Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Update

COVID-19
What a difference a month makes. We're seeing daily announcements about museums reopening. With the Atlantic Bubble, we will be able to welcome nearby family and friends into our museums, even if the experiences we offer will be a bit different from usual. Over the course of the month we released some more information and resources, including reopening guidelines and information about the federal emergency support program for museums (it's first come, first served so don't miss out!). Check out our website.

Museum Evaluation Program
The MEP work continues from isolation. We held our second Deep Dive this month, looking at the Community section, and our third Deep Dive will take place on July 16th at 130pm and will investigate the Management section of evaluation. For those that had registered for this session already, please take note of the new date! Sorry for any inconvenience but something came up and we had to move it ahead by a week. The Management section is usually one of the most difficult sections of the evaluation for museums, so we hope that we can help to make some improvements in this statistic. You can register for this or any other Deep Dive on our website.
Q&A emails continue to go out when I have a stockpile of five questions to answer, and museums continue to upload as various evaluation requirements are completed. This is all great, and while it may feel busy right now, I know we'll be happy next year when the deadlines arrive and we aren't feeling the same rush or pressure.

Advisory Service Update
In exciting news, we have received MAP funding to offer hub training this year! We are bringing in equipment to digitize watercolours, as well as, enhance educational offerings on NovaMuse with your help. We will offer two hub training options:

1) Digitizing Watercolours (in-person) - We will digitize watercolours found on NovaMuse and contribute to The Watercolour Word with your help. The Watercolour World is a free online database of pre-1900 documentary watercolours from public and private collections around the world. It's an opportunity to explore the world before photography. You will be invited to bring examples of watercolours from your site to digitize and share on both platforms.

2) Educational Resource Development (mostly virtual) - In an effort to enhance educational offerings on NovaMuse, participants will help us create templates for activities/resources to assist students and teachers. We are currently working with a Teachers Advisory Group (TAG) to discuss classroom needs and the development of the teachers resource section on NovaMuse. We look forward to building on this work and offering key resources to teachers.

Sandi is currently in the planning stages and confirming hub training locations. Registration will open shortly! Please check your email on a regular basis for updates.

CollectiveAccess Updates
This month we added 2,028 new records and 5,095 new images to the databases. Good work! It's great to see everyone keeping busy behind the scenes. Your hard work doesn't go unnoticed! That brings the total to 313,031 artifacts and 232,700 images overall. Unfortunately about half of these images are not accessible to the public on NovaMuse. Right now is a great time to check if you've chosen 'accessible to the public' for images under the Media tab in CollectiveAccess. Sometimes this step is overlooked and the public misses out on some fantastic images you've been capturing and meaning to share with your online audience.

Here are the regional stats:
Southwest -  138,788 artifacts, 88,492 images
Central -  103,598 artifacts, 71,186 images
Northeast - 39,383 artifacts, 55,484 images
Cape Breton - 31,262 artifacts, 17,538 images

Recently, we've had a few questions about access, as in what should be made accessible, how does accessibility impact the Transcription feature, etc. So here's your refresher. The access field in your database links directly to NovaMuse. It has nothing to do with physical access in the museum, whether something is in storage vs. on exhibit, etc. Even though you have 3 options for accessibility, we've set them up to only function in one of two ways - to either show the associated record on NovaMuse (accessible to the public) or to not show the record on NovaMuse (restricted access and/or not accessible to the public). As your basic rule of thumb, if something is in the museum's collection (ie owned by the museum), it should be made accessible to the public. From this starting point, you may decide that you have several items that cannot be shown online for some reason, such as crumbling newspapers that will likely need to be deaccessioned in the near future. But these decisions should be the exception rather than the rule. Looking at our database statistics, we're actually holding back over 100,000 records and even more images from public view. That's a lot of exceptions. So let's see if we can shift these numbers over the coming months and open up our museum collections even more.

And now let's have an image lesson again this month. As we open up our collections even more, it's so important to have high quality images. Last month we looked at the need to use mannequins when photographing clothing. This month we are going to look at another common issue, using the camera when you should be using the scanner. Yes we love the scale and we're glad you do too. But remember you do have the measurements field in the database. So when you are digitizing photographs, postcards, books, and other 2-dimensional items, please use your flatbed scanner. The images will be so much better, and you will look so much more professional.

Webinar Wednesdays continue! The next is on July 8th - Let’s Talk Social Media: Sharing NovaMuse. Why not check out our remaining sessions? Click here to learn more.

Educational Partnerships
spinning wheel SME impact!
By now you've 'met' our summer interns. As a reminder, we are working with the Mount Saint Vincent University Education Program, and hosted 2 interns this month, and 1 intern from the Masters of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. Jixin completed her placement with us on Friday, but Camilo and Erika will be continuing on through July. And wow, they've been busy. Camilo worked with a spinning wheel expert to review and enrich spinning wheels in 16 museums' collections! We know this work is far from over, because there are still have many spinning wheels out there that need to be digitized, but some excellent progress has been made. He has also been working on developing some transcription challenges, and has just released the first few. The information he has been uncovering in collections is pretty significant, and to be honest, some will take time to process.

Erika and Jixin got a jump on our MAP grant deliverables. Key curriculum outcomes have been identified for grades P-6, with middle school outcomes currently under review. They also started building educational resource templates. We already have 8 resources in draft form and another 22 ideas percolating - all from artifacts in your collections. We've sent a couple messages through about permission to use your collections in this work. We want to build some tools and resources that you can promote as your own and feel empowered to reach out to your local schools. To be honest, a lot of museums haven't been promoting NovaMuse as a service you deliver. We want to change that. So if you haven't responded to Camilo's message about permissions, please be in touch. We'd love to talk to you about this.

And now I'd like to take a minute to remind about data integrity. As we launch into this new educational initiative - helping schools and museums connect and use collections information in the classroom - we are reminded of the need for good data. It is of paramount importance that we go the extra mile and pay extra close attention to our work. Images need to be very high quality; no more quick, rushed snapshots. Students, volunteers and staff need to be properly trained and monitored. Don't assume someone knows about data entry standards or will proofread their work. We need to take our time and make sure that we've got the best images and data possible in order to make our collections as versatile as they can be. If the scope and scale of this work feels overwhelming to you, remember that you are not alone and there are many other museums eating elephants one bite at a time. We are more than happy to work with you to develop a customized game plan, but here's a basic recipe for success:
1. make an institutional pact to embrace the database as your institutional memory.
2. enter all your paper documents into the database (gift agreements, catalogue forms, donor questionnaires, etc.)
3. conduct a slow inventory to fill in the holes (room by room, shelf by shelf, box by box, compare the database record with the actual object. This is why we love an online database - take the laptop, tablet or phone along for the inventory ride and update the info as you go. Add descriptions, measurements, condition remarks, marks/labels, storage location or other missing info. When you find something that hasn't been digitized yet, photograph or scan it and add the images to the system right away.)
4. identify additional work and make a plan for it (this could be researching an individual, subject or event, seeking help from a SME, or developing a new program around a cool object or story, to name a few)

This recipe is not fast. But it is methodical. It will set you up with a solid foundation, on which you can build some really amazing work.

Call for ANSM Award Nominations
Each year, ANSM presents the Award for Excellence in Museum Practices Individual Contribution to a museum employee or volunteer who has gone above and beyond to make a significant contribution to the museum field. Recipients of this award have made remarkable efforts to increase knowledge about Nova Scotia’s history through exemplary museum practices. Would you like to nominate someone? Click here to learn more.

Keeping Fresh
Now that Allie is back at daycare, I'm very slowly trying to catch up on some of the webinars that have been delivered over the past few months. And as I'm sure you've experienced, these are hit or miss. Some are great and inspiring and others fall a bit flat. But one that I watched this month made a really great point about emerging from isolation and engaging with a world that is calling for very serious change and reconciliation of some very big, long standing issues. Now is more important than ever to embrace learning and have conversations, not from positions of power, but as members of our communities.