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News & Press: Professional Development

CSI: Registrars at Murray City Museum

Wednesday, December 4, 2013   (0 Comments)
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On October 9, 2013, five registrars from around the west joined Registrars Committee – Western Region (RC-WR) Treasurer Kathleen Daly and Chair Nicole Nathan for an intensive day of registration-based activities at the Murray City Museum. Each year before the annual Western Museums Association meetings a pre-conference workshop is organized by RC-WR to pair professional registrars and collections managers with a small museum to help them catch up on projects such as accessioning, condition reporting, and rehousing of objects. We call it CSI: Registrars.

Pinpointing Murray City Museum as our partner for CSI: Registrars came with the help of Ruth White at the Utah Museums Association. Ruth provided much needed assistance and intel on museums within the Salt Lake City region who would need collections help, and Murray City Museum was a great choice; diversity of collections, short-term needs which could be handled in a day, and dedicated staff and volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves and help. Mary Ann Kirk and Bunny Ankeny of Murray were enthusiastic to host and assist with preparations.

Groundwork for the tasks at hand began with conversations with Murray staff on their highest priorities and how they hoped to benefit from the concentration of people on site. Having a full spectrum of experience embodied in the volunteers ranging from art handlers to natural history, and military history to textile professionals provided a wealth of resources for Murray’s needs. Accounting for this experience and the needs of the museum we began with studying images of the current interpretive installation, which featured much of the collection, as well as gauging the supplies on hand. From this research, we determined what general supplies for rehousing and protection of objects on exhibit would be needed. With supplies and lunch generously provided through the generosity of Hollinger Metal Edge, the registrars and museum volunteers and staff descended upon Murray Museum.

As the day on site began, we started with an overall walkthrough of the exhibition spaces and objects on display. Dioramas and glass cases throughout Murray City Hall show the history and objects interpreting the history of Murray. As the registrars and staff examined the exhibitions we came up with a list of priorities and a plan of attack.


Exhibition cases needed barrier layers protecting objects from each other. Textiles needed extra padding and support. Some objects needed to simply be removed from display; they had been on exhibit for nearly 10 years, and had been subjected to light and the stressors of being on view. Books and documents needed support structures and Mylar page holders. Refreshing, rehousing, and assessing were the goals and making use of simple, straightforward, and economical solutions were the means.

A request from Murray staff was to provide instruction and hands-on demonstrations of how to complete a condition report. Focusing on textiles for the reports, registrars worked directly with Murray volunteers and staff addressing why these types of reports are necessary, then working step-by-step through the process, tips, and terminology. At the end of the day a core group of Murray volunteers had the skills and confidence necessary to complete condition reports on all types and kinds of materials.

In addition to the space in Murray City Hall the museum physically occupies, glass cases in the hallways feature objects from the collection, illustrating additional stories around Murray history. Volunteers focused on the “Arlington School” case, removing objects from display which needed a “rest,” creating mounts which both support and protect the objects and the display, and determining the highest and best use of objects to tell the story of Murray.

Wendy Niles, a participant, describes the work she and Murray volunteers performed, “…we made a circular paper padded support for the hat to mitigate the creasing.  This also raised the hat so the brim was no longer resting on the metal artifacts and was now supported only by the padding and Plexiglas form.  We then cut out Mylar shapes for barrier layers between the large metal artifacts and the fabric or base surfaces.  There was rust debris under the rail cross section so we brushed that off of the fabric and also brushed the cross section to remove the lose particles.  We also did slight rearranging in the display to align the labels more closely with the associated artifacts.”

CSI: Registrars provides a great opportunity to directly connect with local museums and staff, help fill a need for technical assistance, and assist on special projects which oftentimes would require contracted services. Visible changes and measureable results at the end of a single day are huge motivations not only for site staff, but those of us helping out. Experience and knowledge are for sharing and create camaraderie within the collections world—something that helps the entire museum profession.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, provided expertise, supplies, and people power to Murray City Museum!


- Nicole Nathan
Claret Associates / RCWR


See more photos of this event at


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