Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 2008 Update

Data Cleaning & Uploading
With two conferences and an audit it was a slow month for data cleaning. That said, I managed to get another 1100 records cleaned from two sites. The amount of time that it takes to clean a database is contingent on a few things, including the number of records, amount of information in each entry, and formating of the entries.
CHIN is very pleased with the continuous influx of records to Artefacts Canada, even though it means we're making a lot of work for them. So let's keep the records flowing, and upload everything as soon as possible.

Database Upgrades
Richard has finally completed the upgrades to the Collections Database and we are both double-checking to make sure that there aren't any hiccups in the program. You will now be able to work in either an archival or collections view, and each contain more fields & options to make the database work better for you. One of the changes that people have been asking for is the addition of multiple image fields. The new version will be able to hold four images of the artifact, all of which will show on the Images page as thumbnails. So feel free to take a front and back view, or get a close-up of some detailing or maker's marks.

Manufacturer’s Database

As CHIN revamps its server and website, they are working on incorporating the Manufacturer’s database into the new system. This means that we could see the database online by October. While the current online content obviously receives priority during this process, the Manager of Content & Capacity Building is optimistic that the database will be online by the end of this year.
Thank you to everyone who lent us binders and sent information about the manufacturers and artisans from their area. We are very excited to be the first province to create a database of this kind.

FNSH Conference, Shelburne NS

Second conference of the month, and thankfully no jet lag to deal with for this one. Shelburne made a beautiful backdrop for the annual Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage conference, especially with the theme of "Heritage Tourism".
Congrats to the organizing committee (which included Passage folks Brenda Maxwell, Gloria Beuree, and Finn Bower) on a job well done! This was the first year that the host museum & community was asked to organize the event, and they did a wonderful job. It will be a tough act to follow.

As was discussed at the CMA conference, tourism is changing, and the department of Tourism presented its three-fold plan to deal with this fact. They will be focusing on gateway markets, core experiences, and a courtship strategy. In creating this new strategy, they view Nova Scotia as having four key brand attributes, namely:
1. old world charm
2. new world pulse
shaped by the sea
4. spirit of our people

Tourists are looking for benefits; for delight, captivation, and fulfillment; and it is up to institutions to deliver these benefits. The NS Tourism Partnership Council recognizes that this cannot be done without funding, and informed us of several different grants and funding opportunities available to cultural organizations. Among the topics that they would consider for funding were planning, design, and interpretation. More information can be access on their website.

CMA Conference, Victoria BC

Every year the Steering Committee puts some money into the budget for professional development, specifically through attending at least one conference. On April 7th I flew all the way to Victoria, BC for the Canadian Museum Association annual conference. The ensuing week was filled with informative sessions, networking opportunities with other museums and provincial associations, and a very fun study tour up Vancouver Island.

Following is a mini-review of the conference; information that I hope you will find interesting and helpful in your work. Information from some sessions has been combined for efficiency’s sake.

Keynote Address
The keynote was delivered by Dr. John Falk, co-author of Thriving in the Knowledge Age: New Business Models for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions. He discussed the evolution of museum operations, beginning with the older "Industrial Age model", during which they existed to serve the masses in a "one size fits all" methodology with the focus being on the product rather than the customer. Information was delivered and success was measured by the number of visitors per season or year.

Dr. Falk then discussed the different kinds of people who visit museums, and what they expect from the experience. These can be very easily broken down into a few categories each.

What sells is not products but experiences. The public is seeking a personalized and knowledgeable learning experience of high quality.

  1. A true experience. With so many options available, especially to tourists, consumers are looking to satisfy and adapt things to their lifestyles and needs.
  2. Personalization. Goods now need to be customized to the needs and desires of the individual.
  3. Free-Choice Learning. Information, goods, and services that the public view as having the greatest value are those that support learning, especially free-choice learning.
  4. Expectations of Quality. Visitors expect the museum or organization to demonstrate that they are accomplishing their mission in fiscally, ethically, and socially responsible ways.

In terms of the different kinds of people who visit museums, instead of simply looking at demographics, Falk proposed that visitors seek to have identity-related needs met. These can be broken down into five groups.

  1. Explorers – motivated by personal curiousity.
  2. Facilitators – motivated by other people, ie. showing out-of-town friends/family the local attractions.
  3. Experience Seekers – motivated by a desire to see and experience a place
  4. Professional or Hobbyist – motivated by specific knowledge-related goals, ie. genealogy buffs
  5. Spiritual Pilgrims – motivated by a contemplative or restorative experience, ie. sitting and reflecting while looking at art works

The conclusions reached during the research phase of Dr. Falk and Ms. Sheppard’s work show that the public views museums as good places to satisfy a handful of specific leisure-related and identity-related needs. It also shows that when these needs are met visitors will return time and again either to relive or add to their initial experience. By meeting the needs of the individual, it will be much easier to customize marketing to attract niche groups, and to enhance communication with the general public.

Technology Trends in Museums
I attended several sessions on technological trends in museum work, which consisted of case studies and a review of emergent technology. Here’s what people are up to, and looking forward to:

  1. Scanners & Scanning. Over the past several years the optical recognition function on scanners has greatly improved, and museums/archives are taking advantage of this. This function allows documents to be turned into searchable pdf files, which can be viewed either online or in-house, minimizing the need to handle the item itself.
  2. Geotagging Objects. Geocaching and geotagging continues to grow in popularity, and motivates a niche market of tourists. Using Google maps and other open-source software, some museums have begun to map out their artifacts. This shows the history of the artifact by geographical area, tracking its travels from manufacture to its current home at the museum.
  3. RFID Chip. Using a wand, card, or ring, audio information is recorded that can then be activated using the RFID chip. Visitors can now personalize their visits by choosing their own audio guide from a variety of themes, and then scanning selected artifacts or exhibits that they want to hear more about. The information is available for download for a specific amount of time after their visit, allowing them to relive the experience and review information.
  4. Facebook. While this site is still viewed skeptically by many in the heritage field, it has over 80 million active users and is the 6th most visited website in the entire world. The Brooklyn Museum has created an application called ArtShare that allows cultural organizations and artists to share their collections with the public. Other museums are creating Facebook pages for their organizations as a free way to get their name out there and obtain feedback from visitors.
  5. Similarly, some museums have started to create a virtual presence for themselves on virtual community sites such as Second Life. While this began as an effort to enhance the institution’s public profile, it has evolved so that organizations are now adding games and applications, making it more interactive and inviting.

Engaging Youth
One of the topics on almost everyone’s lips at the conference was the problem of getting young people interested in museums. We are now living in an online and global community, which has resulted in many children losing their sense of space or geographic belonging. How can your museum fill this gap, provide a sense of belonging, and be an anchor in your community?

While there are many ways to encourage youth participation, here are some approaches that have worked for other museums.

  1. Involve them in your work, asking them to tell their stories. This means presenting contemporary information along with historical.
  2. Have a youth art showcase as a regular feature, and be willing to listen to and encourage them no matter how bizarre ideas may sound.
  3. Organize a youth focus group or forum. Engage them in the community and its history and they will want to share stories and information with the rest of the world. If you choose this approach, don’t limit yourself to dealing with the “good” kids. Not only will this skew your results, but it can also alienate other youth.
  4. Work with the local high school to create PDA presentations that can be used for museum and/or walking tours, or create plays about events in the community’s history.

Monday, April 21, 2008

March 2008 Update

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee now has two new members. Welcome to Robin Cushnie & Dayle Crouse. Robin is the curator and acting director of the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm, and is replacing Terry Eyland as HRM representative. Dayle Crouse is the new director of the Hector Exhibit Centre & McCulloch House Museum in Pictou, and is replacing Darrell Burke. We wish all the best to Terry & Darrell in their new jobs and adventures, and sincerely thank them for their dedication to Passage.

Membership Renewal

For those sites who have yet to pay their $250 renewal fee, this is a friendly reminder that payments are now due. We also need signed contracts, so if you haven’t sent that either, please do so. If you have not sent in your contract or renewal cheque, please send me an email if you plan on continuing with the project. We have a waiting list of sites who would like to join Passage, and so without this confirmation you run the risk of losing your spot.

Data Cleaning

Over the past month, another 3000 have been cleaned, bringing our new total to 83,096!

We have promised the province that we will upload collections information from each Passage member to Artefacts Canada. To facilitate this, the final step to the cleaning process has been to upload any and all records (provided they are not on loan) to Artefacts Canada for the site, increasing their public profile and fulfilling their mandate of public accessibility. If you will need to clear this with your board, please start talking to them about this now so that I can upload the information for you during the cleaning process. For those sites that were cleaned last year by Chara or Erin, or anyone who is waiting for approval to upload from their board, this would be a great task to have your summer students complete. CHIN is really looking forward to this information coming online, as we are the first group to upload such a large quantity of records.

Some people have asked how I determine whose database gets cleaned when. In order to maintain fairness between the sites, a spreadsheet was created outlining Passage delivery over the past couple years, and the order of cleaning is decided through a two-step process. The first factor taken into consideration is the geographic region, ensuring that no more attention is paid to one area than another. The second factor is the amount of support, equipment etc. that a site has recently received.

Made in NS – Phase II

March brought several changes to Passage, including the departure of Louanne Aspillaga, the Made in NS project coordinator. She thoroughly enjoyed her time in our fair province, and while she was happy to return home to her family in Ontario, said she would miss the people and beautiful landscape very much. As a thank-you gift we gave her a Sherman Hines photography book of NS that showed what each season is like in the province.

This year’s Made in NS project was a great success, so we would again like to say thank you and congratulations to everyone who participated. Louanne and her team enriched 700 records from 23 sites. Because of this success, CHIN is already talking about options for future partnerships with us. These will be discussed at the April 4th Steering Committee meeting, so stay tuned for details.

If your records are not yet appearing in the Made in NS virtual exhibit on Artefacts Canada, please send CHIN an email asking for your records to go live in Made in NS.

Manufacturer’s Database

Speaking of successful projects, the Manufacturer’s database project is also at an end. Jennifer, Melanie and Tara completed the data entry of over 7000 paper records from the NS Museum of Industry, the county binders and other additional information that was uncovered. They were also able to do some supplementary research to enhance some of the more skeletal records. In my final report to CHIN, I thanked them on behalf of Passage members for helping us move forward with this resource. They found some spare money for us to do the data entry work, and I felt it was important to acknowledge their assistance.

The draft design & plan for incorporating the database into CHIN’s website and connecting it with Artefacts Canada has been submitted, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be online within a year or two. Until then, if anyone would like to access this information they can send their requests to me, or stop by the office to browse through the database.

Database Upgrades

Richard is putting the finishing touches on the database upgrades, and I will soon begin this year’s site visits to deliver the upgrades and review the changes. Due to several conferences being held in April, the visits will likely start sometime in May. As I mentioned in last month’s update, I am very pleased with the changes and hope that everyone will find that the improvements meet their needs.

Chenhall books

We still have a couple copies left of the new edition of The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloguing, affectionately known as Chenhall. These books are used to provide consistency to your collection records in terms of object name, type, category & sub-category. There is a waiting list of sites who would like to upgrade their older version with the new one, but before these are given out, we want to make sure everyone has a copy. If you have not received a copy of Chenhall from Passage, please respond and let me know if you have one of these books, and if so, which edition it is. Here’s the key:

Red Book – 1st edition
Navy Blue Book – 2nd edition
Black Book – 3rd edition

Monday, April 14, 2008

February 2008 Update


To date, we have received renewal cheques and/or contracts from 39 sites. As mentioned in your renewal letter, payments can wait until the new fiscal year, but we would really like to get all the contracts in as soon as possible.

CHIN Meetings

I spent February 4-8 in Ottawa meeting with CHIN, CCI, and representatives of Provincial Museum Associations from around the country. This was a chance to compare notes, and give direct feedback to our funding partners and federal agencies on how they can serve us better. This was my first PMA meeting, and I cannot overemphasize the importance and value of the week. We received tips on how to be successful in funding applications, heard about their plans for the upcoming year(s), and had a chance to do some very valuable networking.

Data Cleaning

Last year Chara Kingston & Erin Doyle managed to clean 70,798 records from 18 partner sites. I am continuing this initiative and have completed another 10,053 records from four sites. This brings the grand total to 80,851! In order to help achieve our goal of making collections more accessible to the public, I am uploading the cleaned records to Artefacts Canada, provided the objects are owned by the museum. CHIN is very excited at the prospect of seeing over 200,000 records from Nova Scotia come online this year. I have heard from some sites about when the best time would be for me to undertake the cleaning of their database, but would love to hear from more of you so that we can keep this on schedule. This is also important because for the remainder of Louanne’s contract she will be assisting with this initiative, so we will be going through records at a faster pace.

Database Upgrades

Richard is currently working on upgrading the three databases to make them more user-friendly. The Cemetery Database upgrades have been completed and are being tested by Sheryl in Digby, and Nan in Truro to make sure there aren’t any bugs. The Volunteer/Membership Database has not really been upgraded, but a small problem has been fixed and should now work better for everyone.

The biggest changes are with the Collections Database. I have seen the preliminary changes and am very excited about them. You will be able to add several pictures of each artifact, and work in either an Artifact or Archival view. The page setup will be much the same, but there will be a couple additional pages for condition reporting and loans. We are not trying to give you more work by adding features, but to make the database cover more of your collection needs.

Made in NS – Phase II

The Made in NS collections enrichment project (phase II) is completed, and are working on uploading the promised 450 enriched records with images to CHIN. Louanne, Melanie, and Daniel have been working very hard on this over the past months, and have enriched over 680 records from 22 sites. A big thank you and congratulations goes out to everyone who participated. We are really excited about increasing your profile and sharing your collection with the rest of the world.

IMPORTANT UPLOADING CHANGE – With CHIN’s change in servers, the procedure for uploading images has changed. While the major change has been reflected in the uploading manual and emailed to sites, they have just informed me of one more minor change that will take effect this afternoon (March 6, 2008). When using WinSCP, you are required to enter a host name, which until now has been or The new host name will be an IP address, This information should be changed in your document entitled Creating Digitized Images and Uploading to Artefacts Canada. You do not have to re-upload anything that you have already contributed to Artefacts Canada.

The reason for the change is to increase security for contributing members. If you have any questions about this feel free to contact me.

Manufacturer’s Database

We are nearing the end of the manufacturer’s database project, and Jennifer, Melanie & Tara have added information from Cape Breton, Digby, Hants and Yarmouth counties, as well as some records from the NS Museum of Industry. We still have a binder from Dartmouth and more MOI records to add. We hope that by the end of March there will be over 8000 entries in this database from across the province. After meeting with CHIN, I am writing up a draft design & plan for integrating the database into their server and connecting it with Artefacts Canada. This will be included in the final report. They are very excited about the idea and hope it can be implemented within the next year or two.

CCI Workshop

We recently applied to CCI for a workshop. We just received word that they will be coming in September to deliver “Preservation Management for Seasonal Museums”. We need a host organization, preferably somewhere centralized as this will be the only workshop in the province. If anyone is interested in hosting (and also attending) please let me know so that I can confirm the location of the workshop with CCI. It will be held on September 26th, 2008.