Monday, November 30, 2015

November 2015 Update

serious crowd in Truro
Evaluation Preparation
The final four orientation sessions took place this month, in Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Cole Harbour, and Truro. When all was said and done we entered all the names & new contact info on our handy-dandy evaluation spreadsheet, and we're feeling pretty pleased with the turnout. We're also feeling a lot more confident in our ability to get in touch with people. So thanks to all who came out, for asking such great questions, and for being so positive about the new evaluation process.

Questions and requests for assistance are trickling in, and I'm keeping track of these in the aforementioned handy-dandy spreadsheet for a couple reasons. One - it shows where we might need to clarify questions, and two - we're curious to see if there will be a correlation between scoring and who reached out for help.
If you're looking for inspiration or wondering where to begin, here are some simple things that your colleagues are working on:
1. Reviewing the floor plan and updating locations in the collections database. Most people are saving the inventory portion of this work for summer students or volunteers since this is a super fast & easy job. 
Anita being dwarfed by Port
Hawkesbury's projection screen

2. Updating policies, manuals etc. As you heard at the orientation sessions, we want to make sure you're reviewing these documents regularly, confirming that they still meet your organizational needs. This includes seeing a "last reviewed" date, so some museums are sitting down and reviewing and adding this little date detail, and checking the boxes in the pre-evaluation review to make sure they aren't missing any sections or details. Don't forget that we have a lot of templates on our website that you can refer to, covering the subjects of collections & access to info, management, and marketing & revenue generation. For governance info, we recommend you check out the resources on Dalhousie University's website.

My biggest and best advice for you here is to reach out. Don't wait until you have a big list of questions you want answered, and don't debate them internally for weeks on end. Just fire off an email and I will help you out. From a support perspective, it is a whole lot easier (& faster) for me to handle these sporadic questions than to address a big list.

Collections Database Info
Our big news here is that we're expanding the server. The final set-up work is being done today, and then we'll have quadruple the space we had before. We'll also have nice new machines which will help keep things running smoothly. This upgrade was one of our big jobs to accomplish before the holiday break, and it's huge relief to have it settled. 

Quiet puttering is a good way to refer to database progress. As expected, a lot of museums are shifting their focus to evaluation preparation. So what we're seeing the most in database work is editing of existing records - reconciling duplicates, updating storage locations, adding missing information & images. Remember, every bit of work you do here will increase your chances of a good evaluation result. So even though it can feel like you're getting nowhere fast, believe me when I tell you that you are making noticeable improvements. This month's improvements mean we now have 221,948 artifacts and 104,885 images online. I wonder if we'll crack 222k and 105k before the end of the year...

And now here's that regional tally you're all waiting for:
Southwest - 121,115 artifacts, 48,770 images
Central - 42,250 artifacts, 24,136 images
Northeast - 30,933 artifacts, 21,464 images
Cape Breton - 27,650 artifacts, 10,515 images

For the second month in a row, congrats to Cape Breton for adding the most records this month, and to the Southwest region for adding the most images.

Your image lesson of the month is about detail shots; a very particular kind of detail shot. Every museum I visit has dishes or other ceramics that include lovely maker's marks on the bottom. And yet, these regularly get missed during photodocumentation. I know that sometimes the ceramic will just be a blank void of nothingness and make you cry "ARGH!" when your hopes of a research shortcut have been dashed. And I suppose some people think that the bottom of a plate is pretty boring so there's no need to photograph it, but trust me, these marks are absolutely crucial to include.
These marks are gold mines of information - where the ceramic was made, when, by whom, what kind of ceramic it is, etc etc. I like to go old school when researching ceramic marks. I have three special reference books that my aunt gave me and they are my go-to sources. They let me search by symbol, by country, or by company. There are also a lot of great websites that can help you with ceramic marks, such as Kovels, The Marks Project, and The So the next time you pull out a ceramic for digitization, flip it over and check the bottom. If there's a mark, say GOLD MINE! and snap a few detail shots using your macro (flower icon) setting. Trust me, it will be worth your while.

Odds and Ends
In random news, with 14 office days this month I was finally able to get through the bulk of my remaining site visit homework. It feels great to look at my to do list and not see August as a heading. It was also great to get to two regional meetings this month. The Black Cultural Centre hosted the Central Regional Heritage Group (affectionately referred to as crug), and the Colchester Historeum got to show off its interpretive renewal project as host of the Northeast regional meeting. In Truro we were honoured to have MP Bill Casey join us, and gave him our best crash course in Nova Scotian museum news. I wouldn't be surprised if his hand cramped from all the note-taking.

In general ANSM news, we are so very close to wrapping up the $100 from 100 campaign and would love to see this completed before the end of the year. Since tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, please consider helping us reach our goal. You can read more about the Museum Fund on our website.

Also, a friendly reminder that our office will be closed for the holidays from December 19th through January 3rd. I will sporadically check messages, but you should expect a delay in response time.

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