Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 Update

ALM Conference Attendees
Halifax Central Library
ALM Conference
For the first time ever, archives, libraries and museums of Nova Scotia held a joint conference, and around 240 people attended. In a nutshell, they loved it. Lots of smiling faces and realizations that as information holders and service organizations, we have a lot in common. So many people told me they were learning a lot and having fun and meeting all kinds of new people. Anita got to give a lightning talk about our educational offerings, and I was part of a panel that talked about online databases. I could have talked for at least another 30 minutes, but it was nice to share our news and talk shop. I got especially positive reactions to our new timeline feature, our partnership with Fleming College, and the sheer mass of data that we are sharing online. In case you missed our tweets or Facebook updates, we received a number of compliments, as did our friends with CollectiveAccess. The provincial archivist said that NovaMuse has set the benchmark for sharing collections online, and the NS Museum's Manager of Collections said that ANSM and particularly our work with NovaMuse is pushing the Nova Scotia museum community forward. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees, but we really are doing some pretty cool work, and it keeps getting better all the time.

Evaluation Program
Well, it is officially official. ANSM will be conducting the museum evaluations on behalf of the Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage (or as we fondly call them, CCH). The announcement was made at our AGM, and based on the questions and feedback, museums are ready to hit the ground running. So, without further ado, here is some much anticipated info.
Mandatory evaluation orientation sessions will be taking place this fall in 6 locations around the province. If you are a CMAP museum you will receive notification & invitation to these sessions. You don't have to go the closest one, but you will need to rsvp so we know who will be at which session. We want to see two people from each museum; the more ears the better. And now for the moment you've all been waiting for, here is a link to the new evaluation tools.
As I've mentioned before, if you do not have your previous evaluation scores, please be in touch and I will send them along. While the evaluation tool has changed, these old scores are still a great litmus test for your institution.

Site Visit Homework
I know that my goal was to wrap up site visit homework this month, but a few things got in the way and bogged me down. According to my to do book, it is August 20th. And everyone thought summer was over...ha!
One of the things that has been coming up a lot over the summer is the lack of begin/end dates. Yes I know we've talked about this in the past, and to some people I might be sounding like a broken record. But here's the deal:
1. We just impressed a lot of our professional peers with our timeline feature, so we want it to be the best it can be.
2. We've been focusing digitization efforts on First World War era items and realizing that a bunch of this stuff was either missing dates, was misidentified as Second World War, or had a really broad date range that could easily be narrowed down by reading the artifact.
3. We're facing a new evaluation and increased expectations around our documentation practices.

There are other reasons of course, but we basically need to make this field a priority when it has never been one before. And as I have been going through my homework and processing images to add, time and time again I've encountered records with no date when one is clearly visible or obvious. Like this postcard. The postmark clearly says 1913, and yet nothing was in the database. In 2 seconds I had the record updated and now we have this postcard sitting in its appropriate spot on the timeline. So let's just get into the habit of checking the date field when we look at a record, and see if we can narrow down that date a bit. 9 times out of 10, it's really not that hard to do.

One of the other time-consuming pieces of my homework is revisiting customized game plans for a lot of museums. This is something I started doing a couple years ago and have greatly expanded given its effectiveness. I've heard about and seen a lot of documentation improvements from those using a custom game plan, and am confident that this will result in better scores in the collections section of the evaluation. Summer students and volunteers have a better understanding of tasks, goals, and how these fit into the big picture. Efforts are focused and old issues are being methodically cleared up instead of just sporadically noticed and fixed.

Collections Database Info
The yo-yo effect seems to have settled down and we are back to adding new records rather than deleting duplicates or otherwise erroneous entries. Some of the smaller museums are now closed for the season, but progress continues to be made. There is a big push on right now to clean up storage locations and conduct inventories, in preparation for the dreaded collection spot checks in the evaluation. There is also a push to get the backlog of paper records entered in the database, also helpful for that spot check. And of course digitization (scanning & photographing) continues. I checked the numbers on that and since we switched to CollectiveAccess, we've seen a 137% increase in digitization. How awesome is that?! This month in particular, another 509 artifacts and 1,780 new images were added to the databases. We are now collectively hosting 221,710 artifacts and 102,701 images. Go team!

Southwest - 120,994 artifacts, 46,660 images
Central - 42,139 artifacts, 23,868 images
Northeast - 31,182 artifacts, 21,711 images
Cape Breton - 27,395 artifacts, 10,462 images

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

Since this is getting pretty long, let's just use the above postcard as our image lesson. Look for clues about the artifact's age and be sure to enter these in the database!

On that note, I'll be taking a two-week hiatus starting on Monday. Time for a little break and personal adventure before work stuff gets even crazier. If you need help with anything please be in touch with Anita, or leave me an email and I will get back to you later in October.