Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 Update

A year in review. Isn't that how such posts are supposed to start? To sum up, we've been busy. And these are just the ways that the Advisory Service has been busy. If I included info about what Anita and Sarah and the Board of Directors have been doing this would be a whole lot longer.

NovaMuse Wins National Award!
When Anita joined ANSM we had a conversation about making it the best of the best. We wanted to be a leader in the museum field, not just in Nova Scotia but in Canada. It looks like we might be on our way to achieving that goal because this year we won a CMA Award of Outstanding Achievement. This involved a trip to the Yukon (super cool!) and lots of chatting with the other provincial associations about how we did it. Having spent so much time migrating databases and then working on website development, being recognized by our peers was the icing on the cake.

Resource Development
We always have a wish list of things to do and resources to develop. Sometimes they come in as requests from our members, and other times we just realize that something is needed. This year we were able to respond to three requests by developing a condition report and glossary, consignment agreement, and employment contract letter. We also put the Advisory Service application form online and created a YouTube tutorial video for handling storage locations in CollectiveAccess. We have two more resources in the final draft stages, so stayed tuned for these in January.

Fleming College Partnership
Data Enrichment Assignment Sites
We often preach partnerships. Working in isolation is not only lonely, but detrimental to an organization's health and sustainability. So it makes me pretty pleased to think about the ways we've worked with Fleming College this year. The first was by revising and carrying out a data enrichment assignment for their Museum Management & Curatorship students. 10 community museums agreed to open up their databases for the students to review 10 of their records and then pick a couple of those artifacts to research. The final part of the assignment was for the students to write up a report on what they did and how the museum can further improve its database work. The students got some real world experience, and the museums got some extra help. When I was conducting site visits this summer I heard from several of the participating museums that they really appreciated this project; not just because of the help, but because they were giving the students a glimpse at the realities of museum work.

In the fall we were able to partner with Fleming again, this time by hosting an intern in the ANSM office. Caryn's primary work focused on the manufacturers' database system, but she also helped with our database review work, annual conference, and resource development. And we shipped her off to workshops and regional meetings and other networking opportunities. As you can probably imagine, life in the ANSM office is rather fast-paced and often hectic. We love what we do and always have lots of ideas about how we can help museums even more. So to have an extra person join the team for 15 weeks is a pretty amazing thing...and it gives us more excuses to have cake days.

Collections Database Info
Well, we finally finished reviewing all the databases in the Cape Breton, Central, and Northeast regions. That's a total of 92,420 records. By updating these to the new Nomenclature 3.0 standard and assigning dates & georeferences we have drastically improved the searchability of NovaMuse.ca. We also released a whole lot of records that were previously stuck in our quality control filter or had been set as inaccessible - 24,693 records to be exact. So while at the beginning of the year only 60,330 records from these 3 regions were available to the public, we're ending the year with 85,023 online. Yeah, I guess you can say we've been busy. Southwest region - we're coming for you in 2014.

Now let's do one more regional tally for 2013:
Southwest - 101,649 artifacts, 36,742 images
Central - 39,667 artifacts, 16,778 images
Northeast - 29,548 artifacts, 19,057 images
Cape Breton - 26,153 artifacts, 9,374 images

Throughout December another 150 records and 598 images were added which has us ending the year at 197,017 artifacts and 81,951 images. Congrats to the Central Region for adding the most records and images this month!

And now, one final image of the month. Yes I am flogging a dead horse with this one. I know that. But when I did a search for Happy New Year, this is one of the results that popped up. So let's all make a New Year's resolution together: "As of January 1st, 2014, we do solemnly swear to not take photos of 2-dimensional objects, nor will we take photos of groups of items and enter them all in one record. We will use our lovely scanner without putting a scale in the image, and will document the measurements in the appropriate field. We will link related objects using the relationship page."
There, now doesn't that feel better?

Manufacturers' Database
Our latest crazy database scheme moved miles ahead this year. Not only did we get to clean up the existing data in this system, but Chris developed a fantastic classification system and Caryn wrote a technical guide for it. We finally connected it with CollectiveAccess which means we are linking "made in Nova Scotia" items to the people and companies who made them. So far we've reconciled 27 collections with this system, matching 114 manufacturers with 603 artifacts. And now when museums are entering locally made items, they will be able to link them to this system as well. Once we finish a little tweaking of NovaMuse, this will add an entirely new layer to the site. You'll be able to navigate through manufacturers, see what industries were present in communities, learn about the companies and people who were creating and producing, and then see any items from participating museum collections. Seth still tells us we're crazy for tackling this, but we think it's cool and will be a fantastic addition to NovaMuse.ca.

Disaster Plan
One of our other side projects this year was to draft a comprehensive disaster plan and guide to all things databases. This has required pulling together pieces from various documents, contracts, and other places, and talking a lot with our tech support team. It's still not finished yet, but it's getting there. We've got our disaster scenarios identified, backup technical support team in place, contract & password information compiled, and database troubleshooting guide written.

That's all for this year! Happy New Year everyone, and we'll see you in 2014 for more fun and games :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Caryn says Goodbye

These past fifteen weeks have gone by in a flash, and I have had so much fun and learned a great deal. Over the past several months I have done a variety of activities including developing a condition report and glossary (available as a resource on the ANSM website), data cleaning and working on the manufacturers’ database. I have thoroughly enjoyed all these activities, as well as working with, and learning from, all the staff here at ANSM.

Manufacturers' Database
Technical Guide

I am happy to say that I leave ANSM having completed the technical guide for the manufacturers’
database which should help as this wonderful project moves forward and grows. It is a terrific project and I look forward to nosing around NovaMuse in the future to see how it develops. The data cleaning was also pretty cool. It has allowed me a look into a variety of collections which will be invaluable in my future career (and its just plain fun!).

ANSM conference
I was also given wonderful opportunities to get out of the office, meet some new people and experience aspects of work in museums outside the realm of collections. The conference in September, the facilities management workshop, the Southwest and Central regional meetings, and several other meetings got me out of the databases, giving me some important exposure to museums in the real world. Some of these also got me out of Halifax, showing me even more of this magnificent province which I will be very sad to leave Monday as I head home to Alberta.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Museum Profile - Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum

Paul, Karin, Barbara and Barb
When I first started working with museums in Nova Scotia, I heard tales of a community museum in the southwest region that did amazing work. Even though they were unable to attend my Data Enrichment workshop, they were eager to participate in our Artefacts Canada project and selected records for inclusion. When I finally met them in person, I understood why they were so eager. That's just how they operate.

What I appreciate most about this museum is the positive attitude. In talking with Barbara about her experiences working in the museum field, she often remarks that you just have to keep moving forward. There is always room for improvement. If you get hung up on how much there is to do or how long it will take to accomplish something then you'll never get anywhere. This is very much in tune with how ANSM operates - we love tackling crazy huge projects, but we eat those elephants one bite at a time. Maybe that's why Barbara and I get along so well.

We also get along well because Barbara is a stickler for standards. She doesn't accept the excuse that volunteer-run or seasonal museums should be cut some slack because they have fewer resources than some of the larger sites. You just have to be smart about scaling the work and focus on moving forward. Because of this mindset, Parkdale has consistently been at the top of the CMAP score chart. As such a high scorer, and for her practical approach to the work, other museums have often been referred to her for help. And she has always been ready to share her knowledge and experience. If a group was thinking about starting a museum, Paul would tell them to talk to Barbara first so they would understand just how much work was involved. I have used this museum countless times when discussing game plans and best practice examples, even if I haven't named them (I try not to name names).

Community Engagement
When you walk through the door of the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum, you are among friends. The warm welcome and request to know how you are doing aren't just platitudes. There have been several times during site visits when someone came in and Barbara and Donna have had a nice little chat with them. After they leave, I asked who the person was, and they had no idea. They'd never met them before. But in their eyes, anyone who comes through that door is a friend. I suspect that this is a big part of why their community is so invested in the museum. As you can see, Barbara's retirement part was packed! Even though Barbara was worried that no one would show up, they had to keep bringing out extra chairs to fit everyone.

The museum really is a focal point in the community; they host a number of very popular events throughout the year, including their famous Blueberry Tea. They have school groups in, are a CAP site, and have a lovely little gift shop with an ice cream freezer so the place is always buzzing with some activity or other. The focus isn't just on getting someone to go through the exhibits or engage in some sort of "museum activity". It's about serving their community, however the community needs to be served.

Sometimes when a fantastic long-standing Curator retires we get a little nervous. It can be very difficult for an organization to settle after losing someone with so much corporate knowledge. Again, Barbara was thinking ahead. Donna has been handed the reins and knows exactly what needs to be done. The two have worked closely together for years, and as her retirement approached, Barbara made sure to focus on succession planning and training. This kind of planning is unfortunately rare in our province, so once again Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum serves as a model for the rest of us.
So thanks to Barbara and Donna and the entire team at Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum for being such a bright light in the museum world.
All the best Barbara!