Monday, June 30, 2014

June 2014 Update

Odds and Ends
June was a very slow month, not because there weren't a million things to do, but because I disappeared for a couple weeks for family reasons. I'm still pondering and processing the experience, and as with any adventure I learned some interesting lessons (and witnessed some inspiring museum work) so will probably end up blogging about that in the near future. But I digress.
As many of you experienced, I spent my office time frantically emailing and scheduling site visits and trying to wrap up a number of tasks prior to my departure. Since I'm still suffering from "vacation brain", I won't even try to tell you what these tasks were.

WWII Helmet - safe - no padding
WWI Helmet with Asbestos padding
Important Artifact Safety
There's a lot of chatter about WWI right now and many exciting programs being rolled out by museums around the world. This is awesome. Artifacts are being taken out of storage that haven't seen the light of day in years. Museum staff are handling items that haven't been handled in years, and some of these items have been added to teaching collections so that visitors can handle them as well. This is all well and good, except that certain materials used in these military items are extremely hazardous. Asbestos is one of the biggest problems and it was used in gas masks and the lining of helmets. And unfortunately these are exactly the things that visitors would love to try on or get a closer look at. Do not let anyone wear these items!
One of the things I often mention in workshops and sometimes during site visits is that people are more important than any artifact. The last thing I want to hear about is someone getting sick from handling something they should have left bagged on a shelf. For some fantastic info on how to keep your staff, volunteers, and visitors safe when working with military collections, please visit this link. If you have any other questions about this, please send me an email or give me a call and I can provide further advice on how to address these items in your collection. Thanks to our friends at The Army Museum for the suggestion of issuing this warning and for providing the images of helmets so you know what to look for.

Site Visits
Although I should be in the thick of site visits now, I only managed to get to four sites this month. But that still represents 8 hours of driving and many more hours of chat time at museums. Thanks to the lovely folks I've seen so far. As ever, your hospitality and graciousness and openness remind me how lucky I am to have this job. As I mentioned last month, I'm actively scheduling the rest of the summer visits, so if you want to request a particular week (or have dates that really won't work for you), please let me know. Otherwise I'll just keep working on things in my own random order. I look forward to seeing everyone again and meeting the new kids on the museum block!

Collections Database Info
Since I've been running the roads I feel like this month's update is mostly about our database stats. With all the insanity and travel preparations I didn't get to do any database review work this month. I hate to fall behind like that, but such is life. I'm confident that we'll still finish the project on time (ok, hopefully ahead of schedule) and will keep picking away at the work when I find myself in the office.
Now for the fun stuff. It's obviously summer time because a lot more new info was added this month compared to last month. 977 new records and 1,358 new images were added in June. I love those big numbers! We now have 198,917 artifacts and 85,755 images. We're getting bigger and better all the time.

Here's the regional tally:
Southwest - 102,183 artifacts, 38,368 images
Central - 40,508 artifacts, 18,562 images
Northeast - 29,722 artifacts, 19,369 images
Cape Breton - 26,504 artifacts, 9,456 images

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

Since we are focusing more on our locally made items, I thought I'd pull one for this month's photography lesson. What's more maritime than a handmade wooden buoy? The colour in this image is very good, but there are a few improvements that could have been made to the background and the use of a scale, etc. But I'm going to focus on one particular issue. The label. Labels are ridiculously distracting in artifact images. Sometimes we want to use them when we are doing documentary photography for internal use (ie conservation photos), but when this is the image that we'll be broadcasting online to the world, we don't want any labels to appear. So please please please, remember to remove your tags and labels prior to photographing an artifact. If you don't, I will call you out on it, especially if your labels include the name of a donor (you really shouldn't do that anyway, so if I catch you we'll be having a much longer conversation).

As a reminder to everyone, since I'll be on the road for most of the summer there will be delays in answering messages and following up on requests. But as you are all aware, my "to do book" never leaves my side so I will get to you eventually. All for now. See you on the road :)

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