Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's Going on in Other Provinces & Territories

A roundtable discussion was held at the February CHIN meetings during which representatives from each province reviewed their work over the past year. Written reports were not submitted.

The museum association has been re-evaluating the tools that they have and how they have been using them. They have launched a joint website with the department of Tourism that allows the visitor to enter either on the museum side or general tourism side. In the near future it will be linked with the member & grants databases. They are moving towards e-publications to cut down on paper consumption and costs, and are doing research into social networking in order to revitalize their communication efforts. The museum affirmation program recognizes museums that meet set standards in all areas of operation. It is thriving, and there are currently 189 museums who have received this designation, providing them with exclusive access to more funding programs.

British Columbia

BC celebrated their sesquicentennial in 2008 which took up a lot of time and effort within the museum association (BCMA). In conjunction with this, a legacy fund was introduced, but has since been decimated by the economic downturn. There is a group in BC whose mandate is to support $20,000 worth of digitization work each year, and so the BCMA took part in talks with the library, archives and post-secondary institutions in order to take advantage of this opportunity. They were also able to partner with BC Tourism to get an online directory in acknowledgement of the move to a travel & knowledge-based economy. Updating the BCMA website is their next priority.

The museum association has been undertaking a standards renewal process and studying their membership in order to get a better picture of their needs. A list of recommendations has come out of the study. Included in their future work is a cost analysis of providing their member museums with a website template that works through the association website.

New Brunswick
A part-time communications director has just been hired by the Association Museums of NB (AMNB), and they hope to be able to increase their funding so that the position will become full-time. Training is funded by the province and is organized & delivered in each geographic zone according to their needs.
Heritage Branch, which has taken over much of the AMNB’s work as they have rebuilt over the past 6 years, was approached to add a rotating exhibit in the legislature to tell different stories from NB’s history. The Collections Inventory program continues to be very successful, and provides funding to museums to obtain a database system (Virtual Collections), and train staff & volunteers with cataloguing and data entry. They are also working on a pilot project in order to provide small museums with good quality websites.

Newfoundland & Labrador
The enrichment work undertaken this year focused on the spirit of adventure and exploration, and was linked to the grade 8 curriculum in order to gain more buy-in within the province. The provincial museum association (MANL) has an entirely new staff and have been reviewing policies and updating their training programs. They have created a Best Practices document that is available to their members on cd. It contains basic tools such as marketing tips, templates, and links to relevant websites. The information is broken down into three categories, based on the size of the museum, so that it can be catered more towards individual sites.
MANL is looking forward to hosting the CMA Annual Conference in 2010 and staff are already busy making arrangements for this event.

Nova Scotia
53 community museums are currently involved with Passage, and in the coming year we will be adding another 3 sites to the group. The past year a condition report & loans feature were added to the collections database, and the user manuals have been rewritten in order to accommodate these changes. I started a Passage blog in order to increase communication & transparency with our members. Member feedback on this has been excellent, and has allowed us to poll members for information in an informal way to assist with future planning. Passage partnered with CHIN to complete a collections development project, which saw 677 records enriched from 31 sites. The data cleaning initiative that was started in 2006 continued, and approximately 115,000 records have been cleaned to date. Over 48,000 of these records have been uploaded to Artefacts Canada, and our goal is to have the remaining records online by August 2009.

Nunavut has been cultivating relationships and partnerships with a variety of groups. They are working with a university on a cyber cartography project, and the department of education to develop websites on Inuit contact & colonization. This can be connected with school curriculum and used in the classroom. A weekly newsletter is sent out to members, and they have just completed development of the 1st museological training program in the territory. For future work they are looking at standardizing collections management systems and hope to create an Inuit culture portal as a one-stop shopping for cultural heritage knowledge.

The museum association (OMA) are currently working on a strategic plan and refocusing of their efforts. They are going to target advocacy, professional development and networking, and are using existing information from applications and other documents in order to gain a better picture of their membership and determine how to better meet their needs. They have held roundtables of cluster groups, asking members how they can do better and what the members’ top priorities are. While it was recognized that the OMA couldn’t take on all of these tasks, they are figuring out how to be more of a facilitator and develop services to combat a lack of succession planning.
Enrichment work of the year was tagged “Let’s Get Digital”. Since members each have different database systems, each member had to be dealt with one-on-one and required a pre-visit assessment in order to cater to specific needs while on-site.
The Ontario Association of Art Galleries reported on a network mapping project. Using a proprietary software, they are able to visualize their members and determine who is active and whose interests overlap. They are then able to create a list of mentors to answer questions and help to encourage the “peripheral” members to become more active. They are also using in order to make their websites more interactive. Similar to Facebook, using this site allows you to create forums and groups and is easily managed.

Prince Edward Island
PEI has partnered with CHIN to do a special project on cultural tourism using handheld and self-guided media. The objective was to create an interactive learning tool that would increase visitor’s understanding & enjoyment and assist museums in promoting their services. 13 indoor & outdoor points of interest in one county were completed, integrating both natural and cultural history. Music, video, interviews, guided interpretation, slideshows, historic images with voiceovers, and GPS coordinates were included. While there was some variation in quality, visitors seem very satisfied with the product. In the coming year, another 18 sites will be completed, including the addition of detailed audio/visual files for 6 museums. The content will be available in three file formats, and further usability evaluations will take place. It is hoped that this will turn into a new source of income for participating museums.

Quebec museums currently have 500,000 records on Artefacts Canada, and their focus is now shifting to quality rather than quantity. Their database systems also have an upload button, which allows members to upload both to Info-Muse and Artefacts Canada at the same time. Sites are encouraged to upload all of their records to both sites. The provincial society has started to work more with libraries and archives, and have updated the membership section of their website. They continue to facilitate partnerships and collaborations that highlight New France and French North America. Some very successful work has been accomplished in more rural areas through funding from the Building Communities through Arts & Heritage program initiative.

An organizational review was undertaken in 2007, during which they talked to their 200+ members and looked at community relevancy and sustainability. They realized that they had been too focused on standards and had lost sight of other ways in which to serve their membership. They have been working on updating their certificate programs, allowing for diversity in technical knowledge, and providing more training through online courses in order to counteract the distance & travel issues that accompany traditional workshops. They are working on the website, and have been grouping members by theme, location etc, and are very eager to develop a better relationship with the Department of Tourism to assist with the promotion of their members. They are also developing an Advocacy Toolkit which will be a broad based “what is” & “how to” document that will include case studies from both rural and urban museums.

The museum association is currently focusing on marketing, advocacy and networking, three areas outlined in their new strategic plan that was passed at the 2008 AGM. They are also increasing cataloguing at their 18 member museums, and looking at ways to work more with tourism. A project to create audio tours of Whitehorse was carried out, but has been abandoned until cell reception improves. With their new focus, they also built a new website, which has been very well received and came in under budget as it only took two months to create.
The Yukon also partnered with CHIN to work on a special project to explore the application of to the museum community. Similar to flickr, users can comment on photos by phone, text, webcam, and even doodle to circle individuals who they identify or talk about. The intention was to partner with schools and seniors homes to do interviews and learn more about the territory’s past, sharing results on voicethread. The project was advertised on CBC radio, their website, and through several other local means. However it was discovered that feedback only came after solicitation, and so the association has been capturing information whenever possible at their own events.

Through the provincial roundtable discussions, it was abundantly clear that everyone has been strategizing and trying to revitalize their services to museums. It was suggested that the provincial associations should increase their level of communication with eachother, and unite through joint endeavours so that no one is re-inventing the wheel or repeating work that has already been done by someone else. No set timeline was given, but over the coming months CHIN will be investigating ways to facilitate this discussion in order to establish a “Community of Practice”.

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