Monday, May 3, 2010

ITCM Report for ANSM Annual General Meeting

Annual Report to the Board of Directors, Association of Nova Scotia Museums
by the
Information Technology & Collections Management Advisory Committee
Presented to the Annual General Meeting, Port Hawkesbury
24 April 2010

1.         A Successful Year of Transition

This report first deals with 8 months of the Project activity under the management and administration of the Passage Steering Committee (PSC) by the Wolfville Historical Society (WHS) from the last AGM to 31 November 2009. On 1 December 2009 the PSC and the Collections Management Advisory Committee (CMAC) were dissolved and WHS retired from its obligations to the Passage participants and the Passage funder (Heritage Division).

In anticipation of the restoration of Passage to ANSM administration and management, during August 2009 WHS and the PSC worked collaboratively with the Managing Director and the Board to prepare the SDI Funding Application for the 2009/2010 year.  The Board endorsed, signed and submitted the application which was subsequently approved by the Peer Adjudication Committee and Heritage Minister. The funding advance, paid to ANSM, was received without a hitch.

On 1 December 2009, with new funding in place, the project was returned to administration and management by ANSM through a new committee, the Information Technology and Collections Management Advisory Committee (ITCMAC in short). So this report also includes the four months of ITCM activity from 1 December 2009 to 31 March 2010.  The turnover to ANSM was smooth; there was no interruption in work; previous PSC members became ITCMAC members and one new member joined - Valerie Lenethen, Nova Scotia Museum's Collections Management Consultant.

In order to effect the transfer of Passage work to ANSM, the Terms of Reference for the new committee had earlier been written by the CMAC, in consultation with the Managing Director, Anita Price, with the valuable advice of Max Chauvin, Governance Consultant.  An Employment Agreement for a Collections Coordinator (Karin Kierstead) was likewise written, setting out roles and responsibilities.  Both of these documents have received approval and have been adopted for use by the Board of Directors.

2.         Results of Passage Work to April 2010

Whatever else might be said about the totality of Passage work, there is no doubt that the best measure of progress is that of the number of collection accession records that have been digitized by the 55 participant museums:


Accession records digitized
Not recorded
Uploaded to Artefacts Canada
Sites for whom records “cleaned”
Records “cleaned”

Some of this progress is due to ANSM’s continued partnership with CHIN; more specifically participation in Collection Development Projects.  Through CHIN and YCW funding, we were able to hire Jennifer Bawden and Anna Fitzgerald to assist member sites with the digitization and enrichment of art objects.  496 objects were enriched and uploaded to Artefacts Canada.

In addition to the regular outreach, site visits and support activities, this is the first year that remote assistance has been offered to members.  To date, 15 museums from across the province have taken advantage of this service.  As the following table shows, we have essentially substituted travel time for productive work time, and saved money in the process:

Cape Breton
Travel time saved (hrs)
34.20 hrs
Time on Crossloop (hrs)
38.30 hrs
*calculated by distance to site, covering car rental, gas, meals and accommodation

We have also been fortunate to have two former contract staff return as volunteers, enabling us to move forward on two projects which would not otherwise have been completed.  Lynn MacEachern completed a thorough cleaning and edit of the Manufacturers' Database, so that we now have a more user-friendly and manageable database.  Our second volunteer was Melanie Baker, who assisted with the data entry of backlogged records for Passage sites. 

3.         2009/2010 Work Plan

1.      Core Activities
a.      Outreach, training and on-site support visits
Support staff attend as many regional meetings as possible, and send reports to the regional group if they are unable to attend in-person.  On-site support visits take place from May through October, and each participating museum is ensured of at least one visit.  In addition to these, the CHIN enrichment project allowed for an additional 15 full-day site visits that focused on digital photography and enrichment of art objects. 
b.      Remote assistance
Testing of Crossloop for this purpose has been very successful.  The program allows support staff to accomplish database troubleshooting and provide one-on-one assistance immediately instead of worrying about travel costs or transferring files back and forth.  We view this as a stepping stone to offering a broader range of web-based distance learning services that will further increase the efficiency of ITCM services.
c.       Documentation package
The standardized documentation package is currently being reviewed by the IT & Collections Management Advisory Committee, and will be posted on the new ANSM website in the coming weeks.  As time and resources allow, more information will be added to the Resources section of the website.
d.      Revised database manuals
The task of revising the database manuals has been slated for September-October.  This will allow the Collections Coordinator to complete site visits and obtain feedback from participant museums on revisions needed in the new manuals.  Until this task is completed, the current database manuals are available on the ANSM website in the new resources section.
e.       Provision of equipment to new partners and examination and/or upgrade of existing databases
One new site has been brought on board already, with the second planned for May, and both will have been provided with the necessary equipment.  The ITCMAC regional reps also performed a member equipment survey.  For those museums without, we purchased external hard drives and webcams to facilitate backup & remote assistance.  In order to further assist members, investigations have been made into online backup systems and the possibility of a bulk purchase equipment program.

2.      New Initiatives
a.      Internet marketing for museums
Information gathering has been taking place and support staff have been meeting with various key informants to determine how museums can best take advantage of internet marketing.  A strategic plan will be written over the coming months and will be made available on the ANSM website.
b.      Feasibility study on web conferencing software
A review of possible web conferencing programs has been drafted.  Staff have also met with CHIN to compare notes and discuss partnership possibilities.  The study will be completed over the coming months.
c.       Hiring an IT consultant
An RFP has been circulated and we are in the process of hiring a local IT consultant to examine the database structures and assist in determining a long-term plan for the project.

In addition to the above-mentioned, the ITCMAC has drafted a new ITCM Service Policy to provide better guidelines for service activities. 

3.         Looking Ahead

The new committee and no less the PSC before it, has been concerned about the efficiency of the costs involved with the Project in general.   Maximizing the effectiveness of limited staff time and resources is a concern, which is why ways to improve and intensify the Project's training capacity continue to be given trials and investigated (see items 1a & 2b).  A foundational piece to this is the new ITCM Service Policy, which will help in guiding Project activities and ensure effectiveness.  We want to be able to encourage many more of the large number of museums in the province to join the Association and take up Passage.  We must attempt to increase total service revenues but at the same time reduce the individual or unit cost of service, particularly of Passage.  With the new ToR for Passage enabling an expansion of service offered, we hope to develop the ways and means of doing so.

At the end of the current Passage funding year, I wish to step down from the position as Chairperson of the ITCMAC.  I ask all of the Passage participants to consider my replacement and particularly urge the County Museums, in their role as recognised and rewarded leaders among the community museums, to assume responsibility in ensuring the effective continuity of what is clearly a most important committee of the Association. 

4.         Conclusion

It has been a most productive and in many ways a definitive year. The project is now securely established within the Association, with clear and forward looking terms of reference.  The committee has thereby been provided the potential to become the principle vehicle of service delivery to the members of the Association.

The presence of a Managing Director representing the board to the committee has been most valuable and excellent communication has been established.  The regional organisation continues to be a very useful platform for effective communication by the Collections Coordinator, and the additional "distance learning" being introduced and tested is already demonstrating a most economic means of very accessible training refreshment.

As committee chair I wish to thank the members, Gail MaGee (Committee Secretary) from Fultz House, Jim MacLean from the Port Hastings Museum, Linda Rafuse from the Queens County Museum, Dayle Crouse from the Hector Exhibit Centre, and Valerie Lenethen Collections Management Consultant, Heritage Division, Tourism, Culture & Heritage, for their attendance, attention and assistance with the affairs of the committee. 

Finally, I personally wish to acknowledge the professionalism, quality, commitment and above all else, the leadership initiatives of Karin Kierstead in her role as Collections Coordinator for Passage Project.  She has, this year with the benefit of the new terms of reference, confidently continued, successfully, to develop the project as a remarkable and unique service for the Association and its member organisations.

Respectfully submitted

Derek Watts
15 April 2010

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