Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014 Update

Super-Saturated Thoughts
our office mood flip chart.
we've been eating a lot of
chocolate lately...
To be honest I'm feeling a little swamped right now. The to do list has shrunk by 6 pages since last month, but new items are being added every day. Museum workers are busy people, and the pace just seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. We have mused in the office that our winter "down time" (more appropriately named catch-up time) has disappeared altogether. I hear the same thing during site visits. Anyway, a few items on my to do list are websites or blogs that relate to museum work. One of them is all about solving task-saturation for museum workers, and one of the things I found while exploring its articles and relevant links was a list of little encouragements to incorporate into the work environment. This reminded me of our ANSM Cake Policy. Do we really need a cake policy? No. Do we sometimes need to take a break from the seriousness of grant applications, strategic planning, government negotiations, database & website management, etc etc ad infinitum? Absolutely. So what are you doing at your museum to help lighten the mood and boost the spirits of your colleagues? Do you have a daily mood flip chart? This is our new favourite thing at the office. Warn co-workers to keep their distance or just band together with a random mood. Either way, it's pretty fun and definitely helps to lighten the mood on tough days.

ANSM Conference
Thanks to everyone who came out to the conference. We had a great time in Sydney and are hearing that you did too. I am drafting a blog post about the conference so will wait to share more thoughts there. So stay tuned...

Membership Renewal
I mentioned this last month, but here's a final reminder about advisory service membership renewals in case you still haven't sent it in. For some reason people always mix up this process, so here's your gentle reminder about what needs to be mailed to our office:
1. Complete and send in your contract. Make sure that it is signed by two different people: the President of the Board of Directors and the primary Advisory Service contact person. We won't accept the contract unless two different people sign it.
2. A cheque for $350. $50 covers your regular ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. In the renewal notice you will see that we itemized these amounts and so all you need to do is add up the total and write the cheque for $350.
beautiful Clare

Site Visits
I am off the road and loving it. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy site visit season, but it's nice to be back in the office to tackle that 24 page to do list, enjoy the zen nature of database work, and sleep in my own bed. The remaining few visits were as different as snowflakes, and each institution had great tales of community engagement to share. I love the diversity of NS museums. Now I know I'm not supposed to play favourites, but the most exciting visit was to the Yarmouth County Museum. As I've mentioned on social media and in last month's blog post, we have a new CollectiveAccess user and contributor to NovaMuse. We are so excited to welcome our friends from Yarmouth to the group and I was thrilled to be able to "deliver" their new database and show them how to use it. The delicious brownies were an added bonus.

Collections Database Info
I finally got back to database work this month but didn't get through as much as I'd hoped. Between the conference and site visits (and homework), the month just flew by. But a lot of improvements were made and as a result NovaMuse is looking better than ever. And new records are still being added every day. This month another 209 artifacts and 399 images were added to the databases. That means we collectively have 216,326 artifacts and 88,340 images. Wow. Talk about strength in numbers.

Southwest - 118,751 artifacts, 38,696 images
Central - 40,860 artifacts, 19,898 images
Northwest - 30,163 artifacts, 20,003 images
Cape Breton - 26,552 artifacts, 9,743 images

Congrats to everyone this month on a job well done! We had a very productive summer and are gradually getting through those data entry backlogs and improving old files. Kudos! I'm very proud of you.

Your image of the month is one of my favourite artifacts from the museum whose database I'm currently reviewing. All too often we keep underwear in storage. So underneath those fancy dresses, here is the whalebone bustle that provided some extra "enhancement". Not very fancy is it? Anyway, in terms of photographing, it's pretty simple. The mannequin was 'dressed' and the shot was angled so you could understand its three-dimensional nature. Additional photos of different angles, the front clasp and other details were taken.

So here's to a bustling but enjoyable fall. If nothing else, we can be thankful that these are no longer in fashion.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review - Rust Never Sleeps

I've reviewed a number of books by now, but so far they've covered general museology, the evolution of the field, strategic planning and ethical guidelines. So I thought it might be time to delve into something a little more specific. One of the things we've been talking about lately is that we are not the experts in everything, and that's okay. What's important is that we know where to go, who the experts are, what resources are available, etc etc.

This is what brings me to one of the very specific books in our reference library. Rust Never Sleeps: Recognizing Metals and Their Corrosion Products was co-authored by Austrian, Canadian, and Dutch conservators and conservation scientists and was published by our very own Parks Canada. This means we have copies in both English and French.

Metals can be confusing, especially when you get into all the alloys and patinas. Add corrosion products to the mix and it's easy to get scared. What caused it? Will it spread to other artifacts in the collection? Can it be stopped? How can you tell the difference between active and stable corrosion? What on earth does "passive corrosion" mean??? While this handy little book won't answer all of your questions, its title really says it all. With this book by your side you'll be able to identify the various metals and their corrosion products. With sections on copper (and alloys), iron, silver, tin, and lead, you should be able to figure out exactly what is in the museum's collection. In each section are quick bullets on how to recognize that particular metal, focusing on colour, magnetism, weight, and deciphering makers' marks. Following these bullets are quick hints on corrosion of the metal, focusing on distinguishing characteristics such as colour and look.

This book is extremely visual, providing the reader with examples of the various metal types and what kinds of objects were made from each type. Additional images of corrosion types show how to know whether the corrosion is stable or active and explain what conditions or circumstances led to the corrosion.

The final few pages of the book contain advice for the reader. Common problems and solutions are outlined, and are very simple to understand and carry out. Whether you notice silver tarnish or condensation in an artifact storage bag, quick tips are there to help you alleviate the problem. The only problem I noticed in this section is that the old Preserving My Heritage website is referenced and that has since disappeared. The next section reviews factors of deterioration, or as we often call them, the 10 agents. The agents have been reviewed in a way that focuses solely on how they affect metals, which can be very useful to people who have not been trained in the basics of conservation.
For those who want to study more about metals and their corrosion, an entire page was devoted to references, and most of those books or resources can be found online or in the ANSM library.

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of workbooks and quick tip sheets; solid references that you can learn from quickly. We wear so many hats and end up running around so much in our jobs that such resources are crucial in our work. So while it won't take you long to read this little book once, it's definitely one that will be returned to, time and time again.