The roots of the Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists run deep into the past. The first Registrar in the United States was appointed in 1880 to keep track of the collections of the National Museum, Smithsonian Institution. In the 1950s two of the premier registrars in the United States, Dorothy Dudley at MoMA and Irma Bezold Wilkinson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gathered other registrars together to produce the first guidelines for the field, Museum Registration Methods, 1st edition.
Growing professionalism in the field led to the first association of registrars, the Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums (RCAAM) which was founded in 1977. All past chairs of that committee, from 1998 through 2010, joined other RCAAM officials and registrars from major American collections in founding ARCS in 2012. After many years of discussions and dreams, Jean Gilmore raised her hand at the Houston International Registrars Symposium (2011) and suggested that the time for a new, focused association had finally come. Phones calls, discussions and emails followed. The Founding Board of Directors gathered in Chicago in June 2012 to adopt a set of bylaws and elect officers. For the first time, registrars and collections specialists have stepped forward as a unified, independent, international group to provide programs and services directed especially to the collections worker.