Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October 2015 Update

Odds and Ends
This is going to be a big update, so I'm going to keep this section brief. Since I took two weeks off in October, it meant cramming a whole lot of work into 12 days. The good news is that I survived. The bad news is that I've got tons of messages to respond to and my site visit homework is still incomplete. According to that to do list, it is still August 22nd. But now that I am almost entirely back in the office, I hope to make some serious progress over the coming weeks.

Evaluation Program
evaluation orientation
Anita and I have been on the road again, this time conducting orientation sessions on the new evaluation process. As one person said to us yesterday, this is the first time there has been this kind of communication about evaluations, and it is immensely helpful. We've had great turn outs at each session, and people have almost always said after the session that they felt better about next summer's evaluation. Yes it is still going to be a lot of work over the coming months, but I'm here to help you and I'm confident that together we'll be able to accomplish a whole lot before July rolls around. If you haven't already done so, be sure to download the new evaluation documents on our website. Look through and treat these as a self-assessment - answer what you are confident in, and then figure out what you'd like to work on next. If you have any questions at all, please be in touch.
If you are not a CMAP museum, you can still use this evaluation tool as a way to assess your operations. As we mention during the orientation session, museum workers are always busy, and it can be hard to get feedback or take a step back and assess yourself. This process is meant to help.

I taught two workshops this month as part of our Museum Studies program. Both workshops were our two-day session on Collections Management, but this doesn't mean we'll be offering multiple sessions for our other workshops in the future. We took advantage of a unique opportunity, and as a result 39 people were trained in collections management. We had great groups at both workshops. Middleton was uneventful, but we ended up having an adventure in Sherbrooke. Maritimers had a pretty interesting time on Thursday because of the wind and rain, and for those of us in Sherbrooke, that included a 7-hour power outage. Thankfully we were a pretty stalwart group, so we used our laptop batteries to the last drop, enjoyed a turkey dinner à la propane stove, and spent the rest of the evening in candlelight. It was actually quite lovely and relaxing.
Thursday night in Sherbrooke
cloudy Sherbrooke Village

Collections Database Info

We had a rather quiet month in the world of databases. I'm still seeing a lot of editing work being done, but additions are lower than they have been. We now have 221,947 artifacts and 103,253 images in the system which represents 237 new artifacts and 552 new images. As I've mentioned in the evaluation orientation sessions and collections management workshops, the best way to get through data entry backlogs and improve existing records is to just keep plugging away at it. So kudos to everyone as they do this. Every improvement increases the likelihood of a positive result in your evaluation.

Southwest - 121,069 artifacts, 47,047 images
Central - 42,172 artifacts, 23,970 images
Northeast - 31,205 artifacts, 21,721 images
Cape Breton - 27,501 artifacts, 10,515 images

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

For your image lesson of the month, we are talking about scanning. We are also talking about staff/volunteer training. The lovely ladies in this photo are going to help us out with this lesson. Very fun picture right? Unfortunately, it breaks a bunch of our digitization rules, and as a result has left this museum with more headaches than progress. Firstly, When the photo was scanned the student didn't define the scanning area, resulting in a lot of dead space that needs to be cropped out. But when you crop out dead space, you lower the image resolution. This limits re-purposing of the content. Secondly, this photo was plunked down in the middle of the scanning plate instead of along an edge, which means when you crop it, your image will be off kilter. Thirdly, the image file name is a mess with extra details and dots instead of underscores or dashes. That means we can't easily batch import the images to the database, that the image files won't be stored in order by accession number (ie the way we look things up).
My biggest problem with this scan is probably the one you've identified as well. Someone did a whole lot of work, and now the museum will have to spend just as much time fixing or redoing the work. We are swamped. We need to ensure that our limited resources are being used efficiently and effectively.

So, let's review our rules:
1. If your scanner doesn't automatically read the edges of your item, use the scanning preview option to define the scanning area.
2. Check your scanner settings. Make sure your image is going to be high resolution so you can use it in numerous ways. An easy guideline to follow is 600dpi.
3. Line up the item with whichever corner edge the scanner suggests. There is always a little arrow to show you where to position your item. If you don't use it, the scan won't be square.
4. When naming your images, do not include dots. The only dot should be prior to the file extension (ie jpg or tiff). Also, remember that your image name is supposed to align with the accession number. In this instance an additional number was added which means the file names have to be edited in multiple ways before the image can be attached to the database. This image file should read 2007_9_43.jpg or 2007_9_43.tiff.
5. Supervise your staff/volunteers! Don't assume that someone understands digitization just because they know how to use a computer. You've got to show people how to do a job, and then check in with them regularly to make sure that it is going well and you're happy with the results.

So there you go. Long lesson, but I really hope I never see this problem in a museum again.

And now by request, something completely different. I mentioned last month that I was going on hiatus for a personal adventure. Well, the cat is out of the bag. I got married. Thank you for the cards and gifts and messages. My new hubby has been thoroughly impressed by the kindness and support of the museum community. Thanks for celebrating with us as we embark on this great adventure.

No comments: