I was lucky enough to attend the Australasian Registrars Committee annual conference last month, a two-part affair taking place in Sydney on 18th March and Auckland on 21st March, in order to present a paper on museums, mass digitisation and copyright. The events were held at two stunning locations: Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Circular Quay between the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House; and the Auckland Museum, built on the ridge of a volcanic crater in the lush confines of the city’s Domain.
This was the first year the conference took place in two separate locations; but the programme and speakers remained the same across both. The conference theme was ‘Think Lateral’ – a topic meant to instigate those in the museum world to think outside the box, especially in an era of changing technologies and budget cuts.
The first two talks from David Reeves, Director of Collections & Research at Auckland Museum, and Gina Irish, Registrar at Christchurch Art Gallery, presented the case for joint acquisitions of objects between institutions when the cost is too much for one museum to bear, giving the poignant examples of the joint purchase of the 1806 Te Pahi Medal and Shane Cotton’s Haymaker series respectively.
Ian McDonald, Special Counsel with Simpsons law firm, and myself then discussed some of the prevailing copyright issues for museums these days, specifically in regards to museum reproduction and digitisation. My own presentation highlighted the recent changes brought about to copyright exceptions in the UK and how these have in many regards fallen short of expectations insofar as museums and galleries are concerned.
We also heard from Dr Donna Brett and Julie Banks, the first on the importance of provenance research and the second on the development of comprehensive compliance policies for museums. The final talk took the form of an emotional farewell from Charlotte Davy, who is stepping down as ARC Chair – and moving from the Art Gallery of New South Wales to take up a position at New Zealand’s Te Papa Museum in Wellington.
And so the theme of ‘Think Lateral’ was covered in many shapes and forms: in terms of museum acquisitions, copyright policy, international comparisons, provenance research and the overhaul of museum ethics. Edward de Bono would be proud.
Of course for each part of the conference, there was an obligatory class photo. Here they are, reproduced courtesy of the Australasian Registrars Committee (thanks to Charm Watts and Gina Irish for these):