Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 Update

Site Visits
MacDonald House Museum
This pretty much sums up my July experience. I visited 23 sites in all 4 regions and have thoroughly enjoyed all the chats I've had with staff and volunteers. I've been really impressed with the quality of summer staff this year, and have seen a number of really great special projects taking shape. As I mentioned last month, it's been great to sit and talk about how to move forward at the individual site level rather than pushing through the major projects we've been working on for the past couple of years.
I've got a lot of homework items from the visits; things to fix, stuff to check on, and resources to develop, so please bear with me as I don't have a lot of office time to get this work done over the summer. I will get to it all eventually.

IMAC Meeting
I took a break from travels for a meeting with our illustrious advisory committee. We have a new chairperson; Gary from the Army Museum. Maybe it's the military precision that he brings to the table, but we somehow managed to have our shortest meeting in recent memory. Lots of chatter about upcoming plans, disaster recovery work, site visits, and our server upgrade. We reviewed applications from museums interested in joining the advisory service. We realized that last year that we needed to bring new sites in at a non-database level first in order to build a relationship with the staff/volunteers and make sure other aspects of the museum operation are organized before throwing a new database at them. I'm actually really excited about this, since it's a more holistic approach to the work. Sometimes it seems like the focus is solely on the database and collections work, and museums are so much more.

NovaMuse Stats
I thought it'd be fun (ie random) to look at how people are finding NovaMuse; what terms they're typing into their search engine that end up leading them to our fancy site. I was sort of hoping we'd notice some trends here so people would know what our visitors are most interested in, but I think the top 10 list is pretty random. I swear I'm not making these up: Michael Rupp Chronometers, Taylor-Forbes Guelph Canada sadiron*, Jon Beausang, Acadian House Museum, Lakeshore Bruins, Army Museum Halifax Citadel, HMCS Sorel, Little Flower Orphanage Cape Breton, David Obed Parker, and Francis Drake New Glasgow. See, I warned you. Very random. But we can tell a couple things from this - people are looking for info on Nova Scotian museums and reading about them on NovaMuse (hooray!), and there is interest in industrial collections. Other than that, I'd say we should just keep plugging away at adding more content, making sure that we have nice full records with great images.
*this does not mean we should collect any more sadirons!!

Database Info
As I've mentioned during site visits, this year is our clean-up year. So I've started work on our enhanced data dictionary. As most people have noticed, not all of the database fields have help text, and since we regularly get requests for training resources for new volunteers or staff, we're going all out to create a fancy pants data dictionary 2.0. Seth calls it training wheels. It won't replace the need to conduct on-site training with your seasonal staff or new volunteers, but we're excited to finally tie up this loose end and make things a little more sustainable.
The other big database task we're working on is a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. We have various pieces in various places, such as my technical troubleshooting guide, but we figured it was time to pull all this stuff together in one master document. So, let's say hypothetically that we fill up the server and need to upgrade our storage plan, anyone will be able to pull that section of the plan and know exactly how to proceed. Speaking of which, we had a fun problem this month. We filled up our server. Everyone has been so productive since we switched to CollectiveAccess that we ran out of space. So we've now doubled our storage which means there's plenty of room to grow.

And now for my favourite part of the database news, the monthly tally. Chris and I are still working on database review work, and have now processed over 50,000 records, of which we've mapped 19,153. It's also obviously the busy season because we now have 193,218 records and 75,080 images in the databases. That means that 1,328 new records and 1,453 new images were added in July:
Southwest - 100,329 artifacts, 34,025 images
Central - 37,415 artifacts, 15,058 images
Northeast - 29,407 artifacts, 16,907 images
Cape Breton - 26,067 artifacts, 9,090 images

Congrats again to the Southwest region for adding the most records and images this month, and for cracking the 100k mark!

NS Sport Hall of Fame
Before I wrap this up, It's been far too long since I gave an image of the month tip. I know I know, but in my defence, I have no defence. I've been trying to find different kinds of artifacts and issues to raise, and the more I blog, the more difficult this becomes. But here's a good one...I hope. We've got a fantastic 1923 team photo, but it's seen better days. Some people might want to crop out the torn edges and focus solely on the photo, or solely on the photo and bottom of the matboard where all the players are named. The problem with this approach is that it misrepresents the item. Detail shots are great, but we want to make sure the images in the database are true representations of the object; that the image in the database will match the item when you go to find it in the museum.

All right. I think that's enough for now. Time for some rest before tomorrow's site visits as I head up the Cabot Trail.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 2013 Update

Site Visits
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm
With all the meetings and visitors and other goings on throughout June, I was late starting my annual site visits, but I still managed checking in with five sites in the Central, Northeast and Southwest regions. I'm actively scheduling and travelling now, so if you don't have a site visit scheduled yet, I will be in touch over the next week or so. What I'm hearing so far is that June saw a modest increase in visitors from last year, which is great. So far I've also been really pleased with how people are moving forward at each museum. This is the first time in several years that I've been able to just sit and chat about stuff without a major project or deadline looming - no more database migrations or website launches! You have no idea how refreshing this is; to be able to figure out how to move forward and clean up old issues and just plug away at stuff.

NovaMuse Statistics 
Quite awhile ago I asked our Facebook fans what they'd like to see more of on NovaMuse. I figured this would be useful as people were making their summer staffing plans and thinking about potential exhibit topics. I don't have a picture to share, but here's what we're seeing on NovaMuse: we all know the home page suggests themes for visitors to check out. Art, Farming, Fishing, and the Military are the most popular themes. We're also seeing that people love checking out the contributor map from the home page. This is great because one of our big goals with the site was to direct people to the contributing museums - this is where you can go to see the stuff!
This also raises the point about documentation and making sure you put the right category in the object record. If you don't, your artifacts won't get into the right theme and this makes us all look bad.

Database Info
The funky issues we experienced last month with Internet Explorer have now been fixed. 
One funny holdover is that the daily synchronization was only picking up certain records during its sweep. So, if you've been waiting for an image or record to appear on NovaMuse and it's just not showing up, here's what to do. Go into that record and make a simple change. Maybe you can add a date or georeference, or add something to the description, or doesn't matter what the change is, but by making this change it will "wake up" the record for the daily sync. Something is new which means the sync knows to grab and update the info online.

The database review work continues. Chris and I have finished 10 sites, representing over 48,000 records. This puts us 3,000 records ahead of schedule which feels pretty great.  Once we finish the quick and dirty review we want to go back and do some research to further narrow down begin & end dates, so the more work museums do on their own records, the more time we'll have to do in-depth research and make improvements. So basically this is one of those "help us help you" situations. Speaking of helping, I finally published a blog post on some database lessons - trends we've noticed as we've been reviewing records. This is a must-read for anyone doing cataloguing and/or data entry. We're still keeping track of trends and will share more lessons when we get a full page worth.

In other news 804 records and 1,075 images were added this month, so we now have 191,890 artifacts and 73,627 images in the databases:

Southwest - 99,458 artifacts, 33,206 images
Central - 37,168 artifacts, 14,686 images
Northeast - 29,200 artifacts, 16,676 images
Cape Breton - 26,064 artifacts, 9,059 images

Congrats to the Southwest region for adding the most records and images this month!

American Invasion
Karin & Seth, always photogenic
We also had some company this month. Our illustrious CollectiveAccess guru came to visit for a "vacation", which of course means we spent an insane amount of time in meetings and talking shop. We had a seafood barbeque, ate cake, did some disaster planning, made a few subtle changes to NovaMuse, and had a fun sit-down with some Dept of CCH staffers. We of course had to take the opportunity to show Seth our new award, which is just as much his as it is ours. So once again, congrats to my New York penpal, the guy who was up sending emails back and forth with me at 4am, who flipped the switch for our website launch, who bullied his co-workers to make sure that all of our deadlines were met, and who continues to go above and beyond the call of duty. This is why we send him care packages of chocolate and tea, and this is why ANSM loves Whirl-i-gig...even if they are yankees.