to actually make things different I knewit would be necessary learning about all working fields that are part of amuseum or institution. The terms of reference of a curator are completelydifferent from the job order of a conservator and both are not askedworking - for example - on logistics when there is a registrar available.Working in the administration department only gave me theunderstanding of a small part of museum life – but working as registraropened the whole door of varieties.As the registrar is the one at a museum or institution who has to bring allparts together who are taking part on an exhibition or loan procedure,it´s her or him who is mostly interested in a good communicationbetween parties involved.Please nether forget: One of the bases for professional work is therespect for each human being even couriers and directors!In the first years I was registrar responsible for exhibitions andpermanent collection assisted by a colleague:
Now a colleague is working on permanent collections loans and I amresponsible for the exhibitions.Museum Ludwig presents a lot of projects every year which means a lotof motivation to all of us. (There are around 13 exhibitions a year andabout 500 outgoing loans!) To keep motivation up is one of the mostimportant assignments. On the other hand it is necessary to watchworking processes carefully.When a young team was completed in 2008 we started to build workinggroups and found out that the flow of works has to be verified in manyways. For example: Due to the fact a registrar was settled in the museumthe duties of documentation had changed.We established various appointments in addition to the weekly meetingof curatorial staff, Administration, conservation department and technicalstaff to improve internal communication.The City of Cologne requires an annual review process between superiorand employee. This goes together with a benefit system which ispractised in other German Cities as well.These appointments shall help to review your daily work and developvisions for future activities.It also gives the superior the opportunity to get aware of theresponsibilities of each employee.Both is necessary for living working procedures and a goodcommunication.
Increasing workflows means that all persons involved need the sametechnical knowledge and resources. Various training programmes areavailable at the City of Cologne for all employees, others can be joinedfor example at the advance technical college for conservation and alsoprivate schools and more for all working fields.Registrars Deutschland offers workshops for members as well asmentioned previously. It is up to the Registrars to initiate and designworkshops. Insurance for example is an important issue!In a museum or institution which presents art to the public you will find alot of risks which have to be reduced to an acceptable minimum to avoiddamages. Insurance companies offer a standard of conditions withexclusions that have to be watched carefully before a project is plannedand realized.And think of the discussions about state indemnities we had also at theEuropean conventions!Being Registrar at Museum Ludwig also means a lot of administrativework. Museum Ludwig is an institute of the City of Cologne what says itbelongs to a public organization. Public organizations are not able todeal with companies like private organizations can. The City of Colognewith its museums as a contracting authority has to follow (Ok, I will do itvery slowly…) the regulations of the official contracting terms for awardof service performance contracts (in German: VOL). The Municipal AuditOffice has to control the legal use of finance resources and the municipalcontract office for tenders has to take out tenders of all variationsconforming to the law.
For cultural affairs are the responsibility of each federal land of thefederal republic of Germany the City of Cologne has to report toministries of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Of course all institutions supportingprojects have the right to be informed about the way finance resourcesare used. In fact this means a big responsibility and knowledge ofregulations from the beginning. At Museum Ludwig it is the exhibitionregistrar who is responsible for the part the museum has got in theseprocedures.As I learned, for a lot of museums and cultural institutions it is cruelhearing about regulations! But as you may agree some of the mattersdue to the fact you have to start a tender for example for arttransportation can help you organizing your daily work – Think about thetime a public tender takes before you have the result – including all stepsand formalities. At least it means months in advance to an opening. Soyou will need loan lists months in advance to an opening – I mean loanlists which have to do something with the exhibition at least. The loan listis the base for a good service specification which is a main part of eachtender!To get complete information I thought a questionnaire which should besent to lenders well in advance to tenders would be useful. This paperwok has been worked out with colleagues who are interested in aprofessional work as well as I am. In this questionnaire all informationaccording to a loan such as packing requirements, instructions fortransportation, insurance issues, credit line for catalogue andpublications can be added. In the best case there is a maximum ofinformation which you need in order to realize an exhibition project. Imust admit, this does not work all the time. We all know that loan
business quite often is a last minute thing. Working on work flows andcommunication could help to get this issue more organized and helps tomake working life easier for everyone involved. To help myself and givea base for further generations I am working on a standard Crate-,Packing- and transportation specification for Museum Ludwig whichshould make it easier to provide information to lenders and shippingcompanies about handling of outgoing loans. This also would help toprepare service specifications in case you have no detailed advice fromthe lender. Of course not all issues of packing and transportation can beput into a standard but most of them can.As we all know not only the museums and institutions work on loanmatters but also insurance companies do. Most of the projects areabstract to them. They trust in information provided by us and bear therisk of millions! It´s a duty to work transparently.Fine art shipping companies are organizing transportation, courier tripsand their employees are handling art. This is also a very highresponsibility which we trust in.I have been talking to insurance companies and brokers as well as toshipping companies many times in order to build up a market forMuseum Ludwig and get a view of their possibilities. Sadly not allcompanies are able to take part on the tenders according to exhibitionprojects because this means a lot of work to them and of course only onecan win while for all others it was just work. Due to the formal proceduresa tender always takes a lot of time and this reduces time left for working -for example - on logistics. As a responsible for tenders and realization ofinstallation works it is up to me to discuss the duties with the Contract
office for tenders and the companies as well. It is often a work ofmediation between administration and commercial world. Who everworked in the administration of a City and as a registrar will understandwhat this means!In the beginning it was hard work but meanwhile there is a lot ofacceptance between the museum and the City departments. It takes a lotof courage – often of being different - to reach this acceptance and stayindependent. Independent means to follow the regulations but stay toreality. The City of Cologne for example asks for an assessment basedon 100% price. References shall make sure the company is able to workon the planned project. Everyone here will understand – I hope – thatthis is a thing which does not have to do much with real life! If a companyis under pressure to offer the best price it is obvious that they can notfollow their knowledge all the time. And the less information they get fromthe service specifications the more they can and must build up their ownscenario. So at least you will get estimates which do not fit to the projectto be realized. You will have to officially entrust a company who´sestimate does not have anything or almost anything to do with theinvoice at least. Unless this practise is not very useful the servicespecifications must contain a scenario which is most expectable. Andregistrars should work hard to insist on a fair assessment. This is amatter which should not only be of interest to registrars working in publicmuseums and institutions but should be of interest to all of us!It is hard work to get aware of even exotic lender countries and theirconditions in loan business before you start working on an exhibition butit is worth diving into!
The relations to the companies working on exhibition projects aremarked by professional distance in times of taking part on tenders andloyalty in times of realizing the project.This is a highly sensitive matter!All this is of highly interest to all German registrars. So RegistrarsDeutschland is preparing a workshop which shall give registrars and artshipping companies the opportunity to get into a dialogue about practicalaspects of tenders. Especially the services specifications shall bediscussed and key points for daily cooperation shall be settled. Theresults will be proved by lawyers to make sure they do follow legalfacilities.Gladly being responsible as a registrar at Museum Ludwig does not onlymean to safe money and fulfil requirements of the official contractingterms but also safe human, ecological and technical resources.Sharing courier responsibilities with colleagues from other institutions isvery useful and safes a lot of money and time! Museum Ludwig has gotclose associations with museums and institutions from all over the worldand the employees – mostly the conservators – overtake courier trips forcolleagues or let them take care of Museum Ludwig art mostly whilst ontransit.Getting aware of the special talents of colleagues is another point whichcan help a team being more effective. To the registrar this is animportant issue due to installation works. To give an example: Youshould not make a colleague jump on a scaffold when he is afraid ofheights!
When we work with external hanging teams it is my duty to work outconditions also for daily working times and breaks, because I have tobuild up a temporary team!Finalizing an installation with a résumé and learning for future projectscosts some time but helps you to avoid failures next time.After the conference in Basel, where there has been a session aboutworking together with living artists I initiated a contract which has to beaccepted by the artist and the museum as well. At this time we areworking with the first contract. The contract settles frames for financialresources and also time limits.In the beginning of my work as registrar at Museum Ludwig I worked outloan contracts for exhibitions and permanent collection together withcurators, the administration and a lawyer. This contract followsinternational standards for loan business as well as the existing law.Since the registrar – not only at Museum Ludwig - is working as aninterface, it is her or him to be involved in many aspects. And there is stilla lot to learn and to do – To me it´s great fun – and I hope to all of you aswell!Thank you very much!