Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Introducing NovaMuse

We've been talking about it for a long time as the "collections website", and with the release of our conference program the cat is officially out of the bag. In three weeks time we will be launching 51 community museums from across Nova Scotia will be sharing their collections online for all the world to see.

What's behind the name? 
Well, Nova because we're in Nova Scotia, and also because it means new - and this is certainly new territory for us!  Muse acknowledges that this is a heritage website; the contributors are museums (in the broad sense of the word - including archives, galleries and interpretive centres). It also acknowledges the inspiration of the muses and that we hope people will find the site inspiring. It contains tens of thousands of artworks, handmade crafts and tools, clothing fashions from years gone by...plenty of stuff to inspire the creative mind.

How did we get here?
CMA Award
Since 2006 community museums in Nova Scotia have been contributing collections information to Artefacts Canada and the Virtual Museum of Canada. But long before that there was talk of a heritage portal for Nova Scotia. In 2002 a group of 18 community museums got together and said it was time to standardize their practices, beginning with a collections database system. So they started with a basic Microsoft Access system that was custom-built. Over the years this group of 18 grew to 50+ heritage organizations from one tip of the province to the other (literally). This crazy experiment was called the Passage Project, and in 2006 received a Canadian Museums Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Museum Management. Now known as the ANSM Advisory Service, participating museums have recognized the value of cooperative work and responded to the many challenges we have put to them. Whether it was creating a Wikipedia page for the museum or scanning old photographs or selecting showcase items to be researched in-depth, these museums continued to step up to the plate.
So in 2010 when we realized it was time to move to a different database system, and that CollectiveAccess was the logical choice, the museums were again ready to brave the unknown. The opportunities of this new system made the decision to launch a Nova Scotia collections website a no-brainer.

How will it work?
The website is fairly simple right now. You can find specific objects, browse through different themes, look at a certain museum's collection, or for the museum nerds check out categories from Nomenclature 3.0. You can then refine your search results by using a number of filters.
We also want this to be a dialogue with the public. We don't know everything about every single item in our collections. And we definitely don't have personal stories to share with each and every object. But we know there are a lot of knowledgeable people out there who have stories and information to share. So you will be able to login and leave comments on individual artifact records. Do you recognize a photograph? Tell us who the people are! Tell us where it was taken! Did you work at that factory and can explain how something was made? We would love to hear from you! Are you conducting research or just want to save some of your favourite records for future reference? Well you can do that through the lightbox feature. Once you've created an account, you can login and go back to those favourites time and again. You don't have to have an account to use the website; only if you want to save your favorite items or submit comments and tags. The associated museum will be alerted to these comments and answer questions or add your information to their collection records.
Behind the scenes, each museum's copy of CollectiveAccess feeds the website. At the end of every day a refresh will run, updating the website with any additions/corrections/changes made during the day. We have installed a quality control filter (read about it here) that will help maintain the professionalism of the website and also give the museums some suggestions on how to fix their data. We also have placeholder images for any items without an associated image. This is a work in progress. Over 187,000 records are in the databases right now...that's a lot of photographing and scanning to do. Each museum chooses which records get shown online, item by item. Some are opening up their entire collection, while others are being selective. So it will be very interesting to see how many of the 187,000+ objects are ready by the launch date (we're still running the data and museums are actively updating information).

When exactly is it launching?
NovaMuse will be online and available to the public as of September 13th. The official launch will take place at Acadia University during our annual conference, and will include a wine & cheese reception. We hope to see all of the contributing museums represented and have invited special guests as well. Keep in mind the early bird registration deadline (ie. the cheap rate) is August 31st.

This has been and continues to be an incredible journey through the world of museums. We know that the launch of a basic collections website is just the beginning. It opens an entire world of possibilities, and I for one am very excited to see where this journey takes us.


Bria Stokesbury, Kings County Museum said...

Hi Karin,

Everything sounds very exciting and what a great background you have provided on the history of Passage --- good luck with the big launch in September!

Great Job!
Bria Stokesbury
Kings County Museum

Karin said...

Thanks Bria! See you at the party :)

Christine Lynch said...

So looking forward to the launch. "Just the beginning..." I like that thought.

Karin said...

We've already started planning for next year's upgrades :)