Thursday, February 26, 2009

Steering Committee Meeting - January 22, 2009

Minutes; January 22, 2008
ANSM Boardroom

Present: D. Watts, Chairperson
Passage Project Steering Committee
G. MaGee, Secretary, Central Rep.
D. Crouse, Northeast Rep.
L. Rafuse, Southwest Rep.
J.McLean, Cape Breton Rep.
P. Collins, Dept. Tourism, Culture and Heritage
K. Kierstead
L. MacEachern
G. Hammond, ANSM (Guest)

1.0 Welcome
D. Watts welcomed all to the meeting and introduced G. Hammond,
President Pro Tem of ANSM, who will be invited to participate later in the meeting.

An Agenda was distributed. The chair asked to add an item (8 New Business) in which the chair will introduce and discuss the issues to be resolved between ANSM and PSC. The next meeting date item will become item 9.

2.0 Minutes of Previous Meeting, Oct. 24/08
By motion of L. Rafuse, seconded by D. Crouse, the Minutes of the October
24, 2008 meeting were approved as previously distributed.

3.0 Business Arising: There was nothing to bring forward from the previous

4.0 Passage Update and WHS:
D. Watts informed the committee that an account has been set up at the Bank of Montreal by Wolfville Historical Society for the administration of the Passage Project and a bookkeeper engaged on an hourly basis. A copy of the bookkeeper's report for December consisting of a Balance Sheet and an Income Statement was given to the secretary for attachment to the minutes. It is the intention to keep a second copy of these in the project financial files.

5.0 Staff/Project Reports
5.1 Work Plan for 2009. There were 2 work plan documents sent out via email. One was the actual plan and the other document was an explanation guide. The tasks as set out for the month of December have been achieved even though the goal of 9300 records was not reached. Weekly updates are being sent and this information is being tallied on a monthly basis and will be included in the blog updates to the partners. K. Kierstead has assisted G. Hammond in his preparation of the ANSM accounts in respect to the project and devoted in total twenty hours towards that. As a result some of the tasks that were set for this month have not been accomplished, but the work plan is flexible enough to allow recovery later.

The information management system is a multi-sheet excel document that outlines Passage delivery, member participation etc. It is still being populated but is progressing well.

The computer maintenance plan for partners’ computers has not been formalized on paper but has been conceptualized and will be put to paper in the next week. This is not a very technical task. However there are different levels of computer literacy and some members do not understand that by running virus and malware scans that this will not only protect the information on the computer but will prolong the life of the computer. Some people/sites will need training on this aspect of project delivery.
The final report and regular monthly report for CHIN is slated for next week.
Data cleaning will be addressed later.

5.2 Member Surveys: A polling feature was added to the blog, this allows multiple choice questions to be put to the members. The first question was whether their website works for them. Of the 21 who responded there were 7 who said no, it did not; 6 who said somewhat; and 8 who said yes. The second question as suggested by Randall House was how did other sites classify their photographs. Were they artifacts or were they archival material. Of the 13 sites that responded there were 7 that said archival, 3 that said artifact, and 3 that used the combination arc/arf field. Results will be shared in the monthly update. There was an open ended question as to thoughts for the next survey.

Other sites have expressed an interest in joining Passage. A survey might be useful in determining future members; this survey would also create a paper trail and will establish baseline. This could be applied to member museums that have already been part of the Passage Project since this would provide a baseline of information on all members. In the past potential partners were interviewed over the phone and/or through site visits.

The question was raised as to who were future potential partners for Passage. SDI has been approached for the funding for 3 new partners. The $500.00 fee covers approximately 1/3 of the actual cost. Unless there are surplus funds then this is the number of new partners that can be added. There may be about 8 that can be approached that participate with CMAP. There is one site in Cape Breton and two in the Southwest who are very serious about joining.

5.3 Made in NS, Phase III: The final report to CHIN is due Jan. 30th. Eighteen out of thirty two sites have uploaded, so fourteen are remaining; most of those have not uploaded before. Randall House has made data enrichment a priority and has been working on its own so the numbers that it has sent up are unknown. The final report will include an invoice for $5000.05, and while the ANSM bookkeeper has given assurances that when CHIN cheques are received that they will notify us, so far this is not occurring. To the best of our knowledge $24 500.00 of the $41 000.00 from CHIN has been received, this covers both L. MacEachern’s project expenses as well as the YCW interns.

5.4 Data Cleaning & Uploading: Since the last meeting 10 067 records have been uploaded to Artefacts Canada so currently there are now 47 692 records are online. Recently completed is the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, the North Cumberland Historical Society and the Islands Museum. Over the past year 48 000 records have been cleaned and each site has been provided with a report on the state of their records and how they can improve their methodology. There are still sites that are reluctant to upload unless their records have been enriched but the majority of sites have been happy to have their cleaned records uploaded. Sites continue to express their appreciation for the help and work done in this area. Last year there was some difficulty with uploading to CHIN, this year it seems easier as there have been no changes.

6.0 Finances
6.1 Current Financial Report: The updated Passage & CHIN ledger was not sent by the ANSM bookkeeper until the night before the meeting. It appears that there is still money being taken out for office supplies, internet, etc. even though Passage is not operating out of the ANSM offices. This will need to be reversed, and has amounted to $51.14 to date. The ledger did not include some known YCW expenses, but from our books it appears that there is approximately $1000.00 that can be spent on digitization equipment as planned

6.2 Future Investments & Expenditures: The CMA Conference is coming up soon, L. Rafuse made a motion that K. Kierstead attend, seconded by J. McLean and carried (there is money budgeted for this).

The current SDI provides funding for 1.2 staff, that has allowed us to have R. Cloutier on call for technical support. This continues to work well. With the same arrangement last year, we did not use all of the staff money. As a result there was about $6000.00 left in staff salary. Since there will still be data cleaning work outstanding at the end of L. MacEachern’s contract, and in view of our priority of having all databases uploaded by August, extending her contract is a way of ensuring that we complete our goals & obligations. K. Kierstead will do a cost analysis and forward this to the committee for final approval. A motion to approve the extension of L. MacEachern’s contract was made in principle by L. Rafuse and seconded by D. Crouse. Motion carried.

Magic White Board: V. Lenethan has invested in a training board that allows Long Distance Learning provided the participants have a microphone, webcam and internet access. This is ideal as it overcomes issues regarding travel, weather, time difficulties, etc. so this seems worthy of further investigation. K. Kierstead and D. Watts will look into this and report back to the committee.

7.0 Position Papers:
7.1 J. McLean presented the committee with a copy of his report prepared on open source vs. proprietary software. One of the featured software was PastPerfect, R. Cloutier just happens to be the only certified trainer in Canada for this software. R. Cloutier stated that this software’s feature of building your own report is convoluted and that users could only begin to make use of this feature after preparing a proper procedures manual. That said, if there are any small bugs in the preparation of these forms, the program shows an error message and forces you to quit the program. It was decided that perhaps the best course of action would be to update the current program. One item that might be added would be a merge feature that would allow multiple computers at the various sites to be fully utilized. Such a feature could lock out access from the supporting computer for a file in progress or make the computer read only. K. Kierstead will put J. McLean in touch with R. Cloutier to discuss various upgrade options as well as a backup button which will likely be the efficient way to backup the system, most likely through a server.

7.2 Passage in the Future: This paper is one that D. Watts said he had wanted
(and was willing to do including face to face site visits) to undertake to help him thoroughly understand the project and to be prepared to make a comprehensive proposal. Much else has prevented this from being started. In his view partners are not ready for any abrupt changes or major shifts in the method of project delivery at the moment. It does seem to be rather obvious that the project should translate from a labour intensive project to more of a maintenance project for the long term. This approach is yet to be developed.

At the chair's request, K. Kierstead prepared a confidential document in which the capabilities/capacities of every partner site were appraised, based on Kierstead's many encounters with the partners during the delivery of project services. In that document poor records mean that they are skeletal in the database and do not necessarily reflect the paper cataloguing. Poor records are those that may contain information in only the required 6 fields. Good records are those that have information in the “important” fields, such information is short and provides for only basic understanding of the artifact. Excellent records are those that have been enriched so that there is a full appreciation and understanding of the artifact. Problems or poor records seem to result when there is incomplete training (often of summer students) at many sites. There are a number of partner sites who can be identified who do exhibit confidence and competence with their ability. The task is to increase that number. The problem is to know how.

7.3 Terms of Reference (for PSC within ANSM):
D.Watts said he had already written a paper for himself about this, in which he considered three ways in which the project might eventually be brought back "under the wing" of ANSM. It’s not for distribution. Suffice to say that Passage appears to be working within a policy vacuum.

8.0 New Business:
The chair invited G. Hammond to participate at this point in the meeting.
D. Watts said that this has been introduced to make PSC familiar with the engagement that he and G.Hammond have been conducting on the issues that have been an ongoing problem for ANSM and which resulted in the SDI debacle in August last. Since then, B.A. Aaboe-Milligan and D. Watts met the ANSM board and commenced a dialogue. Subsequently, with Aaboe-Milligan's retirement as PSC chair and DW's becoming chair at the 24 October PSC meeting, the dialogue has been continued between GH and DW, by meeting and by e-mail.

DW prepared for the meeting by writing a response to the most recent exchange of communication with GH, and which was replied to by its reading to the meeting by DW (a copy of that reply, together with documents from GH were given to the secretary for keeping in the minute book).

These were the issues addressed.

1. Ownership of the money which the project generated, over time, in excess of the expenditures is considered by the board to belong to ANSM, and their's absolutely to manage. This amounts to about $37,000 in total.

The Passage partners contend, and have always done so, that this money belongs to the project and should only be directed to services delivered by the PSC. Since the Passage partners are unincorporated, they clearly cannot own anything. They might say they have been charged excessively for Passage services however.

Accordingly DW took the position that these monies had to be acknowledged as such within the ANSM books as accruing to the project and be treated as a reserve to be expended from time to time for the benefit of the project. For his part GH said that ANSM couldn't have this on their books for accounting reasons. A three part proposal was subsequently received by DW from GH which proposed to eliminate all the earnings this year, as follows:
(a) Send each past and present Passage partner $300, which will account for about half the earnings;
(b) Allocate $10,000 to the Collections Management Advisory Committee to support their expenses for the CMAC mandate for 2009.
(c) Allocate $12,000 to a Three Year Museology Training Plan for NS (Museums) proposed by ANSM, for which partner funding from MAP and SDI had been approved and a consultant about to be retained.

DW's response was that (a) was retrograde and other PSC members said that $300 in each partners hand would not be as productive as PSC providing service to them and were not in favour of that idea.

DW's response to (b) was that this favoured the partner's interests and was a use that would very likely receive their endorsement once they knew what it was the CMAC was to do in 2009. PSC was inclined to agree.

DW's response to (c) was negative. PSC had been told clearly that Training was not their mandate and was one of the reasons ANSM declined to submit the SDI application. In DW's opinion, the partners would not agree to that.

The PSC appealed to GH to find a way to recognise and manage the project earnings over a period of time, for the total benefit of the project.

On this point at the meeting, GH heard an account from G. MaGee of how the Fultz House Society, of which she is member and administrator, manages a segregated investment fund for a future, time uncertain building project, to which monies are contributed year upon year. DW also described investment savings managed by Wolfville Historical Society, which has monies flowing in both directions, for four different purposes. There does seem to be a way by which charitable organisations can manage monies like this, acceptable to CRA and the Charities Directorate.

2. Ownership of Computers, used by the project staff, purchased with project funds.

The board, through GH took exactly the same position concerning these assets as the one taken regarding the project earnings in his proposal ie: to claim ownership. In this case however, DW concluded that the project's interests would be protected and indicated he would support this proposal. DW made a point regarding computer maintenance and upgrade and asked for that to be addressed.

3. 2009 Passage Workplan

The initial part of the board's proposal spoke of what they considered the project's mandate to be, one in opposition to the one held by the project, being that Passage was not confined just to Collections Management Practices. The difficulty with this, as noted at 7.3 above, is that the project appears to be operating in a policy vacuum. Neither the board nor the PSC, nor DHM before them, ever clearly articulated an understanding or a purpose beyond that of the range of services delivered by the project that all are familiar with, except the SDI application for 2008/09.

While the particular parts of the Workplan of concern to the board, (derived of course from the SDI Application submitted by Wolfville Historical Society on behalf of the Passage partners) were spoken to in the Introduction to the Workplan, as a way to minimise the amount of work on these items and with the object of mollifying those concerns, this turned out to be unacceptable to the board.

The communication received from G. Hammond suggested that future ANSM applications for partnering with CHIN would be contingent on three compliant actions by the PSC (Wolfville not being recognised by CHIN as an acceptable organisation for that application). The first and last of these are acceptable by PSC without hesitation. The second contained three sub-items and required PSC to drop from the 2009 Workplan the elements of Training, Exhibits and Marketing, and Position Papers, as described in the Workplan Introduction. Of the Position Papers listed, two are complete and the third not started, but in any event, all three have been or might have been written by volunteer members of PSC for their own information, to be published or not as they might determine. Thus the preparation of Position Papers is not an issue over which the board can expect to have influence. The possibility of dropping the remaining two items affects Wolfville's liability in respect to the SDI contract. At the meeting it was not possible to resolve that.

The first of the three compliant actions required the Passage Collections Coordinator, when attending the CHIN PMA and CMA conferences, to attend only as a representative of PSC and not as an ANSM representative. No problem on the part of PSC with that. The third compliant action was that D. Watts, as chair of the PSC, agree to join the new ANSM Collections Management Advisory Committee, to assist that committee in the work it has been mandated to do in 2009. No problem here either - D. Watts had earlier asked to be invited to join that committee, seeing that as an opportunity to help develop a very necessary long term plan for the project, and relieving him of the great commitment of work he was voluntarily prepared to carry out in preparing the third, un-started Position Paper referred to above, which would have done what in fact the new CMAC will do in response to its mandate for 2009.

The resolution of the matters laid out above will allow the project to be returned to ANSM, which is where truly it belongs. Progress was made today.
G. Hammond was asked to investigate why Passage earnings cannot be somehow accommodated within the financial framework of ANSM, and to offer a more acceptable recognition of them. PSC's reservations having been heard, given the existence of such reserved funds in two member Societies, acceptable to CRA and Charities Directorate in both cases and which had been described to him during the discussions today. On their part, PSC will request Wolfville to determine the funder's response to its omitting certain work elements from the approved SDI application.

9.0 Next Meeting Date: April 23, 2009, pre-ANSM conference. Location:TBA

Note: Following the meeting, D. Watts asked P. Collins and K.Kierstead to remain. Omission of work from the Workplan was discussed and will be reported in a separate communication.

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