In 2010, three colleagues from Leeds Museums and Galleries, the Royal Armouries and the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage at the University of Leeds came together to address the problem that there was no specific training from museum registrars offered anywhere in Europe.
The role of the Registrar, or Collections Manager and their functions is a complex one and crucial for all museums. The best way we have found to describe it is to use the analogy of the other type of registrar: someone who records births, deaths and marriages. In the museum context, the registrar is responsible for objects coming into the collections (birth), their care while they are there and their loan to other museums (marriage) and sometimes, the de-accessioning of objects (death).
Out of this conversation, we designed (in partnership) a trainee programme. This new programme would harness the possibilities of the largest regional museum service in the UK, an internationally recognised University that delivers postgraduate programmes on museums and galleries, and a national museum.
By coming together in Leeds to provide a training programme, the recipient would benefit from practical experience of a large range of projects across both museum services, and the chance to reflect critically on this practice through participation in a Post-Graduate Certificate version of the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies.
In return, trainees would be expected to act as advocates for this aspect of museum work — which is vital and yet little known or understood by those wanting to secure a career in museums.
Since 2010, 10 trainees have graduated from the year-long programme, and all have secured jobs immediately on or before graduation across the UK in the field.