Registrar at the Indian Arts Research Center

Jennifer Day serves as the Registrar at the Indian Arts Research Center (IARC), a division of the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jennifer manages collection records, new acquisitions, and paperwork and logistics for loan and image reproduction requests.

Although not a traditional exhibiting museum, the IARC houses an impressive research collection of approximately 12,000 Southwest Native American ceramics, textiles, works on paper, and other cultural items, and over 345,000 archaeological items from the region. The IARC also serves as a central hub for artists, scholars, and the local community.

1. What makes the IARC’s collection unique?

I think the IARC is unique because of our approach to how the collection is utilized. As a research collection, IARC endeavors to connect people with the collection in various ways. It’s a resource for artists, scholars, researchers, students, and others. Native artists are encouraged to study the collections to inspire their own work. School groups and students regularly visit the collections for educational purposes. Consultation with tribal officials or representatives who are authorized to speak on cultural matters helps to increase IARC’s understanding about the collections and improve its documentation. Scholars of native art utilize the collection for research and publications. These are only a few of the ways in which IARC attempts to broaden the use and understanding of the collection.

2. What does your average day look like?

My days are varied! Common tasks include preparing registration and data entry projects for interns and volunteers, as well as processing object loans or image reproduction requests. I might also tweak TMS reports using Crystal Reports, attend meetings, perform data entry for special projects, verify data before sending database reports to researchers, re-organize old records so they are more accessible to staff, and update budget spreadsheets. I don’t do all of these things every day, but I do all of these and additional tasks in the course of an average week.

3. In what ways has your use of TMS evolved since its implementation in 2010?

Since 2010, we’ve expanded our use of TMS by taking advantage of features that our previous database didn’t have. For example, we’re about half-way through a project to scan and link all of our conservation documents to the Conservation module in TMS, so that staff members who need this information can have it at their fingertips.

We’ve also started using the Rights and Reproductions feature to track which artists we have limited license agreements with, and the details of those agreements.

We’ve added records to the Loan and Exhibition modules going back to 1979, which has greatly improved our ability to track when and where items have been exhibited.

Another favorite feature is the Bibliography module. We use this module to record which collection items have appeared in publications. This is very useful because instead of simply listing citations, it allows us to navigate back and forth between a bibliographic entry and the corresponding object records. It’s beneficial from a data entry standpoint and also to those who utilize our collection for research.

As we become comfortable with various features, we continually find ways of using others that allow us to improve both the quantity and quality of our data.

We use the Object, Constituent, and Bibliography modules most frequently. This is because they are the core modules that allow us to link the objects with all the people connected to them through time, and also to track where our objects have been published.

We also use reports extensively in our daily interaction with TMS. Having such a wide variety of reports available with TMS has been really useful, and the ability to tweak them via Crystal Reports to better fit our needs has been crucial to refining work flow.

4. What interesting projects do you have in the pipeline?

We will soon begin a comprehensive collection review project with a local Native American pueblo. This will involve examining each collection item that originated in that community and working with their experts to answer our questions, as well as adding new information they would like to see in the records. This process will ensure that our records are as accurate and complete as possible, and that we are sharing culturally-appropriate information about the collection. With the guidance of the pueblo’s leadership, we will identify culturally sensitive items and clarify how to best manage those items in a respectful manner.

We’ve re-labeled a couple of fields in TMS to track specific instructions to staff regarding culturally-appropriate access, handling, and storage. We’re also noting if the items are appropriate for use in publications as some items are culturally sensitive and require considerations unique to their situation. We use another field to include new cataloging and cultural information that the pueblos would like to see added to each item’s record.

We’ve nearly completed a similar project with another pueblo and have found it to be a mutually beneficial and highly rewarding experience.