Friday, March 30, 2012

March 2012 Update

Spring is officially here and we are starting to prepare for the upcoming museum season. While some people may look outside for signs of Spring, we always notice it by an increase in phone calls & emails to the office by the many seasonal sites in the province.

Upcoming Workshops
Last year ANSM launched it's new museum studies program. This Spring we will be hosting two workshops - Museums 101 and Collections Management, both of which are being facilitated by yours truly. In case you missed last year's workshops, let me tell you why these are important.
Museums 101 is an overall look at museology - core functions, history & current reality - it's a great way to introduce new volunteers, staff, and/or board members to the work. The workshop will be at the Queens County Museum in Liverpool, April 12-13th. There are only a few spots left so if you are interested please call the office right away.
Collections Management is our 2nd workshop of the year and will focus on current standards and best practices for all things collections-related. Are you confident in your documentation practices? Do you wonder about legal issues? Do you know how to handle all those old loans? Even if you were trained in this previously, there have been some changes to standards over the past few years and it's always good to get a refresher. And as we prepare for our fancy new collections website, I strongly encourage you to sign up for this workshop. This one will be at the Whitney Pier Historical Museum in Sydney on May 10-11th. The workshop is already over half full so again, please call the office right away if you are interested in attending.

For ANSM members, each workshop costs $100. That's only $50/day. I would say to any board of directors that wonders if they should pay to send their hard-working staff and/or volunteers to this training that these people are definitely worth the investment. As a provincial organization, we rotate workshops between the regions to ease the travel burden, but aside from Museums 101 each workshop will only be delivered every 3 years. Do you really want to wait another 3 years for this training?

Database Renewal - Website Development
One of the tricky issues with our new website is how to share records from so many different sites while maintaining the individual presence of the museums. And we need the website to be very flexible, allowing us to add new participants & records and also remove records.
Well, I am very pleased to report that we now have a system that allows us to search across multiple sites. While there is a lot of data that requires importing and we're still in the testing phase, it's so cool to finally compare records from different museums in one database system. Hats off to the Whirl-i-gig crew for making this possible!

I mentioned once before that the new system makes it much easier to identify duplicate entries and clean up old files. Well this month we have actually seen a decrease in records - crazy right?! While I love to see the numbers go up, it is just as encouraging to see this change because it means that collection records are improving and Nova Scotia's museums are being better stewards of our material culture. This is further evidenced by the fact that even though the number of records went down, the number of associated images  continues to increase. We now have 173,125 records and 48,180 images. That means another 1,321 images were attached this month.
Here are the regional stats:
Southwest: 85,661 artifacts, 20,491 images
Central: 35,395 artifacts, 11,174 images
Northeast: 29,694 artifacts, 12,954 images
Cape Breton: 22,375 artifacts, 3,561 images

Congrats to Cape Breton for adding the most records, and to the Central region for adding the most images.

North Highlands Community Museum
I have received a number of questions about images lately. Most of these questions are about image resolution. When you upload an image to the database, what first appears is a small thumbnail, which is also used as the preview image that always appears to the left of the record while you're working on it. However, if you click on this image it will launch a much larger image which is a truer representation. What some people have found is this larger image appears to be blurry and/or pixelated. This is because the image resolution is too low. You want the best quality image possible - the database will adjust the size for the website so don't worry about putting something in that someone will steal and use without your permission. The resolution should be at least 1200x1200 pixels. Otherwise the image will be blurry and this reflects poorly on the museum. If you have questions about artifact photography, give me a call. If you aren't feeling confident in your abilities, consider starting off with postcards or other 2-dimensional items that you can scan. Those are much simpler. Also remember that you can refer to my blog posts with photography tips.

And now for your image example of the month. This is a 3-dimensional model of a storm drum. The only thing that I would change about this is the orientation of the scale, which should be aligned perpendicular to the shot. Other than that it's a great image. I understand the depth and detail of the model that would have been lost if the photograph had been taken straight on, and the angled orientation looks completely natural.