Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 2008 Update

New Office Arrangements
As you saw in last week’s email, Passage staff will not be operating out of the FNSH/ANSM office as of December 1st. We are confident that this will not change anything in terms of supporting the members, and can still be reached through email and by our cell phones.

Regional Meetings
This month saw three regional meetings take place in Parrsboro, Kentville, and Orangedale. Karin was able to attend each of them to deliver an update on Passage and visit with the members. These meetings are a wonderful forum to compare notes with colleagues, network, and have some great heritage-related discussions. Thank you to the members for inviting Passage staff to these meetings.

We want to send out a special thanks and congratulations to both Beryl MacDonald & Martin Boston, who each marked 20 years in the heritage community this fall.
Beryl just retired as Curator at the Gut of Canso Museum & Archives in Port Hastings. While she will be missed in her more active role, she plans on volunteering for the group. Thanks for all the hard work over the years Beryl, and all the best in future endeavours!
Martin is a volunteer with the Orangedale Railway Museum and has been an integral part of the organization since its inception. He continues to give tours and assist with every aspect of the museum’s operation. Congratulations on reaching the 20 year mark Martin, and may you enjoy 20 more!

Made in Nova Scotia – Phase III
November saw the completion of Jen & Peter’s Young Canada Works contracts. While we were sad to see them go, they were able to enrich 500 artifact records during their 4 months with the Passage team. Lynn continues to facilitate this project and will be around until February to work on it. If anyone hasn’t sent us records yet and still wants to participate, please contact Lynn at

Artefacts Canada Tally
While the standings for this month haven’t changed, another 6,082 records were added to Artefacts Canada. This means that Passage sites now have 43,707 records online!
Here are the current regional standings:
Southwest: 21,283
Northeast: 15,702
Central: 3,415
Cape Breton: 3,307

We’d like to issue a special challenge to the Central & Cape Breton regions to catch up to the Northeast & Southwest. If you need help uploading, please contact Lynn or myself and we’ll walk you through the process.

Data Cleaning
Over 8,000 records were cleaned this month from three sites, bringing our new grand total of cleaned records to 115,023.
Since we are entering a new year of SDI funding, Karin will be moving on to other tasks and Lynn will be handling data cleaning along with her enrichment work.

Friday, October 31, 2008

October 2008 Update

Happy Halloween!!

Steering Committee
The Steering Committee met on October 24th for its quarterly meeting. We welcomed two new members to the group; Gail McGee & Jim McLean. Gail is with the Fultz House Museum in Lower Sackville and replaces Central representative Robin Cushnie who is moving back to Ontario. Since Robin was also the committee’s secretary, Gail has agreed to take on this extra task as well. Jim McLean is with the Gut of Canso Museum & Archives in Port Hastings, and is our new Cape Breton representative. He comes to the group with a background in databases and technical experience, and we are all very excited at the insight and expertise that he has to offer.

We would like to say a special goodbye to Betty Ann Aaboe-Milligan who has stepped down as Chair of the committee. She has been on the committee since the very beginning of Passage, and while she will still be around to offer corporate history and her own expertise, she has decided to take a break from the more formal role that she has held. Thank you Betty Ann for all of your hard work; it is very much appreciated by the rest of the Steering Committee as well as the rest of the Passage partners.

Derek Watts, of the Wolfville Historical Society - Randall House, is the new Chair of the Committee. Thank you to Derek for taking on this role at such a crucial time.

Made in Nova Scotia – Phase III
The enrichment team has been working very hard and continues to research records sent in by member sites. Not including the thousands of photographs that they took while visiting museums around the province, they have enriched 440 artifacts from 25 sites. While CHIN has given us a February 1st deadline, we are already very close to completing our project deliverables. Given our track record of delivering more than we promise, our personal goal is to upload over 500 artifacts by the end of the project.

The Research Assistants (Peter & Jen) finish their contracts on November 14th, so for anyone who thought there was still lots of time to send in records…time is running out. If you want them to do some work for you, we will need to have those records right away, otherwise you will miss out on this free assistance.

Artefacts Canada Tally
This month has been very active in terms of uploading. September’s overall count stood at 20,809 records online, and this month we’ve added another 16,816 records! That means that our grand total now sits at 37,625 records online.
Here are the current regional standings:
Southwest: 17,766
Northeast: 15,697
Central: 3,415
Cape Breton: 747

Congratulations to the Southwest region for taking over the #1 spot!!

If anyone needs help with the uploading process please call the office and ask for Lynn, Jen, Peter or Karin. We’d be happy to help you boost your region’s standing.

Data Cleaning
6,103 records were cleaned this month from two sites, bringing our new grand total of cleaned records to 106,415.
Due to the quick pace of this work, if we contact a site that is not ready to hand over their database for the required time, we will move on to the next site in the list. We cannot afford to wait for a few days or a week to hear back from someone.

Vista Problems
We have all heard (or experienced) of the problems associated with Windows Vista. If you are now using Vista, you should be backing up your Microsoft Access files (ie the databases) on cd after each use. There have been instances of Vista deleting database files for no apparent reason, and leaving no trace of them on the computer. We don’t want to hear about any of the members experiencing this, so please back up your databases on another computer, hard drive, or cd!

Free Stuff
We have the following resource items to give away on a first come, first serve basis. Send me an email if you would like anything.

1. Preservation Management for Seasonal Museums by Deborah Stewart. (Manual developed by the Canadian Conservation Institute for workshops)
2. Chenhall’s The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloguing*
3. Provincial Heritage Strategy

*Note – this item will only be given out to a member museum that does not have a copy of their own.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 2008 Update

Site Visits
The busy pace of site visits slowed this month, but I still got out to 8 museums. It has been very encouraging to see all of the work that people have accomplished over the summer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting and hanging out with everyone. It will take some getting used to being back in the office.

Made in Nova Scotia – Phase III
The Made in NS enrichment team has finished conducting site visits and are now working on researching your selected artifacts. To date, they’ve finished researching 157 records, and have captured thousands of digital images. In order to complete our CHIN deliverables, we must have 450 records enriched (researched & photographed).
As you know, each site was asked to pick out 20 records for enriching, and to date, only 7 sites have come up with 20. While we have until January to have these online, our research assistants will only be on staff until mid-November. They are also currently running out of records, so if you haven’t sent in any records yet, please do so by Monday, October 6th.
Given the investment that CHIN has made in funding this project, it is extremely important that each member site help us to complete our deliverables. We don’t want to risk future partnerships &/or funding opportunities with CHIN. We also need these records online for the upcoming Made in NS Marketing Campaign, and wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on that exciting endeavour.

Artefacts Canada Tally
As I mentioned in the last email that I sent out, I’m keeping track of the number of records online by region. So let’s have a little friendly competition to see which region can have the biggest online profile. Here are the current standings:
Northeast: 11,246
Southwest: 8,501
Cape Breton: 747
Central: 315

If anyone needs help with the uploading process please call the office and ask for Lynn, Jen, Peter or Karin. We’d be happy to help you boost your region’s standing.

Data Cleaning
Lynn has just started to work on data cleaning, which means that we will be increasing the rate of this work. We've now cleaned over 99,500 records from member sites. As a reminder, we are uploading cleaned databases when we are finished with them, so if you need to talk with your board about this, now is the time to do it.

The Importance of Back-ups
I want to remind everyone about the importance of backing up your databases, images, and other important files. Recently, one of our members lost not only their database, but also several years’ worth of important files. This is obviously a huge blow to the museum, both in terms of practicality and morale. While I do take a backup copy of your collections database when I visit, it is your responsibility to back up your system. We obviously don’t want to hear about any other sites having such a terrible thing happen. Therefore, here are a few simply steps to follow to make sure your information stays safe:
Once a week, burn onto cd the Collections, Cemetery, and Volunteer Tracking folder from the C drive. Also include any pertinent documents or other files that are important to the museum or society. This cd should not be left at the museum, but should be taken home with the curator (or equivalent), or kept at some other location away from the museum. If you use a re-writeable cd, it can be used each week and the old backup files simply replaced.
If anyone wants help with this, or has questions about what they should be backing up, feel free to call us at the office.

CCI Workshop Summary
Deborah Stewart and Julie Stevenson of the Canadian Conservation Institute were in Truro on Friday at the Colchester Historical Museum to deliver a workshop on Preservation Management for Seasonal Museums. While there were a number of Passage sites in attendance, Jen has written up the following summary for those couldn’t make it.

Recognize and minimize the agents of deterioration:
1. Light
2. Water
3. Incorrect/fluctuating temperature
4. Use the off season to inspect your buildings and collections; set aside staff time and budget for repairs annually. With buildings, look for structural problems in walls, roofs, and foundations as well as potential entry points for rodents and insects. Indoors, look for signs of pests and mould and ensure the building systems (e.g. security, fire, plumbing, electricity) are operating properly.

Minimize the agents of deterioration over the winter.
1. Remove sensitive artefacts from light and cover or board up windows.
2. Watch for moisture – relocate items that are sensitive to changes in humidity.
3. Consider dehumidifiers or humidistatically controlled heating.
4. Rodents are more problematic in the winter – remove attractants (like food) and store items in pest proof containers.
5. Store objects off the ground, away from exterior walls, and off of top shelves/ cabinets to prevent condensation and water damage.
6. Support objects in storage to reduce strain.
7. Provide contact information for the RCMP/ police/ fire department and let them know that the site is closed.

Create policies, practices, and procedures to establish what tasks need to be done when and by whom.
Contact CCI Client Services at 1-886-998-3721 (toll free)

I have two spare copies of a guidebook that accompanied this workshop if anyone would like one.

CCI Artifact Treatments
CCI is now accepting applications for treatment of artifacts for the April 2009 – March 2010 fiscal year. Canadian museum clients are invited to apply for conservation treatment services for furniture, objects (including industrial, ethnographic, and historical objects), photographic materials, and works of art on paper or paper-based archival documents. Treatment requests must be received before October 15, 2008, using the Conservation and Restoration Treatments Request Form available in the e-Services section of their Web site.
All you have to do is pay for shipping; the treatment is free.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 2008 Update

Site Visits
August was a month full of driving and visiting partner sites. I visited 29 sites in total, updating their databases, showing them what had changed, and chatting about how the season has been going.
Paul Collins (CMAP manager) and I shared a rental car and visited our members along the Cabot Trail, as well as a few who are off the beaten track. Although it was a very busy trip, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and managed to pose for a few pictures along the way. As you can see, one of our stops was at the Inverness Miner's Museum, where curator Ned Macdonald took on the extra role of photographer.
For those interested in visitor trends, it seems that things have picked up almost across the board in August, but were very quiet earlier in the summer. For those interested in weather trends, last summer I had about 2 days of rain while on the road, and this summer I’ve had about 2 days of sun.

Made in Nova Scotia – Phase III
The Made in NS enrichment team has been traveling the countryside, visiting many museums and helping them capture digital images of their collection and training them on the enrichment process. Lynn, Jen, and Peter have helped members take thousands of photos and upload them to members’ accounts on CHIN’s server. Now all that we have to do is update & upload the textual information, and our CHIN deliverables will be complete.
As a reminder, CHIN has asked that each participating site submit 20 enriched records.
If you are still struggling with what to select, try the following:
1st choice – Furnishings that were made in Nova Scotia
2nd choice – other objects that were made in Nova Scotia
3rd choice – objects that tell a great story about life in Nova Scotia

Data Cleaning
Given the fact that I was on the road almost every day this month, I have not completed any more databases. I hope to be back at this before the end of September, and as I mentioned last month, Lynn will be assisting with this work as well.

SDI Funding
Given the frenzy of emails and activity over the past few days about the 2009 SDI funding application, I do not think that it is necessary to dwell on that in my monthly report to you, the members. From Wednesday night, phone calls and emails abounded following the ANSM board decision. On Friday morning, I was informed that the Wolfville Historical Society was willing to host the SDI application on behalf of the group, and that support of this decision would be sought from the rest of the partners. Given the rapid influx of supportive emails affirming this decision, the SDI application was submitted before the 4pm deadline. The Steering Committee felt that this was an appropriate decision. If this is not what the majority of the membership wants, the application can be pulled before the adjudication process begins.
As I mentioned in the email notifying you of the blog update, the Steering Committee has asked that each member respond to this decision. If you have not already, please email me whether or not you support these actions so that I can pass this information along to the Committee. For those in favour, please send the following statement to, and CC Paul Collins at
“[Your organization] supports the Wolfville Historical Society as the lead applicant on the joint application to the Strategic Development Initiative in order to continue the work of the Passage Project in 2009”.
The Steering Committee wants to stress that this is not seen as a permanent move, nor is it meant to threaten the ANSM in any way. We are simply trying to ensure that Passage services will not be compromised.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2009 SDI Application




The Passage Project seeks funding to increase the recognition of the value of the community museum heritage resource through the development of a province-wide exhibition program and marketing campaign.

We are requesting salary support from the Strategic Development Initiative Fund for 1.2 staff to sustain the initiative. This will support one full-time staff worker as well as an on-call technical expert who has worked with the project since its inception.

Passage will work with the Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage to develop the marketing program to promote the exhibits of Made in NS collections. The exhibit program will be available to all museums across the province in order to facilitate an awareness of “social, economic, health, recreational, and environmental roles and benefits of heritage”. Passage members and other community members will be encouraged to enhance the quality of information about “Made in Nova Scotia” artefacts in their collections via the addition of digitized images and textual information. Passage members will support other community members with the enrichment process until they are comfortable with it.

Continuing partnerships with the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) will allow us to increase the number of enriched Made in NS records on Artefacts Canada, providing members with a wide variety of artifacts to choose from for the exhibition program. We will also be working to facilitate the incorporation of the new Nova Scotia Manufacturer’s Database into the revised CHIN website. This database provides a significant amount of accurate and detailed information about Nova Scotian companies operating in the province since the 1780s. This is an important tool in the improvement of creating information related to Passage member collections. As well, it will now be available to scholars and other people around the world who want to learn more about Nova Scotia’s heritage.

Concurrently, the outreach component of Passage will develop a maintenance plan for its members to prolong the life of their equipment. The outreach will encompass the use of Skype (a free online telephone system) for a broad range of training and technical support. Instead of requiring site visits to solve problems, the staff worker will be able to walk museum staff through the solution. Museums will also be able to freely communicate with eachother when they encounter issues. Both of these scenarios will broaden the capacity of the community through information sharing. As well, outreach will continue to encourage and assist in the preparation of enriched records while developing skills in the community.

As recognized in the provincial heritage strategy, this initiative will be supportive of the provincial government’s goal to identify significant heritage resources. It will also improve the sustainability of the province’s museums.



The Passage Project was initiated by 18 year round museums joining forces to submit an SDI proposal that resulted in the development of a common information management tool plus provided computer training and IT support. The project has steadily grown as more museums have realized the benefits and economy of co-operative work.

Passage has worked with Valerie Lenethen, Collection Management Consultant for the Heritage Division who has delivered training in collection management. The collection management database has been upgraded to include a data dictionary developed by Valerie and now has the ability to include digital images of collection records. The Council of Nova Scotia Archives (CNSA) became involved in the project’s development when partner museums asked that Passage provide a means to include their archival holdings.

A steering committee for the Passage Project was established in the Summer of 2004 which consists of representatives from each of the heritage regions as well as representatives of provincial organizations. The committee meets on a quarterly basis and its main focus for the first year was to develop policies and procedures to guide the project. It has also overseen the transfer of management from the Dartmouth Heritage Museum to the Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage, that hosts the project, in April of 2005. This transfer strengthens the project’s role within the community of museums in Nova Scotia as well as supporting FNSH key goals and priorities.

Currently, Passage includes 55 museums that collectively have 200,000+ records. As a part of last year’s activities, 700 records pertaining to Made in NS artifacts were enriched and uploaded to Artefacts Canada. Additionally, two data entry clerks were hired to work on the Manufacturer’s Database, which now holds approximately 6500 entries. They completed the addition of paper records to the database, and performed supplementary research to increase consistency in the level of information. Upgrades have been made to the Collections and Cemetery databases, and training has been given on the new condition report & loan features. Data cleansing has also continued, with another 29,000 records being cleaned from 13 sites. Over 12,000 of these records have been uploaded to Artefacts Canada, increasing the museums’ public profile and accessibility to their collections.


This year’s project will focus on the development of a provincial exhibition & marketing program in cooperation with the relevant provincial agencies. Passage members and community museums will be encouraged to look at their collections and identify items that have been uploaded to Artefacts Canada, and that they could develop an exhibition theme around. Training will be offered in exhibit development, ie themes, label writing, presentation etc. In addition to the province’s marketing, we will create a marketing strategy and encourage participating museums to focus their own marketing on their Made in NS items.

In support of this project, Passage has just begun Phase III of the Made in NS Collections Enrichment Project. The continuation of this initiative is aimed at further enabling community museums to effectively manage their collections by improving the quality and depth of information available particularly in relation to their relevance to Nova Scotia. To this end, the project will target partner sites lacking an online presence, particularly on Artefacts Canada. The Collections Enrichment team will be conducting site visits where they will work at these museums for one day capturing digital images of items to showcase on Artefacts Canada. This will ensure that the enriched records are suitable for uploading to Artefacts Canada.

Again, items will again be chosen that were hand-made or manufactured in the province. However there will be a secondary focus on the Furnishings category as per the Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloguing manual. It is anticipated that another 450 records will be photographed and enriched during this year’s project.

New partner museums will be supported by the project in the next stage with new standard equipment, plus database software, training and IT support. A number of heritage organizations in the province continue to contact the project for inclusion. The project, supported by 1.2 contract workers, can only effectively manage a maximum of 60 partner organizations. It is critical to the quality of the IT product that outreach services are provided to all of the Passage Project partners so that the quality of the work is not jeopardized. To develop the capacity of the partners (improve their collections management practices) technical advice on data entry, software and hardware management must be readily available through the outreach worker.

This project ensures that the general public will have access to information about Nova Scotia’s past through the Artefacts Canada web-site. The data cleaning aspect continues to work towards a consistent and standard body of information from across the province.

It is our hope that this information, written and visual, could become an inspiration for crafts people to create new works based on artifacts in collections around the province. Our exhibit & marketing campaign will provide the opportunity for craftspeople to become acquainted with a variety of objects that could inspire them to either re-create or incorporate heritage crafts into their work.


This proposal will contribute to the development of community museums in Nova Scotia by:

developing a provincial exhibition & marketing program in cooperation with the relevant provincial agencies

- helping to increase the number of visitors to museums across the province

- providing museums with a free method of communicating with other partner sites & staff support

­ continuing to foster stronger ties between museums while increasing their understanding of the strength and economy of joint projects.

training personnel and providing standardized equipment with information support systems leading to better management of heritage information assets

supporting key functions of museum operation by improving collection management practices and the collection, preservation, research and interpretation of heritage material

- ensuring that training is available to continuing partners so that they (old and new personnel) have the skills to effectively operate the equipment and enter/manage/retrieve data

- improving their ability to provide better public access to information about collections (especially Made In Nova Scotia) and other information resources more easily and efficiently

- improving accountability to public enquiries relating to donations

- improved management/support of volunteer resources by recording and tracking activities and contributions.

- positioning partners to access other grant opportunities (particularly Federal) as a result of improved standards and accountability

- providing grassroots support on a fundamental level by continuing to add partners

- providing on-site assistance with digitization & uploading of records to Artefacts Canada

- attending regional meetings and keeping members up to date and pro-active

- continued partnerships with NS Heritage Division, CNSA, and CHIN (provincial and national)

- a minimum of 450 records will be enriching and uploading a minimum of 450 artifacts to Artefacts Canada

Friday, August 22, 2008

CCI Workshop - September 26th

The Canadian Conservation Institute is coming to Truro to deliver a great workshop on dealing with seasonal preservation issues. While it will be especially geared towards seasonal museums, everyone can learn something from this great workshop. If you have any questions about the workshop feel free to contact Ian Mullan, the ANSM's new administrative assistant. He can be reached at 423-4677.

Preservation Management for Seasonal Museums

Colchester Historical Society Museum, Truro NS

September 26, 2008


MORNING: (9:00-12:00)


Seasonal Museums

- What they are

- Advantages and disadvantages

The Nature of Museum Objects: Materials and Construction

The Agents of Deterioration

- What they are

- How to recognize them

- Ways to reduce them

Building Inspections and Maintenance

- What to look for

- Building walk-around exercise (optional)


AFTERNOON: (1:00-4:30)

Maintaining Collections

- Looking at objects (condition report exercise)

- Preserving collections in storage

- Handling; Cleaning; Treatment

Seasonal Procedures for Buildings and Collections

- Fall closing

- Spring opening

- During the winter


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 2008 Update

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee held its quarterly meeting on Thursday, July 24th. Peyton Chisholm gave us an update on the Federation’s renewal process and was pleased to announce that the name change has finally passed. This means that Passage is now part of the Association of Nova Scotia Museums!
In business related news, our finances are in good shape, old projects are squared up and contracts have been received for the new Made in NS work.

Made in Nova Scotia – Phase III

As you have all seen in the earlier email (and the blog staff photo) about the Made in NS project, we have a few new staff around to help with this year’s Made in NS initiative. Lynn MacEachern comes to us from Glace Bay as project coordinator, and has a background in teaching, museum studies, and history/political science. Our new research assistants are Jennifer Bawden & Peter Dubee. Jen comes from a science & museum studies background, and Peter is a photographer. Given their range of interests and experiences, we are confident that we have a very strong team to help with the enrichment process this year. In order to secure the funding, we promised to conduct site visits to museums who have yet to upload information to Artefacts Canada, providing on-site assistance with the process.

For those who have uploaded in the past, we ask that you follow the standard procedure of printing the record and faxing or mailing them to the office. We are trying to stretch the travel budget so that the team can spend a day with as many sites as possible, but we can’t yet say how many museums will get this extra assistance.

Not sure what to pick for this year’s showcase? I suggest taking a tiered approach in your selection process.
1st choice – Furnishings that were made in Nova Scotia
2nd choice – other objects that were made in Nova Scotia
3rd choice – objects that tell a great story about life in Nova Scotia

Due to our past success with this work, CHIN has upped the ante and asked that each participating site submit 20 records instead of the usual 10. This may seem like a lot, but with summer staff still around, it shouldn’t be too hard to find 20 items to upload.

Data Cleaning

While the site visits have slowed down the data cleaning, I am still making my way through it. This month I cleaned 5324 records from the Cape Sable Historical Society and Queens County Museum. We’ve now cleaned over 99,000 records from 31 sites. CHIN was warned in February that we would be sending up thousands of records at once, which they got very excited about. This does mean that their processing period takes a bit longer, but things still seem to get sorted out within a matter of days.

Part of Lynn’s job after she finishes the site visits will be to do data cleaning, and so the data cleaning process will be moving along much faster by the fall. And hopefully we will have a lot of pictures to go with the text once her Made in NS site visits are completed.

Remember that the province is expecting everything to be online by November, so as we clean, we are uploading entire databases. If you need to clear this with your board, now is the time to do it. It is much faster for us to upload everything behind the scenes than for you to go through and check each record.

Summer Staff Challenge

As I’ve mentioned in the past, a summer staff challenge has been issued this year as a little healthy competition. Details can be found at the bottom of the blog page. The deadline for submitting entries in the challenge will be August 31st.

Monday, June 30, 2008

June 2008 Update

Blog Feedback

Here's what people are saying so far about the blog:

"What a great idea, the Passage blog! I've got it bookmarked!"

"I really like the blog!"

A couple people have asked me why their museum isn't listed in the list of members. This is likely because when I searched for your website, one did not appear, or was only an entry on a heritage list. If your name does not appear (or the website is incorrect) please send me the information and I'll add you right away.

Steering Committee

More changes have taken place within the Steering Committee. As you heard last month, Virginia MacIsaac had to step down as the Cape Breton representative. That position has been filled by Peyton Chisholm of the Old Sydney Society. Peyton is also the vice-president of the Association of Nova Scotia Museums, and so we look forward to his input and participation on the committee. His involvement comes at a very opportune time, as Barb Thompson has had to step down as the ANSM board representative and Southwest representative. Linda Rafuse of the Queens County Museum will be taking on the role of Southwest representative.

Thank you to Barb for all of your hard work, and welcome to the group Linda & Peyton.

Data Cleaning

Even though site visits have started up, I managed to clean 5,656 records from three museums, bringing our new grand total to 94,387 clean records. In keeping delivery fair between the regions, the next few databases to be cleaned will be from the southwest area.

Made in NS – Phase III

This year’s enrichment project is set to start on July 14th. We are now in the interview process for a project coordinator, and are confident that we will have a very strong team to assist the members’ with collections work over the coming months. As I mentioned last month, we have decided to focus on the Chenhall category of furnishings for this year’s work. Here are a few examples of items that fall under the Furnishings category: quilts, hooked rugs, furniture, quillwork boxes, lamps, and stoves. While you are not limited to these, we ask that you start with this category before branching out to others.

Also, remember that CHIN has asked everyone to submit 20 items instead of the usual 10. Now is the time to start thinking about those “made in Nova Scotia” furnishings that are in your collection. What do you want to showcase?

Database Upgrades & Site Visits

Site visits are now in full swing, which means I am out of the office on average two days a week. Summer staff have been sitting in on the training sessions and without exception have been eager to learn more about museum work.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 2008 Update

Another whirlwind month, hard to believe it's over. As you've already seen, I spent a few days in Ontario for a great conference, but the rest of the time I've either been in the office or doing site visits.

Steering Committee
Since Virginia MacIsaac had to step down from the committee we have been without a Cape Breton representative. After consulting with some of the members and committee, I am working on finding a replacement. Several people came highly recommended, and hopefully one of them will be able to fill the position.
The group meets quarterly to ensure that Passage is on the right track and meeting the members’ needs. If you would like to learn more about the committee’s role or are interested in taking part, please contact Karin.

Data Cleaning & Uploading
Although it was once again a very busy month I managed to clean 5635 records from two sites, bringing the grand total of cleaned records to 88,731. This is a slow process so please bear with me as I work my way through the sites. Remember that the province is expecting us to have approximately 200,000 records online by November, so if you had your database cleaned by Chara or Erin last year, please upload them as soon as possible. If you need help with the process or want your summer staff to work on this, just drop me a line and I can walk you/them through the process.

Site Visits
On the road again, Just can't wait to get on the road again...
With the database upgrades completed and museums opening for the season, that means that I get to start making road trips. My goal is to visit two sites a week, so please let me know when you want your visit.
What takes place during a visit? First and foremost I will be installing and reviewing the database upgrades. Once this is completed, we can move on to the data cleaning & uploading process. We can talk about any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have, and I will make sure that these are brought to the Steering Committee's attention if need be. This is a great time for your summer students to get a crash course in museum work, but remember that there has to be permanent staff member or volunteer there to receive the training.

Made in NS – Phase III
The CHIN application was submitted on May 15th for another round of enrichment work. This time we are going to focus on the Chenhall category of Furnishings, which includes Bedding, Furniture, Household Accessories, etc. This was chosen because there is a wealth of information available on NS furniture and manufacturers (partially through the new Manufacturer’s database), and it is a category of great interest to the general public.

I have been working with CHIN on the details of our contract, and we are planning on a start date of July 11th. Because of the success of the past two years' enrichment projects, CHIN has asked that each participating site contribute a minimum of 20 records instead of the usual 10. In order to receive funding we also promised to focus our attentions on those sites who have not been able to participate in years past. The coordinator and/or Young Canada Works interns will be doing site visits and day-long sessions with these museums in order to assist them with the work. By doing this over the summer we will also be able to take advantage of the summer staff, and hopefully encourage & interest them enough to continue with the work on their own. Other Passage sites are of course encouraged to participate again.

Technology in the Arts Conference, Waterloo ON

I spent May 8-10 in the city of Waterloo, Ontario. This conference was very different from the two in April in that it wasn't just for museum people. There were attendees from all aspects of the Arts field, from the film industry to visual arts. Having the opportunity to hear about other groups' projects and how they use technology in their work had everyone frantically taking notes and exchanging business cards.

During Ken Coates’ (Dean of Arts) opening address and welcome to the University of Waterloo, he reminded the group that “what you do, that no technology can offer, is life”. While it can and should be used to enhance our activities, there will always be a desire to experience things firsthand and in living colour.

I attended a session on podcasting, as this is something that PEI has done with their community museums and CHIN is eager to fund more projects like it. We got to play around with recording & editing sound clips, and while this may sound complicated or intimidating, it was surprisingly easy to do.

Embarking on this kind of a project obviously means that you need to buy a microphone. While some people would suggest that you buy the most expensive and high-quality microphone you can afford, the session instructors took a different approach. If it sounds good when you play the clip back, it works fine. That said, Belkin and Samson are two brands that come highly recommended.

If conducting interviews it is a good idea to buy two microphones, one for the interviewer and one for the interviewee. By using Skype you can conduct interviews online and use the plug-in called “Pamela” to record the call. While this may slightly diminish the quality, it is a great way to access experts and other long-distance people for free.

If you have the time and resources, you can release regular podcasts and have them show up in the ITunes store by submitting the url feed. This can help to build a subscriber base to your organization, and therefore more interest, but only if you can generate more podcasts on a regular basis.

Social Networking
Facebook, MySpace…what is it with the obsession over social networking sites? As I mentioned in the CMA update, museums are starting to get on the bandwagon and use these extremely popular sites to their advantage. The fact is that Canadians spend more time online than any other population. Statistics also show that people tend to visit between 7-10 websites each day, which means that building a big site for yourself won’t grab your audience as much as embedding yourself on a major utility site. Not to mention the fact that every time a site links to your main website, it makes you site look more important to search engines.

Social networking should never replace your own website, but it can definitely help to augment your online presence. As Michele Perras stated, “Media are not extensions of ourselves but interfaces with experiences”. These sites can provide you with the opportunity to engage your audience and find out what they want to see in museums in new and exciting ways. Instead of using visitor surveys, you can facilitate discussions online. Your community and audience will then feel more connected and involved, increasingly the likelihood of real visits to the museum.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 2008 Update

Data Cleaning & Uploading
With two conferences and an audit it was a slow month for data cleaning. That said, I managed to get another 1100 records cleaned from two sites. The amount of time that it takes to clean a database is contingent on a few things, including the number of records, amount of information in each entry, and formating of the entries.
CHIN is very pleased with the continuous influx of records to Artefacts Canada, even though it means we're making a lot of work for them. So let's keep the records flowing, and upload everything as soon as possible.

Database Upgrades
Richard has finally completed the upgrades to the Collections Database and we are both double-checking to make sure that there aren't any hiccups in the program. You will now be able to work in either an archival or collections view, and each contain more fields & options to make the database work better for you. One of the changes that people have been asking for is the addition of multiple image fields. The new version will be able to hold four images of the artifact, all of which will show on the Images page as thumbnails. So feel free to take a front and back view, or get a close-up of some detailing or maker's marks.

Manufacturer’s Database

As CHIN revamps its server and website, they are working on incorporating the Manufacturer’s database into the new system. This means that we could see the database online by October. While the current online content obviously receives priority during this process, the Manager of Content & Capacity Building is optimistic that the database will be online by the end of this year.
Thank you to everyone who lent us binders and sent information about the manufacturers and artisans from their area. We are very excited to be the first province to create a database of this kind.

FNSH Conference, Shelburne NS

Second conference of the month, and thankfully no jet lag to deal with for this one. Shelburne made a beautiful backdrop for the annual Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage conference, especially with the theme of "Heritage Tourism".
Congrats to the organizing committee (which included Passage folks Brenda Maxwell, Gloria Beuree, and Finn Bower) on a job well done! This was the first year that the host museum & community was asked to organize the event, and they did a wonderful job. It will be a tough act to follow.

As was discussed at the CMA conference, tourism is changing, and the department of Tourism presented its three-fold plan to deal with this fact. They will be focusing on gateway markets, core experiences, and a courtship strategy. In creating this new strategy, they view Nova Scotia as having four key brand attributes, namely:
1. old world charm
2. new world pulse
shaped by the sea
4. spirit of our people

Tourists are looking for benefits; for delight, captivation, and fulfillment; and it is up to institutions to deliver these benefits. The NS Tourism Partnership Council recognizes that this cannot be done without funding, and informed us of several different grants and funding opportunities available to cultural organizations. Among the topics that they would consider for funding were planning, design, and interpretation. More information can be access on their website.

CMA Conference, Victoria BC

Every year the Steering Committee puts some money into the budget for professional development, specifically through attending at least one conference. On April 7th I flew all the way to Victoria, BC for the Canadian Museum Association annual conference. The ensuing week was filled with informative sessions, networking opportunities with other museums and provincial associations, and a very fun study tour up Vancouver Island.

Following is a mini-review of the conference; information that I hope you will find interesting and helpful in your work. Information from some sessions has been combined for efficiency’s sake.

Keynote Address
The keynote was delivered by Dr. John Falk, co-author of Thriving in the Knowledge Age: New Business Models for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions. He discussed the evolution of museum operations, beginning with the older "Industrial Age model", during which they existed to serve the masses in a "one size fits all" methodology with the focus being on the product rather than the customer. Information was delivered and success was measured by the number of visitors per season or year.

Dr. Falk then discussed the different kinds of people who visit museums, and what they expect from the experience. These can be very easily broken down into a few categories each.

What sells is not products but experiences. The public is seeking a personalized and knowledgeable learning experience of high quality.

  1. A true experience. With so many options available, especially to tourists, consumers are looking to satisfy and adapt things to their lifestyles and needs.
  2. Personalization. Goods now need to be customized to the needs and desires of the individual.
  3. Free-Choice Learning. Information, goods, and services that the public view as having the greatest value are those that support learning, especially free-choice learning.
  4. Expectations of Quality. Visitors expect the museum or organization to demonstrate that they are accomplishing their mission in fiscally, ethically, and socially responsible ways.

In terms of the different kinds of people who visit museums, instead of simply looking at demographics, Falk proposed that visitors seek to have identity-related needs met. These can be broken down into five groups.

  1. Explorers – motivated by personal curiousity.
  2. Facilitators – motivated by other people, ie. showing out-of-town friends/family the local attractions.
  3. Experience Seekers – motivated by a desire to see and experience a place
  4. Professional or Hobbyist – motivated by specific knowledge-related goals, ie. genealogy buffs
  5. Spiritual Pilgrims – motivated by a contemplative or restorative experience, ie. sitting and reflecting while looking at art works

The conclusions reached during the research phase of Dr. Falk and Ms. Sheppard’s work show that the public views museums as good places to satisfy a handful of specific leisure-related and identity-related needs. It also shows that when these needs are met visitors will return time and again either to relive or add to their initial experience. By meeting the needs of the individual, it will be much easier to customize marketing to attract niche groups, and to enhance communication with the general public.

Technology Trends in Museums
I attended several sessions on technological trends in museum work, which consisted of case studies and a review of emergent technology. Here’s what people are up to, and looking forward to:

  1. Scanners & Scanning. Over the past several years the optical recognition function on scanners has greatly improved, and museums/archives are taking advantage of this. This function allows documents to be turned into searchable pdf files, which can be viewed either online or in-house, minimizing the need to handle the item itself.
  2. Geotagging Objects. Geocaching and geotagging continues to grow in popularity, and motivates a niche market of tourists. Using Google maps and other open-source software, some museums have begun to map out their artifacts. This shows the history of the artifact by geographical area, tracking its travels from manufacture to its current home at the museum.
  3. RFID Chip. Using a wand, card, or ring, audio information is recorded that can then be activated using the RFID chip. Visitors can now personalize their visits by choosing their own audio guide from a variety of themes, and then scanning selected artifacts or exhibits that they want to hear more about. The information is available for download for a specific amount of time after their visit, allowing them to relive the experience and review information.
  4. Facebook. While this site is still viewed skeptically by many in the heritage field, it has over 80 million active users and is the 6th most visited website in the entire world. The Brooklyn Museum has created an application called ArtShare that allows cultural organizations and artists to share their collections with the public. Other museums are creating Facebook pages for their organizations as a free way to get their name out there and obtain feedback from visitors.
  5. Similarly, some museums have started to create a virtual presence for themselves on virtual community sites such as Second Life. While this began as an effort to enhance the institution’s public profile, it has evolved so that organizations are now adding games and applications, making it more interactive and inviting.

Engaging Youth
One of the topics on almost everyone’s lips at the conference was the problem of getting young people interested in museums. We are now living in an online and global community, which has resulted in many children losing their sense of space or geographic belonging. How can your museum fill this gap, provide a sense of belonging, and be an anchor in your community?

While there are many ways to encourage youth participation, here are some approaches that have worked for other museums.

  1. Involve them in your work, asking them to tell their stories. This means presenting contemporary information along with historical.
  2. Have a youth art showcase as a regular feature, and be willing to listen to and encourage them no matter how bizarre ideas may sound.
  3. Organize a youth focus group or forum. Engage them in the community and its history and they will want to share stories and information with the rest of the world. If you choose this approach, don’t limit yourself to dealing with the “good” kids. Not only will this skew your results, but it can also alienate other youth.
  4. Work with the local high school to create PDA presentations that can be used for museum and/or walking tours, or create plays about events in the community’s history.

Monday, April 21, 2008

March 2008 Update

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee now has two new members. Welcome to Robin Cushnie & Dayle Crouse. Robin is the curator and acting director of the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm, and is replacing Terry Eyland as HRM representative. Dayle Crouse is the new director of the Hector Exhibit Centre & McCulloch House Museum in Pictou, and is replacing Darrell Burke. We wish all the best to Terry & Darrell in their new jobs and adventures, and sincerely thank them for their dedication to Passage.

Membership Renewal

For those sites who have yet to pay their $250 renewal fee, this is a friendly reminder that payments are now due. We also need signed contracts, so if you haven’t sent that either, please do so. If you have not sent in your contract or renewal cheque, please send me an email if you plan on continuing with the project. We have a waiting list of sites who would like to join Passage, and so without this confirmation you run the risk of losing your spot.

Data Cleaning

Over the past month, another 3000 have been cleaned, bringing our new total to 83,096!

We have promised the province that we will upload collections information from each Passage member to Artefacts Canada. To facilitate this, the final step to the cleaning process has been to upload any and all records (provided they are not on loan) to Artefacts Canada for the site, increasing their public profile and fulfilling their mandate of public accessibility. If you will need to clear this with your board, please start talking to them about this now so that I can upload the information for you during the cleaning process. For those sites that were cleaned last year by Chara or Erin, or anyone who is waiting for approval to upload from their board, this would be a great task to have your summer students complete. CHIN is really looking forward to this information coming online, as we are the first group to upload such a large quantity of records.

Some people have asked how I determine whose database gets cleaned when. In order to maintain fairness between the sites, a spreadsheet was created outlining Passage delivery over the past couple years, and the order of cleaning is decided through a two-step process. The first factor taken into consideration is the geographic region, ensuring that no more attention is paid to one area than another. The second factor is the amount of support, equipment etc. that a site has recently received.

Made in NS – Phase II

March brought several changes to Passage, including the departure of Louanne Aspillaga, the Made in NS project coordinator. She thoroughly enjoyed her time in our fair province, and while she was happy to return home to her family in Ontario, said she would miss the people and beautiful landscape very much. As a thank-you gift we gave her a Sherman Hines photography book of NS that showed what each season is like in the province.

This year’s Made in NS project was a great success, so we would again like to say thank you and congratulations to everyone who participated. Louanne and her team enriched 700 records from 23 sites. Because of this success, CHIN is already talking about options for future partnerships with us. These will be discussed at the April 4th Steering Committee meeting, so stay tuned for details.

If your records are not yet appearing in the Made in NS virtual exhibit on Artefacts Canada, please send CHIN an email asking for your records to go live in Made in NS.

Manufacturer’s Database

Speaking of successful projects, the Manufacturer’s database project is also at an end. Jennifer, Melanie and Tara completed the data entry of over 7000 paper records from the NS Museum of Industry, the county binders and other additional information that was uncovered. They were also able to do some supplementary research to enhance some of the more skeletal records. In my final report to CHIN, I thanked them on behalf of Passage members for helping us move forward with this resource. They found some spare money for us to do the data entry work, and I felt it was important to acknowledge their assistance.

The draft design & plan for incorporating the database into CHIN’s website and connecting it with Artefacts Canada has been submitted, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be online within a year or two. Until then, if anyone would like to access this information they can send their requests to me, or stop by the office to browse through the database.

Database Upgrades

Richard is putting the finishing touches on the database upgrades, and I will soon begin this year’s site visits to deliver the upgrades and review the changes. Due to several conferences being held in April, the visits will likely start sometime in May. As I mentioned in last month’s update, I am very pleased with the changes and hope that everyone will find that the improvements meet their needs.

Chenhall books

We still have a couple copies left of the new edition of The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloguing, affectionately known as Chenhall. These books are used to provide consistency to your collection records in terms of object name, type, category & sub-category. There is a waiting list of sites who would like to upgrade their older version with the new one, but before these are given out, we want to make sure everyone has a copy. If you have not received a copy of Chenhall from Passage, please respond and let me know if you have one of these books, and if so, which edition it is. Here’s the key:

Red Book – 1st edition
Navy Blue Book – 2nd edition
Black Book – 3rd edition

Monday, April 14, 2008

February 2008 Update


To date, we have received renewal cheques and/or contracts from 39 sites. As mentioned in your renewal letter, payments can wait until the new fiscal year, but we would really like to get all the contracts in as soon as possible.

CHIN Meetings

I spent February 4-8 in Ottawa meeting with CHIN, CCI, and representatives of Provincial Museum Associations from around the country. This was a chance to compare notes, and give direct feedback to our funding partners and federal agencies on how they can serve us better. This was my first PMA meeting, and I cannot overemphasize the importance and value of the week. We received tips on how to be successful in funding applications, heard about their plans for the upcoming year(s), and had a chance to do some very valuable networking.

Data Cleaning

Last year Chara Kingston & Erin Doyle managed to clean 70,798 records from 18 partner sites. I am continuing this initiative and have completed another 10,053 records from four sites. This brings the grand total to 80,851! In order to help achieve our goal of making collections more accessible to the public, I am uploading the cleaned records to Artefacts Canada, provided the objects are owned by the museum. CHIN is very excited at the prospect of seeing over 200,000 records from Nova Scotia come online this year. I have heard from some sites about when the best time would be for me to undertake the cleaning of their database, but would love to hear from more of you so that we can keep this on schedule. This is also important because for the remainder of Louanne’s contract she will be assisting with this initiative, so we will be going through records at a faster pace.

Database Upgrades

Richard is currently working on upgrading the three databases to make them more user-friendly. The Cemetery Database upgrades have been completed and are being tested by Sheryl in Digby, and Nan in Truro to make sure there aren’t any bugs. The Volunteer/Membership Database has not really been upgraded, but a small problem has been fixed and should now work better for everyone.

The biggest changes are with the Collections Database. I have seen the preliminary changes and am very excited about them. You will be able to add several pictures of each artifact, and work in either an Artifact or Archival view. The page setup will be much the same, but there will be a couple additional pages for condition reporting and loans. We are not trying to give you more work by adding features, but to make the database cover more of your collection needs.

Made in NS – Phase II

The Made in NS collections enrichment project (phase II) is completed, and are working on uploading the promised 450 enriched records with images to CHIN. Louanne, Melanie, and Daniel have been working very hard on this over the past months, and have enriched over 680 records from 22 sites. A big thank you and congratulations goes out to everyone who participated. We are really excited about increasing your profile and sharing your collection with the rest of the world.

IMPORTANT UPLOADING CHANGE – With CHIN’s change in servers, the procedure for uploading images has changed. While the major change has been reflected in the uploading manual and emailed to sites, they have just informed me of one more minor change that will take effect this afternoon (March 6, 2008). When using WinSCP, you are required to enter a host name, which until now has been or The new host name will be an IP address, This information should be changed in your document entitled Creating Digitized Images and Uploading to Artefacts Canada. You do not have to re-upload anything that you have already contributed to Artefacts Canada.

The reason for the change is to increase security for contributing members. If you have any questions about this feel free to contact me.

Manufacturer’s Database

We are nearing the end of the manufacturer’s database project, and Jennifer, Melanie & Tara have added information from Cape Breton, Digby, Hants and Yarmouth counties, as well as some records from the NS Museum of Industry. We still have a binder from Dartmouth and more MOI records to add. We hope that by the end of March there will be over 8000 entries in this database from across the province. After meeting with CHIN, I am writing up a draft design & plan for integrating the database into their server and connecting it with Artefacts Canada. This will be included in the final report. They are very excited about the idea and hope it can be implemented within the next year or two.

CCI Workshop

We recently applied to CCI for a workshop. We just received word that they will be coming in September to deliver “Preservation Management for Seasonal Museums”. We need a host organization, preferably somewhere centralized as this will be the only workshop in the province. If anyone is interested in hosting (and also attending) please let me know so that I can confirm the location of the workshop with CCI. It will be held on September 26th, 2008.