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!

No comments: