The Executive Board of the Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums (AAM) has selected Walker Art Center Registrar Gwen Bitz to receive its Dudley Wilkinson Award of Distinction, given every two years to a museum registrar who has made significant contributions to the field of registration. Bitz will receive the award on May 25 at AAM’s annual meeting in Los Angeles. June marks her 31st year at the Walker.
“Gwen has been an exemplary professional in every sense of the word,” said Walker chief curator Darsie Alexander. “In her long career at the Walker, she has distinguished herself for her tremendous patience, integrity, and commitment. She pursues perfection in all aspects of her job, yet is inherently flexible and warm. Gwen is a huge asset to this institution, and the many artists and lenders who interact with it on a daily basis.”
Bitz oversees prudent management of the Walker’s permanent and borrowed collections while maintaining a careful balance between protecting the works and making them accessible. Under her care, collections numbering some 12,000 works have transitioned to climate storage (2002), been tagged with RFID barcodes starting in 2004, and been moved into a new on-site storage facility following a 2005 building expansion. In addition to directing the department, she has overseen the organization of numerous challenging exhibitions, including the museum-wide Bruce Nauman (1994); Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World (1996); 2000 B.C.:THE BRUCE CONNER STORY PART II (1999); Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera, 1962-1972 (2001); House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective (2005); Frida Kahlo (2007); and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love (2007). She is currently coordinating the registration duties for a major Yves Klein retrospective co-organized with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Bitz regularly coordinates international loans and travels worldwide to ensure the safe care of artworks. She supervises a department staff of six.
Recognized as a leading registrar globally, Bitz is often invited to share her vast registration experience. She has been a contributor to the publication The New Registration Methods, and served for three years (1994–1996) as a panelist on the National Endowment Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Panel. She has written successful indemnity applications and grants for a number of exhibitions and the collection. In 1997, she was invited by Fundació “la Caixa,” Barcelona, Spain, to lead a seminar called Collection Management and Exhibition Organization for Passió i tedi en l’art contemporani (Passion and Ennui in Contemporary Art), a development program for young contemporary art curators. She is a member of the Registrar’s Committee of the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Midwest Registrar’s Committee. She has presented on panels at AAM, RC-AAM, and the Museum Computer Network conferences.
The Registrars Committee’s oldest award, the Dudley Wilkinson Award of Distinction was established in 1988 (the name was changed from AAM Registrars Committee Award of Distinction in 1990). It is named for the authors of the first “registrar’s Bible,” Museum Registration Methods, Dorothy H. Dudley and Irma Bezold Wilkinson. Past recipients of the award include Marie Malaro, Kay Paris, Stephen Weil, Mary Case, Kittu Longstreth Brown, Cordelia Rose, Rebecca Buck and Jean Allman Gilmore, and Deborah Hull-Walski.