Monday, June 1, 2015

May 2015 Update

Jake & Vanessa in Malagash
CMAP Pilot Evaluation
Well, we survived the pilot and we learned a lot. I now have copious notes to sort through and more adjustments to make to the evaluation. I'm happy to say that the timing seems to work, museums were able to pull together their homework pieces without too much difficulty, and by talking through the process with evaluators and museum workers, we were able to clarify a number of questions and areas. A few points of interest:
1. Museums are ready and eager to be evaluated again and feel this is a crucial component to self-improvement.
2. Giving museums 30 minutes of orientation & "show-off" time means evaluators can be much more effective and accurate in their evaluation.
3. When conducting the artifact inventory check evaluators expected decent descriptions and digital images to leave no doubt that the items & records matched.
4. Evaluators are watching and noticing the smallest details even when you don't think they are (how creepy is that?!).
Teamwork test at MOI
Thanks to the Colchester Historeum, Cole Harbour Heritage Farm, Creamery Square Heritage Centre, Malagash Salt Mine Museum, and the NS Museum of Industry for being our guinea pigs. Everyone was very professional and honest as we poked and prodded around their museums, and gave us some great feedback on the evaluation process.
Thanks to Jake, Valerie, and Vanessa for joining Anita and I on this crazy adventure, for taking it so seriously and yet always maintaining a sense of humour, and for making great travel companions. We couldn't have done it without you.

Site Visits
That's right. It is time to hit the road again. I don't feel like a year has passed, but I guess it has. What's on the agenda for this year? First World War-era artifacts are this year's focus. And it's the year of the scan, so this means we will be taking a look at your collection and reviewing digitization techniques for these early 20th century items. We will look at the new features of NovaMuse, how your records appear online, and talk about how you can improve your online presence. For anyone in CMAP, we will also chat about the new evaluation tool and how you can prepare for your next evaluation. It's a full agenda, but please feel free to add items to the list.
Please keep in mind it is not my job to train your summer students or new staff members. The museum board and senior staff are responsible for this task. I get grumpy when I have to repeat the same basic instructions year after year after year and don't see any forward momentum at a museum. Please don't make me grumpy.

Collections Database & NovaMuse Info
A funny thing happened this month. We went down in record numbers. This has happened before but it is extremely rare. Apparently a few museums have been cleaning up duplicates and sorting stuff out, and as a result, we went down by 68 records and now have 219,251 records. But 413 new images were added so we're creeping closer to the 100k mark - sitting pretty at 93,479.

Regionally, this is how we're kicking things off for the 2015 season:
Southwest - 119,192 artifacts, 41,214 images
Central - 41,497 artifacts, 22,037 images
Northeast - 30,522 artifacts, 20,306 images
Cape Breton - 28,040 artifacts, 9,922 images

Congrats to the Central region for adding the most records this month, and to Southwest region for adding the most images!

We recently updated NovaMuse to the new version of Whirl-i-gig software. Basically we have added more flexibility to the site; we've linked to our social media pages, the site automatically adjusts itself to whatever people are viewing it from (tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, etc), and we finally have the ability to see search results on a timeline or map. As with previous system updates and our migration to CollectiveAccess in general, seeing our data in a new/different way has enabled us to identify holes and issues. The timeline especially shows just how bad it looks to not have an image of the artifact, and how crucial it is that we have accurate begin/end dates in our records. It's super cool, but would be a lot cooler if we put in some more work. Since my go-to example of this feature has been a researcher looking up wedding dresses, here is a little snapshot of how this appears on the timeline:

The section of the timeline without any images was just too depressing for me to include as an image here. So I want you to imagine how bad this would look if none of these dresses had photographs. Just a date, object name, accession number and brief description (this particular dress is missing a description - not good). On the right hand side you will notice that you can refine your search results, but when you do that you aren't getting full results any more. Sure it's great if you only want to check out wedding dresses in Cape Breton museums, but you will still have the issue of missing images and spotty descriptions. This is why I've been helping museums develop game plans for accomplishing database work and why we've declared it the Year of the Scan. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, people expect high quality images of your collection to be in your database and available online. We know the reality of how time- and resource-consuming this work is, so it's important that we keep on eating that elephant one bite at a time.

All for now. I am hitting the road this week and look forward to some one-on-one time at our lovely community museums across the province. It's gonna be a good summer!

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