The Museum Registrar as ‘Assembled Role’: A Productive Conceptualization of Collections Management Practice?

Stuart Bowes


Registrars are an integral part of many contemporary museums, yet theirs is a role that can be difficult to grasp with any certainty. By examining the interconnected functions and duties that constitute registrar practice, this article seeks to determine its scope with greater clarity. To establish the context and rationale for this study, I explore the reasons for the development of competing perceptions surrounding the registrar profession. The article then surveys the definitions of the role present in the published literature to identify the functions most commonly identified with registrar practice. Using the principles of assemblage theory, it fashions a new interpretation of registrar practice from the individual processes that are most widely ascribed to it. The resulting ‘assembled role’ encompasses the fields of resource management, logistics, and risk management. This concept is harnessed to explore the complexities of contemporary registrar practice by considering their role in the acquisition of a born-digital meme. The article concludes by advocating further critical examination of museum registrars and anticipating their continuing importance to the work of museums.


registrars; registrar practice; collections management; assembled role; assemblage theory

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Copyright (c) 2023 Stuart Bowes

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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