Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SDI Final Report

For anyone unfamiliar with our funding situation, ANSM received money this year from the provincial government (through the Strategic Development Initiative - SDI) for a number of support initiatives for Passage member museums.  While it's hard to believe, the funding year has come to an end.
I don't know about the rest of the museum professional world, but I often feel like I'm just spinning my wheels.  The to do list never shortens no matter how many hours, days, weeks... you put in, and right when you think you've got a handle on things, something else comes up that brings you back to square one.  It's not until I sit down to write a progress report that I see how far we've come.  Incidentally, this is why the blog was first started - to keep our member museums up to date on project activities.  So without further ado, here is this year's official final report.

The Passage Project sought funding to support 60 community museums in the following areas:

1.      Core Activities
1.1.   Outreach, training and on-site support visits
1.2.   Remote assistance
1.3.   Documentation package
1.4.   Revised database manuals
1.5.   Software and hardware standardization

2.      New Initiatives
2.1.   Internet marketing for museums
2.2.   Professional development and promotional videos on YouTube
2.3.   Feasibility study on web conferencing software


Project work began on November 30th, 2009 and was completed on November 26th, 2010.  The following is an outline of work accomplished over the past year.

1.1 Outreach, training and on-site support visits
Providing support to community museums occurred in person, on-site, by phone, and through the internet (email, Skype, Crossloop).  When in the office, the Collections Coordinator (CC) was always logged in to Skype, allowing museum staff/volunteers to quickly contact her by instant message or VOIP (voice over internet protocol) when a question arose.  While the CC was not inundated with questions, she did notice that the questions discussed through online means are quite different from those discussed via traditional phone.  In the past, museum staff/volunteers expressed a reluctance to “bother” the CC with questions they viewed as being of little importance.  The staff/volunteers would either delay work tasks or make assumptions which inevitably required correction.  By being available to museums online, staff/volunteers are now asking these “little questions” immediately, allowing them to move forward with their work more efficiently. 

The Collections Coordinator attended the Canadian Museums Association conference in St. John’s Newfoundland in May.  A full review of the conference was posted on the Passage blog as a professional development offering to community museum staff and volunteers: http://passagemuseums.blogspot.com/2010/06/canadian-museums-association-conference.html

Due to scheduling conflicts, the Collections Coordinator was only able to attend 5 of 8 regional meetings.  In order to maintain a presence at these meetings, updates were sent off with other ANSM staff or board members so that museums would still receive a report on project activities. 

Actual Outcomes
Percentage of Funding Objective
50 on-site visits 
64 site visits
attendance at 8 regional meetings
5 regional meeting
minimum of 200 support emails with partner sites
254 support-related emails
Minimum of 12 blog posts
34 blog posts
minimum of 100 support phone calls with partner sites
222 phone calls
provide assistance to 50+ partner sites to create enriched, digitized records
Offer made to 56 partner sites, 27 museums opted to participate

1.2 Remote Assistance
As mentioned in item 1.1, Skype has allowed for more frequent outreach and training support.  Crossloop was used 62 times to provide training and troubleshooting assistance to community museums.  This represents over $3000 in cost-avoidance.  This service has been so well received by community museum staff/volunteers and is so easy to use that many wonder how we ever got along without Crossloop.
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
As needed database troubleshooting for 50+ partner sites using Crossloop and Skype
62 Crossloop sessions
21 Skype sessions

1.3 Documentation Package
There are currently 25 resources available on the ANSM website under the categories of Collections & Access to Information and Management.  These vary from sample forms to tip sheets to database manuals.  Given how well they have been received by the community, this work will continue as time and resources allow. 
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Compile standardized collections management documentation package, available online to 50+ Passage partners and 100+ ANSM members
12 collections management forms
10 tip sheets and manuals
3 administrative forms

1.4 Revised Database Manuals
The task of revising the database manuals was removed from the project work plan following the IT consultants’ feedback (see Appendix 1 – Database Renewal Report) on our current MS Access databases.  Through discussions with the SDI funding manager it was determined that moving forward on this deliverable would be irresponsible.  Until the new database system is in place, community museum staff/volunteers can access the existing database manuals via the ANSM website.
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Revise 3 database manuals, available online to 50+ partners through video (YouTube) and text
Initial textual revisions made to Collections database manual (prior to receiving feedback re: databases)

1.5 Software and Hardware Standardization
Two new partners joined the project this year – Wedgeport Sport Tuna Fishing Museum and Mount Hanley Schoolhouse Museum.  While the Milton Blacksmith Shop was hoping to join as well, when we discovered the reality of our database situation, it was decided (by both ANSM and Milton) that they would wait until the new system was in place in order to prevent the necessity of learning two database systems in two years.  The mentorship agreement that is in place between the Mount Hanley Schoolhouse Museum and the Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum is working well, and it is hoped that this model can be used with other museums that are just beginning the digitization process.

As mentioned in the interim report, CHIN funding allowed for the purchase of 23 webcams with built-in microphones.  This has greatly facilitated the use of Skype as a remote assistance and outreach tool.  With this funding we were also able to purchase 32 external hard drives (640GB) with built-in automatic backup software.  During the delivery of these hard drives, the automatic backup feature was set up, greatly reducing the risk of data loss.  

Also addressed in the interim report was the rfp for a technical consultant to analyze and report on the existing MS Access database structures and make recommendations on how to proceed in the future.  A full report has been written (see Appendix 1), but in short, it was determined that the Collections database is highly unstable and it is imperative that a new system be adopted as soon as possible.  The Collections Coordinator has been working with the developer of the new system to do customization work so that the learning curve for museum staff/volunteers will be as small as possible.  To date, the beta version of the new system has been completed, and the first round of testing by the ITCMA Committee will take place on December 9th.  This has involved many hours of investigation, discussions and testing, but the Collections Coordinator is pleased with how the project is progressing.  The Cemetery and Volunteer/Tracking databases will remain in MS Access until the Collections database issue has been resolved, after which the IT & Collections Management Advisory Committee will seek alternative options for these systems.

Given the amount of time required for the database renewal project work, the equipment purchase program was postponed until the fall.  A procedural document has been drafted, as well as a requisition form which will be updated prior to each biannual order (see Appendix 2 – Equipment Purchase Program Procedures and Appendix 3 – Equipment Requisition Form).
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Provide 3 new sites with standardized equipment and software
2 new sites
Prepare terms of reference for IT consultant work, select consultant, review findings and recommend action
Report written, new database system ready in beta-version

2.1 Internet Marketing for Museums
The Collections Coordinator attended workshops and read a number of books and articles on internet marketing for businesses, museums, and tourism operators.  Reviews of the workshops were written and posted on the Passage blog (http://passagemuseums.blogspot.com).  All of this information was compiled into a reference document (see Appendix 4 – A Museum’s Guide to Internet Marketing) that is available on the ANSM website.   

In addition to the internet marketing guide, ANSM partnered with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) to deliver a workshop on Strategy Development for Social Media (see Appendix 5 – Social Media Workshop Flyer).  This workshop was held at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on November 16th and due to the high number of registrations a second workshop will be held at the Acadia University Library on December 10th.  These workshops were limited to 10 participants in order to work individually with the attendees’ situations.

In order to be recognized as a leader for museums in this area, ANSM has recently added two new internet marketing platforms to its staff blogs.  ANSM now has a Facebook fan page with almost 40 followers after 1.5 weeks.  This page will allow for wider dissemination of information and increase recognition of the ANSM brand.  A YouTube channel has also been established which will be used to host how-to videos for the new CollectiveAccess database system. 
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Investigate & compile internet marketing recommendations available to all 100+ ANSM members
A Museum’s Guide to Internet Marketing is available on the ANSM website

1 comment:

Monica said...

Dear Passage Museums Nova Scotia,

On behalf of the CrossLoop Team I would like to send you a special thanks for using our products. We are pleased to hear about your great success with reference to section 1.2 Remote Assistance above. Please contact me at monica@crossloop.com