The New York Public Library Registrar’s Office is part of the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division and is responsible for the tracking and safety of the Library’s special collections when these items are part of in-house exhibitions, are sent as loans to other cultural institutions, and when they ship across the different Library sites. The Registrar Staff has expertise in museum registration methods and procedures, including recordkeeping, fine arts insurance coverage, conservation requirements, fine art shipping, courier and customs procedures, TSA requirements, handling, packing, and legal and contractual issues involving loans and exhibitions.
Registrarial advice is often sought by Library staff and representatives of borrowing and lending institutions on a variety of issues: security, insurance, conservation, environmental standards, storage, handling, and shipping of objects.
Special collections movement
The Registrar’s Office tracks the movement and coordinates all shipping arrangements of all special collections items being transported across the Library’s network of locations, regardless of the purpose of their movement. Following best museum practices registrars ensure the safety of the collection at all times during transport.
Outgoing loans for external exhibitions
The Registrar’s Office administers an active outgoing loan program that enables other qualified cultural institutions to borrow works from the Library’s collections to enhance their own exhibitions. With stringent requirements for temperature, relative humidity, light levels and duration, security, insurance coverage, and exhibition display, borrowing institutions must submit an American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Facility Report for approval in order to demonstrate their ability to properly care for the Library’s objects.
The registrars make all the arrangements for the packing and crating of the Library’s special collection items consulting with the Library’s conservators and using specialized fine arts craters and art handlers.
Advance scheduling is crucial to meeting internal deadlines and those of borrowing institutions. A six month lead time is needed for conservators to treat, mat, and strap works. The Library individually prepares its own works going out on loan so that the objects are “exhibition ready” when they are received by the borrower. This includes producing backing boards, constructing Plexiglas mounts, strapping books, building microclimate enclosures, and framing prints or documents.The Registrar’s Office coordinates all arrangements for insurance, shipping, customs, and courier for outgoing loans. For more comprehensive information, please see the Library's Outgoing Loan Program Guidelines.
The Library has an active exhibition program throughout its libraries, offered to the public free of charge. The Registrar’s Office is a key part of the process that makes exhibitions possible. Specialized handling and recordkeeping are vital to make certain that treasured books, manuscripts, and art collections are exhibited safely.
Extensive planning often begins years before an exhibition’s opening date. Budgets, exhibition contracts, and loan agreements are prepared and negotiated with the help of the Registrar’s Office. The Registrar’s Office coordinates all packing, crating, shipping, customs, and courier arrangements for all incoming loans as well as for the Library’s collection items. Registrars are involved in multiple aspects of installing and deinstalling exhibitions tracking the movement of items throughout the entire exhibition process and making sure that objects are safe and conservation requirements are followed.
Registrars produce condition reports for all incoming loans upon unpacking and all exhibition items are issued temporary identification numbers. Works are prepared for display by conservators, framers and mount makers. At the close of an exhibition, registrars will check the condition of the objects again and arrange for the safe return of incoming loans to the lenders and of collection items to the Library’s curatorial divisions.