Friday, January 30, 2015

January 2015 Update

Odds and Ends
Where has January gone? It feels like we just got back to work after the holiday break, but apparently we've been here for 4 weeks. We kicked off the month by welcoming Kevin, who is interning with us until April. If you missed his intro you can read it here. With the extra help around we are tackling a few projects that have been on the back burner for a while, such as updating info in the Made in NS database and reviewing/revising/creating the resources section of our website. Kevin has also been checking out First World War era artifacts and will be doing some limited digitization work at some of the local area museums. We haven't done a lot of running around this month (being winter and all) but had a lovely and extremely productive lunch meeting with Jamie from CNSA, have attended education committee meetings for both CNSA and ANSM, and had a teleconference with IMAC. Nothing major to report, but we are inching forward as ever.

Tillman Thefts
One of the more interesting mornings of this month was our trip to the infamous Tillman storage locker. This is where the RCMP has been keeping the items stolen by Tillman. Since a number of larger institutions had already gone through and reclaimed or accepted items for their collection, the doors were flung open and smaller community museums were welcomed to take whatever they were interested in.
As much as it pains me to say, I was seriously disappointed in the behaviour of a number of museums. Yes this is an extraordinary case and so calls for extraordinary measures. However, that does not mean that we brush aside professional, ethical, museum standards. It means we call on these even more than usual. So let's do a quick review shall we?

1. If the object doesn't fit the museum's mission statement, you don't take it.
2. If the object doesn't fall within the

museum's collection mandate, you don't take it.
3. If the museum already has multiple similar items and this object doesn't have a compelling story that directly connects with your community, you don't take it.
4. If the donor can't provide proof of full and clear ownership, you don't take it.

5. If the museum's possession of the object isn't totally legal, you don't take it.
6. If the museum's possession of the object isn't totally ethical, you don't take it.
7. If the museum doesn't have adequate resources to manage and care for the object, you don't take it.
8. If the museum can't provide public access to the object, you don't take it.
9. If the museum can't meet any special preservation requirements of the object, you don't take it.

Think of it this way. If someone showed up at your museum to evaluate it, and they asked you to explain how something met your mandate, could you justify having it?

January has been full of CMAP activity. I've been doing a lot of reading, both of existing CMAP information and checking out other museum standards programs from around the world. Both provincial and national level programs have been reviewed, and I've been finding the similarities and differences fascinating. We are definitely unique in some areas, but follow the crowd in others. Our last steering committee meeting involved walking through the site evaluation, and so armed with that feedback and the comparable programs, I got to tweaking and rewriting and deleting and just having a big old editing party. I am very pleased to report that we have a rough draft of the new site evaluation that the steering committee will be reviewing at next week's meeting. 

Fleming Project
I realized recently that this is one of my favourite projects. This is our 3rd year partnering with Fleming College
2015 participating sites
on a class assignment that has students reviewing database records from some of our museums. As Deb and I reviewed the assignment outline and made some minor adjustments, it was just blatantly obvious that this is a win-win-win-win project. The students get some real world experience in museum databases and documentation, the museums get some help with their databases and a nice report that helps with professional development and planning of improvement work, ANSM gets to offer an additional perk to Advisory Service members, and Fleming gets to brag about innovative partnerships as part of its educational offerings. Over the next couple of months 30 students will be working away on proofreading and researching 300 artifacts in our collections. I can't wait to see what they discover.

Collections Database Info
Chris has been joined by Kevin in some database cleaning work, but since they also have other things on their plates, we haven't actually finished another database this month. Two are in the middle of the process though, so should be wrapped up by the end of February. We only have a few databases left and are very excited at the thought of finishing off this two-year project. It sort of feels like it has gone on forever.

Just as we saw in December, it was a rather quiet month for database work at the museums. Grant applications are coming due, and post-holiday activities have taken their toll on collections documentation time. But we still saw another 424 new artifact records and 798 new images added, which is pretty exciting. Collectively we have 218,552 artifacts and 90,542 images in the system. I wonder if we can crack the 100,000 images mark this year...

Southwest - 119,044 artifacts, 39,798 images
Central - 41,220 artifacts, 20,727 images
Northeast - 30,700 artifacts, 20,188 images
Cape Breton - 27,588 artifacts, 9,829 images

Congrats to Cape Breton for adding the most records and to the Southwest region for adding the most images this month. Great work!

Your image of the month is a bit of a doozy. I know I've mentioned this before, but artifact photos should be of
one object, not a group. Here we have a lovely collection of plates. Many, many plates. Now, if this were a matching set of dishes I would absolutely agree that having an overall shot is a great idea. Except this is no matching set. Keep in mind that your database is relational, so you can link related items, and the system builds links as you enter your data - you can browse by donor, manufacturer, original owner, etc etc. So let's all agree to use those database tools instead of entering everything together in one record and skimping on the details of each individual artifact. Let's make sure that each item tells its own story and that the accompanying image files enable us to see lots of wonderful details.

So that's how 2015 is shaping up. As usual, we have lots on the go. It's gonna be a good one folks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Introducing Mr. Dacey

Hey, my name is Kevin Dacey, and I’m the new intern at the ANSM. I’m in my third and final year of the Applied Museum Studies Program at Algonquin College in Ottawa. I’m really looking forward to becoming immersed in Nova Scotia’s heritage community and visiting as many museums and institutions as I can.

I’ve lived my entire life in Ottawa, growing up among actors and artists in the local theatre scene. I
went to a preforming arts high school where I specialized for two years in the drama program. Following high school I took a year off to participate in Katimavik, a now, sadly, defunct volunteering program for youth aged 17-21 wherein participants volunteer for three months in two locations across Canada. I worked in a hospital on a reserve in northern Quebec and at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba, which is where I discovered that work in museums might be a viable career choice. 

I don’t really remember where my passion for history comes from, but since I was young I’ve always been fascinated by the rich tales found within our history books. It blows my mind that some people have no idea about the sea of beautiful stories that they step out into every morning. So it’s always been a bit of a dream to combine my two passions, theatre and history, and bring the past to life. And I discovered the best way to do that was through museums, which leads me to where I am today.  

December 2014 Update

Odds and Ends
As most people know, ANSM shuts down for two weeks during the holidays. Since I still had a few vacation days and some overtime to use up, I decided to make it an even 3 weeks away. I told myself that I would take a few minutes on New Year's Eve to write up the December update, that I would stay on top of emails, and maybe even get a few little things crossed off the list while relaxing during a movie night. How did I do you ask? Well, I had a wonderful, relaxing holiday, and managed to not cross anything off my work list. Oh well. 

Since I was only in the office for two weeks I don't have much to report on the CMAP front. At the last Steering Committee meeting I was asked to look at the funding formula numbers and evaluation scores. It was an interesting exercise, but basically told us what we already knew. Next up is taking the evaluation apart and putting it back together. Fun times!

Collections Database Info
Chris was around for 3 weeks in December and managed to cross another 3,569 records off the data cleaning list. We only have a few databases left to go so it's getting a little exciting to see the light at the end of that tunnel.
With everyone gearing up for the holidays we didn't see a lot of database work this month. I think I would classify it more as clean up work. Some loose ends were tidied, duplicate records deleted, records prepped for our next Fleming College project, and some new records were added. We linked another 280 Made in Nova Scotia items to that database which we are still geeking out about, and mapped a few more items as well. In terms of data entry, we are 265 records and 435 images ahead of November numbers. Collectively we have 218,128 artifacts and 89,748 images. Not too shabby :)

Southwest - 119,026 artifacts, 39,353 images
Central - 41,158 artifacts, 20,447 images
Northeast - 30,684 artifacts, 20,190 images
Cape Breton - 27,260 artifacts, 9,758 images

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

I'm doing something new for your image of the month. I don't see it often, but every once in a while someone uses a prop to assist in their photography work. While I have seen a couple instances of this working very well, more often than not it detracts from the image. Like this purse. That is one strange looking hand. Sure I can see the chain really well, but my eye is so distracted by the big white hand that I'm not noticing the details of the purse as much as I should. The hand is also preventing the purse from being centred in the shot. And there's no scale.
So, here are a few principles to remember when you are photographing:

1. contrasting background fabric - black purse would probably display better on a white background.
2. scale - for 3d objects you want to make sure you have the scale in the lower left corner, within the frame portion of your shot.
3. placement - the artifact should be the central & sole focus on your shot. Avoid the use of props unless they can be hidden from view.

That's a wrap for 2014. It's been a crazy busy year, as usual, but a good one. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work, dedication, encouragement, support, etc etc. I look forward to seeing you in 2015 at workshops, meetings, site visits, and all the other heritage shindigs.