Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2016 Update

Kellie & Marven learning about the Atlantic Canada
Aviation Museum's work from Barry and Gary
Museum Evaluation Program
Evaluations wrapped up the first week of August, and boy did it feel great to finish. It was a busy four weeks for everyone involved. I have now received all the forms and photos from the evaluators and am mid-way through report writing. As promised, the reports are very comprehensive, and provide feedback on any questions that the museum struggled with. We also encouraged evaluators to write notes and comments and ideas, and they delivered! We also realized by the second day that we should be taking photos of things we saw on-site so that these could be incorporated into the reports. So while not everyone will have photos in their reports, most sites will. This is a very roundabout way of warning that the evaluation reports are long. They are nothing to feel overwhelmed by, but should be seen as a tool for the board, staff and volunteers to move the museum forward. Our goal was to have the reports finished by September 6th, but this doesn't look feasible, so instead we'll be doing a gradual release. Reports are being done in the same order as evaluations took place, so those who were evaluated first will get their reports first.

Farewell to Heather
In sad news, we said goodbye to Heather our intern this month. She wrote a lovely little blog post to say goodbye and we made sure to send her away with cake. I know not everyone got to meet Heather, but she was an amazing help to us over the summer. She was given fair warning that it was going to be a very busy summer and she jumped in with both feet. She accomplished a lot and was instrumental in keeping us from feeling like we were drowning. So again, big thanks to Heather for joining us for the summer, and best wishes as she launches into her museum career!

On that note I'm going to hand things over to Sandi, Advisory Assistant, to talk about site visits and digitization work. Time for me to get back to report writing.

Site Visits
The end of summer is near and our annual museum site visits are coming to a close. I would like to take this opportunity to  thank staff and volunteers for having us during your busiest time of year. Let's review a few highlights from our visits!

This journey has taken me to over 40 sites; during my visits I provided insight on database work, digitization, and our special projects. With the support of partnering sites, we photographed approximately 400 artifacts, including 225 scans of manuscripts and photographs from the Victorian era. I am proud to say that together we collected a large sum of material that will make a great addition to the CollectiveAccess databases and NovaMuse. I have also noticed an influx of data entry since I visited many of our sites, I want to applaud you for your continuous efforts and passion for collections management. Here are your updated totals for Collective Access entries:
Southwest Region - 109,352 artifacts, 49,267 images
Central Region - 32,609 artifacts, 27,713 images
Northeast Region - 24,824 artifacts, 24,048 images
Cape Breton Region - 22,810 artifacts, 11,098 images

Great progress is being made!

Photo of the Lamp's
One of our most popular tools on the road was our handcrafted light box. As mentioned during the visits, creating a light box is a cost-efficient and easy way to create a seamless and clear backdrop for photographing your artifacts. It allows you to create beautiful photos that are telling of the objects and their story. Remember, Collective Access allows you to upload multiple images so be sure to capture those hidden details, such as: manufacturer marks, handwriting, signatures, embroidery, and other unique features. It is important to look at an object at all angles and share that information with the public who are sometimes viewing the object for the first time. 

This miner's lamp is a great example of how a light box diminishes shadowing by making use of proper lighting and a clear backdrop. I took a photo of the entire lamp, which will act as the primary photograph on Collective Access, and then I photographed the individual pieces, as well as marks and labels found on the object.

There were a few trending questions and/or concerns that I would like to address. Many sites have asked what to do if they have misplaced their scale. Unfortunately, much like each site, we have a very limited number of these at the office (one) so we suggest placing an order for a replacement. Please search for a Crime Scene Photomacrographic Scale, these are easy to find online and are cost effective. It may be a good idea to order a few or make a photocopy of the scale on cardstock once it arrives for a backup. A friendly reminder that your scale should always be at the bottom left hand corner of the object and it is to be removed when taking close up shots of details or dealing with 2-dimensional items. 

Photo taken at:
Cape Sable Historical Society
Also, a friendly reminder to please use proper tools and equipment when working on digitizing your collections. Please use gloves when handling artifacts. It is important that we protect the objects during the digitization process. Another common question during my visits was, do you photograph or scan things like books, letters, deeds, etc.? The first step in this decision is to evaluate the condition of the item. For example, if you have a book with a broken spine, it may be best to either use a handheld scanner or photograph it to avoid further damage. If you choose to photograph a book or textual document, please do so overhead and do not use a scale. If a photograph is in a frame, please leave it behind the glass and use fabric or card stock to block the reflection. If you have a tintype, try scanning and photographing it to see what option works best. Try different techniques, there is room for creativity and new ideas in this field but it is also important to always keep the item's condition in mind when making these decisions. It is our job as museum professionals, to maintain and protect these historic treasures. 

That is all for now, keep plugging away at digitizing your collections, we look forward to sharing your progress! Please continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on #ProjectVicky and to show your support for all of our partnering sites.

Sandi Stewart
Advisory Assistant

Black Nova Scotian Baskets

Edith Clayton Horn of Plenty. Cole
Harbour Heritage Farm Museum, 1990.19.01.
          Black Refugees arrived during the War of 1812 with their framework ribbed basket making skill.  Red Maple wood is used for the framework and the “split” or “strip” wefts are used for wrapping the cross-wrap and the most common baskets made are berry and market baskets with handles, fruit and bread baskets without handles, hooded baby cradles and conical Horns of Plenty for Thanksgiving.
          Edith Clayton, an East Preston basket maker and descendant of Black Loyalists was one of Nova Scotia's most well-known basket makers. Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum has several Edith Clayton baskets in their collection available to see on NovaMuse. Joleen Gordon had been a close friend of Edith's for years and was taught a great deal about basket making by Edith. 
Basket, Gathering. Cole Harbour Heritage
Farm Museum, 2003.23.01

Describing the Baskets
          Framework work of handle and rim wood circles, intersected at right angles, held together with two X-shaped cross-wraps of maple “split” or “strip” wefts. Wood ribs inserted into cross woven with maple wefts from each wrap towards the mid-centre of the bottom, adding one or more sets of ribs when needed depending on the shape of the basket. Wefts added by overlapping 3 or 4 ribs are wrapped around rim twice at the end of each row.  Final wefts are overlapped.

Edith Clayton’s Market Basket, A heritage of splintwood basketry in Nova Scotia.  Joleen Gordon.  Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum, 1977.

Baskets of Black Nova Scotians.  Joleen Gordon.  Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum.  Web. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Acadian Baskets

                 Acadian Gathering Basket (125-865)
                  Les Trois Pignons Cultural Centre
Following last week's post about Mi'kmaq baskets, this week we're looking at Acadian baskets and how to best describe them in the database. Permanent European settlement began in North America with the Acadians in 1604 who brought their willow framework ribbed basket. Here they use Ash or Maple with Spruce or Tamarack split root, “roots,” for both weaving and wrapping the diamond-shaped wraps known as “les oreilles” or “the ears.” The basket opening, or mouth, is “la bouche.” Two Old French linguistic terms still used by present-day basket makers. These potato gathering baskets were used in Acadian communities across Atlantic Canada. 
A close-up of "les oreilles"

Describing the Baskets
Framework of handle and rim wood circles intersected at right angles held together with two diamond-shaped wraps of roots on either side of the basket.  One set of ribs, braced between two wraps, woven with roots from each wrap towards bottom-centre. In work baskets, roots may be unpeeled. In fancy baskets, roots are peeled with each half woven on opposite sides.  Roots added by knotting, overlapping or inserting alongside rib.  Root wound around the rim twice with rounded-side facing out (hint: look inside of rim to see the twists).

Root Baskets of Atlantic Canada. Joleen Gordon. Halifax, Nimbus Ltd. and Nova Scotia Museum, 2005.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mi'kmaq Baskets

Following last week's post as an introduction to baskets, this week we're focusing on the Mi'kmaq, their basketry techniques, Joleen's methodology of describing these baskets, as well as some helpful references. 

Mi'kmaq Sweet Grass Basket
West Hants
The Mi'kmaq are First Nations People in Eastern Canada. There is archaeological evidence of making baskets with soft grasses, rushes, cattails and inner fir barks. Since European settlement, they create weave work and fancy baskets using wide and narrow woodsplints of Ash, Maple, and Poplar.  Fancy baskets are often decorated with Sweet Grass.  Bottom warps and wefts are woven in the desired shape, unwoven ends bend vertical forming warps for the sides woven to desired height.  The rim is created by turning down alternate outside warps holding the last row of weaving in place; inside warps are cut. Handles and lids are also added to some baskets.  

Describing the Baskets

Bottom: round, square or rectangular.  Round bottoms sometimes have a “double-start bottom” if there are two sets of radiating bottom warps. Round basket centres may have tapered warps allowing initial wefts closer to centre.

Sides: straight; slightly flared; flared; rounded; or moulded (if a mould has been used).

Weaving techniques: checker-woven (weaving flat wefts with flat warps in an over 1/under 1

Mi'kmaq Fancy Basket with "periwinkle" "jikiji'j" weaving
Shelburne County Museum
pattern); twill-woven (weaving flat wefts over flat warps on a staggered over 2/under 1 pattern); hexagonal-woven (using three sets of warps/wefts); braiding (finger-weaving flat or round elements in a variety of numbers in many patterns).  

Fancy baskets may have a double woodsplint row of added raised decorative weave known collectively as “jikiji’j”.  There are many patterns some of which have specific names: raised decorative “periwinkle” “jikiji’j” weave; raised decorative “porcupine” “jikiji’j” weave; raised decorative “thistle” weave; raised decorative “Castle Bay twist’ “jikiji’j” weave.

Handles: Overhand, round or D-shaped across basket opening, ends inserted into weaving; Side-handles inserted into weaving on opposite sides; Notched overhand and side-handles sometimes notched to fit over inner-rim wood hoop securing position; Hand-hold handles created by spaces left in the weaving on opposite sides; Swing-handles, round or D-shaped, riveted to outside of rim; Looped woodsplint or length of Sweet Grass braid handle often added to centre of fancy basket lid. 

Rims:  Fancy baskets rims reinforced with inner woodsplint or inner wood hoop and outer woodsplint or overlaid Sweet Grass all bound with woodsplint.  Most basket rims are bound/lashed with one circle of binding.  Record “double-bound” if the rim has been bound twice – hint – look for the resulting X’s.  Heavy work basket rims may be nailed.  Square and rectangular basket bottoms often have extra reinforcement of added woodsplint on opposite outer, and middle, rows to extend their lifetimes.  

Resource List:
A Basketful of Cultural Change.  National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service, Paper No. 22.  Ottawa, The National Museums of Canada.  1975.  (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax)

Elitekey, Micmac Material Culture from 1600 to the Present.  Ruth Holmes Whitehead. Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum 1980.  .  (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax)

Mohawk Micmac Maliseet…and other Indian Souvenir Art from Victorian Canada.  London, U.K.  Exhibition catalogue.  Canada House Cultural Centre Gallery, 3 July-13 August, 1985. (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax)

Abenaki Basketry.  Gaby Pelletier.  National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service, Paper No. 85.  Ottawa, The National Museums of Canada.  Appendix A has many images of pages from dealer’s catalogues showing the baskets, trinkets with their sizes and prices. (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax) 

A Key into the Language of Woodsplint Baskets.  Eds. Ann McMullen and Russell G. Handsman.  Washington, Connecticut, American Indian Archaeological Institute, 1987.   (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax)

Our Lives in their Hands, Micmac Indian Basketmakers.  Bunny McBride and Donald Sanipass.  Thomastown, Maine, Tilbury House Publishers, 1990.

Micmac Quillwork.  Ruth Holmes Whitehead.  Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum, 1982.  (in NSM Library, Summer Street, Halifax)

Older Ways, Traditional Nova Scotian craftsmen.  Peter Barss with Joleen Gordon.  Toronto, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980. (Noel/Abraham Smith, Hantsport)

Handwoven Hats, A history of straw, wood and rush hats in Nova Scotia.  Joleen Gordon.  Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum, 1981. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Farewell from Heather the Intern

Cutting my farewell cake with
Jennifer supervising - it was
Hello all!

It’s hard to believe that my summer internship here at the ANSM is already coming to a close. I can’t believe how fast the summer flew by and how much I was able to accomplish and learn here. If you’ve read my introduction post, you may realize I’m from Ontario and had never previously traveled out east, so making a move here was a calculated risk. However, I can’t express how glad I am that I chose to do my internship at the ANSM.

I had thought that if I were to travel to a different province for my internship, it would be great to see as much of it as possible. Even though I don’t have a car, I was still able to see new places and meet so many wonderful people thanks to the 10 or so site visits I did with Sandi (and a few with Karin as well). This was such a great aspect of my internship. Not only did it align with one of my projects, #ProjectVicky, and my desire to further my knowledge and experience with digitization, but it allowed me to meet so many wonderful museum professionals, whether it was staff, volunteers, summer students or museum enthusiasts. Of course, Anita, Karin, Jennifer and Sandi were all amazing to work with and being in a team of such passionate and hard-working women motivated me to push myself further. I'm so thankful I was able to work with them!

A large part of my time here was spent working on our SME basket project (#MuseumBasketCases on NovaMuse's Facebook and Twitter), which I can never say enough great things about. Working with Joleen Gordon was definitely a highlight and I'm glad this project came to be, even though it wasn't something we initially thought would happen when I was pursuing this internship. Being able to learn about so many types of baskets from 28 sites across the province was huge for me. I really enjoyed the feedback I received from museums about my work and I feel confident I made a positive impact in these records. I'm really happy to see so much great database work from so many sites. Nova Scotia's museums are truly wonderful and being able to get a closer look into some of them was really special.

I will likely be going back to Ontario but have pursued possible employment in both Nova Scotia and Ontario, so we'll see what happens! In either case I will have to come back to visit and explore some more! Nova Scotia is so amazing. 

All the best,

Heather McCorquodale

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Introduction to Baskets

Randall House - Basket,
Gathering, 94.15.1
Following up our #MuseumBasketCases work with Joleen Gordon, Joleen has kindly shared some extra information to assist sites with future enrichment of basket records. This information will be uploaded in the upcoming weeks to our blog, so stay tuned for more helpful information. Today is all about the basics - exactly what is a basket, what can it be made out of, naming protocols, and best photo practices for these artifacts.

What is a basket?
A container used to hold or carry things, typically made by interweaving materials.  In weaving, the weft horizontal threads on a loom pass over and under the vertical warp threads to make cloth.  In basketry, the weft and warp materials have been given different names in the different cultural groups.  

I have added the root-laced bark “quill boxes” because archaeological and first-written records show pre-contact and contact Mi’kmaq wove with plant, animal, bark and root materials.
DesBrisay Museum - Basket,
Gathering, 86.31.2

Materials used for Nova Scotian baskets:
  • Ash: either Black Ash, Fraxinus nigra or White Ash, Fraxinus americana
  • Poplar: Populus balsamifera
  • Sweet Grass: Hierochlöe odorata
  • Spruce: Picea
  • Tamarack/Hackmatack/Juniper: Larix laricina
  • Witherod: Viburnum cassinoides
  • Alder: Alnus rugosa
  • Red Osier Dogwood: Cornus stolonifera
  • Willows: Salix 
  • Red Maple: Acer rubrum.
More information:
Trees of Nova Scotia, A guide to the native and exotic species. Gary L. Saunders. Nova Scotia.  Department of Lands and Forests, 1970.  

Types of baskets

We followed the guidelines in Nomenclature 3.0 for the object names and categories of the records.
West Hants Historical Museum -
Basket, Fancy, 95.1254.2B
The only exception to this is that some baskets, known as "fancy baskets," were entered into the Object Name field as Basket, Fancy. This is not an object name outlined in Nomenclature 3.0 but we felt it was important to give certain baskets this name as this is the proper term in Mi'kmaq culture. 

Many baskets we encountered in databases when beginning this project were simply named "Basket," however many different basket object names are outlined in Nomenclature 3.0. Some popular basket names we included in our data entry were gathering, carrying, picnic, trinket, needlework, and of course fancy, among others.

Photographing Baskets
Since we were working on this project remotely, we were dependent on photo documentation of these basket records. The most helpful aspect museums could offer us was the amount and quality of photographs provided for these records. Having at least one photograph was helpful, and most times it provided us with a relatively good understanding of the basket. However, having multiple photos of varying angles is key with baskets. 

A good rule of thumb is to photograph the basket as-is, at a 45 degree angle (best practice for 3D objects). Photographing the bottom of the basket - inside and outside - is very important as this will indicate how exactly it was made. 
Great shots of the inside detail and
decorative weaving and rim on this
West Hants basket.

Many baskets are made with dyes, but these dyes fade on the outside over time, so it's good to get a shot of the inside to tell if the basket had been dyed. Close-ups of decorative weaving or the rim of the basket (and accompanying lid, if applicable) can be key in determining if the basket is just made of wood or if Sweet Grass or other materials have been added in. As always, trying to get the best possible lighting with an uncluttered background with the basket in focus will help immensely. At times, some baskets were hard to study due to the blurriness or low quality of the photo.

That's all for now! Next time we will be delving into the different culture groups who make baskets in Nova Scotia, starting with the Mi'kmaq. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Museum Site Visits

Looking over an artifact with Kathy at
James House Museum.
          As many of you may already know from my visits, my name is Sandi Stewart. I am the Advisory Assistant here at ANSM and have been given an amazing opportunity to travel across our lovely province to perform advisory site visits and meet those in our partnering museums who make site operations possible. The core staff and volunteers are truly the backbone to our museum operations and I can say with great pleasure that there are some very passionate and creative people in my field across Nova Scotia. 
Miranda using our light box at Cole
Harbour Heritage Farm Museum.
          I have stepped foot in 21 sites so far this summer, approximately 6 sites per week and each one of them are full of historical and cultural gems that shine a light on Nova Scotia’s rich past. Along my travels, I work closely with staff on database efforts (CollectiveAccess) to ensure they are comfortable with the digitization process. A part of this process is providing a mini workshop on photography, which allows students and volunteers to gain valuable experience handling and photographing artifacts, I am happy to report that many students expressed great interest in this. Along with the help of the museum staff, approximately 10 artifacts per site have been photographed so far, which will result in at least 200 future entries to the database but we are not stopping there! I will be continuing my adventures in the upcoming months so stay tuned for more telling photos. My goal is to provide our partnering museums with the guidance and support they need so that they feel empowered and motivated to continue on with database work in the future. You can check out their hard work on NovaMuse.
Heather and I in front of some
#ProjectVicky artifacts at
Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum!
I would like to make note that I have worked closely with a lot of wonderful people along this journey who have encouraged me to grow and experiment with ideas. Karin Kierstead, my advisor and right-hand, has taught me many tricks of the trade along the way. I also had the opportunity to work alongside our Fleming Intern, Heather McCorquodale on a few projects: #ProjectVicky, #MuseumBasketCases, and #WhoAmI. 
If you are curious about these projects, feel free to check out our NovaMuse posts on Facebook and Twitter. I want to thank Heather for her assistance and wish her all the best after graduation, I will miss her directions on the road! As for me, I am sure you will hear from me again as I continue this exciting journey. Be sure to follow our progress on our social media pages, I try to update daily!