Even after taking time out of a busy morning to clean up a bit, Bobby Moore has about 10 Post-it notes on her desk.
Stacks of paperwork documenting every facet of any one upcoming exhibitions hosted at the four locations of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art sit meticulously bound or stapled together. Losing just one loan agreement or legal document could mean hours of more work and hassle.
Directly across the room in Moore's office is a collection of filing cabinets and rows of white binders so packed with the paperwork of past events, exhibitions and accomplishment that it's hard to fit a finger between files.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art registrar Bobby Moore poses at SAMA-Loretto.
Moore has acted as the museum registrar for nearly 13 years - a job that requires a lot of preparation, patience, and yes, paperwork. But as the keeper of the museum's permanent collection - which contains more than 4,000 works - Moore looks at her job as both a huge responsibility and a labor of love.
"It becomes part of you over time," she said of the collection. "It's been about 13 years that I've been doing this, and it's incredible. It's just incredible to have the connection you have with the artwork."
Moore began working at SAMA as a temporary secretary in 1994 when the collection's database was first being transferred to the computer. She was then promoted to full-time receptionist, then executive secretary, which introduced Moore to some curatorial duties. In early 2000, then SAMA-Loretto curator Michael Tomor took on the role of director. He decided to promote Moore once again to the position of registrar.
"He felt that I knew enough that I could do the job," she said. "So it was kind of like baptism by fire."
The registrar is responsible for a laundry list of seemingly tedious tasks: overseeing and handling the museum's database, generating donor files, creating deeds and legal documentation for tax write-offs, creating and maintaining files for every artist represented in the permanent collection, being responsible for the paperwork for every exhibition at each of the four SAMA locations, and handling arrangements for professional shipping for traveling exhibitions and incoming and outgoing artwork.
"There is just so much involved in it that you would never realize," she said. "There is so much paperwork and so much red tape with everything you do."
Moore never dreamed of doing something like this when she was growing up, and admits she probably didn't know what a museum resistrar was, let alone what one did.
"But I've always loved art, and as a matter of fact, I did have talent when I was a kid," she said. "I believe everybody is an artist when they're born, and they have that natural gift. But if you don't keep after it, and you just quit drawing or doodling or whatever, you lose it over time. Now, I probably couldn't even draw a stick person."
Despite the mountain of responsibility, Moore believes she has "the coolest job in the museum field." She also said that working at SAMA is quite different than working at a museum would be in a big city.
"We reach out to a rural community," she said. "We are understaffed, so each of us wears several hats."
Moore said most SAMA staff members perform duties outside of their job descriptions. She regularly lends a hand with preparatory and installation duties, and presently serves as the interim coordinator for SAMA-Loretto as well as the registrar. She held both titles once before, from 2007 to 2009.
"It's just the way the economy is for nonprofit organizations," Moore said. "This kind of thing is actually taking place all over the country. But something that is wonderful about being a part of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, even though we are understaffed, [is that] we have a great team. Each one of us is an important link.
"We work well together, and each one of us is willing to go above and beyond our job descriptions simply because we love what we do."
Gary Moyer, SAMA executive director, said the work of the museum's full-time and part-time employees is what has made the museum, now in its 35th year of existence, both a successful museum and business. He added that more then 50,000 patrons visit the four SAMA locations a year, drawn by the roughly 30 annual exhibitions planned and implemented by Moore and other site coordinators.
"We have a very aggressive exhibition schedule for any museum, and would probably rival any urban museum as far as the number and diversity of art that is exhibited," Moyer said.
He added that the quantity of work that is exhibited is also matched by quality. Each piece of the collection must be maintained and looked after to a great extent, even if it's been years since it's been pulled out to be exhibited.
"As an accredited museum, we are charged with a very large responsibility," Moyer said. "That is that the art treasures we have are a public trust. We want to make sure those are maintained and sustained, that they are preserved and protected in the best possible way. That, in many respects, is Bobby's job as the registrar."
Moore said that each day is "very chaotic," and that she can rarely plan a shift in advance because something always comes up. But the diversity of the position keeps her from getting bored. Whether she's sitting behind a computer or installing an exhibition by hand, Moore is proof that working at a museum is fun, but not all fun and games.
"Working in an art museum isn't picking up a hammer, banging in a nail and hanging up a picture ... it's difficult and it's sacrificing, especially for a nonprofit," she said. "You don't make a lot financially. You have to love what you're doing. You have to realize that you're doing something positive for the community."
Reaching out to the local community and local artists is one of Moore's favorite parts of the job. In the coming weeks, she'll be hard at work preparing the museum's Biennial celebration and juried show. She was personally responsible for reaching out to more than 100 local and regional artists and collecting their submissions to send to the selection juror.
She has a box full of submission discs under her desk to prove it.
"I've made some lifelong friends in my position here," she said of some artists. "[They're] just the greatest most incredibly amazing people. ... You're just taken by their complete, incredible God-given talents."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.