Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 2010 Update

CNSA Workshop
view from the Alexander Graham
Bell Museum in Baddeck
This year I enrolled in the Council of Nova Scotia Archives’ Core Curriculum program.  This means that once I attend all six workshops and successfully complete the homework assignments, I’ll get a nice little certificate that says I know a bit about the archival world.  The first week of November had me traveling up to lovely Baddeck for the Introduction to Preservation workshop.  

Social Media Workshop
The social media strategic development workshop took place on November 16th at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  We had 10 participants from the Central and Southwest regions.  Reviews were good, and also gave us some great feedback on how to improve the workshop.  Due to the number of people wanting to attend, we have scheduled a second workshop for December 10th in Wolfville at Acadia University.  More information can be found on our website, or by calling the office.

ANSM Facebook Fan Page
In conjunction with the social media workshop, ANSM has officially joined the social media world on Facebook.  We view this as a professional development opportunity, as we can quickly share resources, links, success stories, event information...our imagination is really the limit here.  So if you’re on Facebook, we’d love to have your join our little group.  The more the merrier.

QR Code Project
QR Code travels
Alexandra and Josh have completed the official site visits, as well as the content for two museums.  This month they visited the Admiral Digby Museum, O’Dell House Museum, Shelburne County Museum, Citadel Hill Army Museum, Creamery Square Heritage Centre, Colchester Historical Museum, NS Sport Hall of Fame, NS Museum of Natural History and Memory Lane Heritage Village. They’re still spending a lot of their time on content development for the other participants, and Josh is working on the branding of each site’s print materials.  Since iPhones will geotag where you take your photos, we have a nice little map that shows where the team have been.

Database Renewal Project
The beta version of the new CollectiveAccess database system is now ready.  Our next step is to put in some test data and then bring in a few members of the Information Management & Access Committee to test it out.  This work will be completed before the holiday break, which means that we’ll begin the migration process in January.  While I know everyone is anxious to get the new system, we’ll be taking our time to make sure that everything goes smoothly. 

IMPORTANT:  If you have not responded to the database survey, you will not be given priority for migration to the new system. 

Artefacts Canada Tally
Being November we didn’t see a whole lot of uploading this month.  The central region was the only region to upload records this month, adding 781 to the tally.  This gives us a grand total of 157,321 collection records on Artefacts Canada.  

Here are the new regional stats:
Southwest: 69,923
Central: 40,429
Northeast: 25,731
Cape Breton: 21,238

Congratulations to the Acadian House Museum and Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for being the only museums to upload new information this month. 

Blog Poll
Since not too many people wanted to share how they’ve dealt with the economic recession, I’ve decided to leave this poll up for awhile longer.  Remember that this is totally anonymous.

SDI Final Report

For anyone unfamiliar with our funding situation, ANSM received money this year from the provincial government (through the Strategic Development Initiative - SDI) for a number of support initiatives for Passage member museums.  While it's hard to believe, the funding year has come to an end.
I don't know about the rest of the museum professional world, but I often feel like I'm just spinning my wheels.  The to do list never shortens no matter how many hours, days, weeks... you put in, and right when you think you've got a handle on things, something else comes up that brings you back to square one.  It's not until I sit down to write a progress report that I see how far we've come.  Incidentally, this is why the blog was first started - to keep our member museums up to date on project activities.  So without further ado, here is this year's official final report.

The Passage Project sought funding to support 60 community museums in the following areas:

1.      Core Activities
1.1.   Outreach, training and on-site support visits
1.2.   Remote assistance
1.3.   Documentation package
1.4.   Revised database manuals
1.5.   Software and hardware standardization

2.      New Initiatives
2.1.   Internet marketing for museums
2.2.   Professional development and promotional videos on YouTube
2.3.   Feasibility study on web conferencing software


Project work began on November 30th, 2009 and was completed on November 26th, 2010.  The following is an outline of work accomplished over the past year.

1.1 Outreach, training and on-site support visits
Providing support to community museums occurred in person, on-site, by phone, and through the internet (email, Skype, Crossloop).  When in the office, the Collections Coordinator (CC) was always logged in to Skype, allowing museum staff/volunteers to quickly contact her by instant message or VOIP (voice over internet protocol) when a question arose.  While the CC was not inundated with questions, she did notice that the questions discussed through online means are quite different from those discussed via traditional phone.  In the past, museum staff/volunteers expressed a reluctance to “bother” the CC with questions they viewed as being of little importance.  The staff/volunteers would either delay work tasks or make assumptions which inevitably required correction.  By being available to museums online, staff/volunteers are now asking these “little questions” immediately, allowing them to move forward with their work more efficiently. 

The Collections Coordinator attended the Canadian Museums Association conference in St. John’s Newfoundland in May.  A full review of the conference was posted on the Passage blog as a professional development offering to community museum staff and volunteers: http://passagemuseums.blogspot.com/2010/06/canadian-museums-association-conference.html

Due to scheduling conflicts, the Collections Coordinator was only able to attend 5 of 8 regional meetings.  In order to maintain a presence at these meetings, updates were sent off with other ANSM staff or board members so that museums would still receive a report on project activities. 

Actual Outcomes
Percentage of Funding Objective
50 on-site visits 
64 site visits
attendance at 8 regional meetings
5 regional meeting
minimum of 200 support emails with partner sites
254 support-related emails
Minimum of 12 blog posts
34 blog posts
minimum of 100 support phone calls with partner sites
222 phone calls
provide assistance to 50+ partner sites to create enriched, digitized records
Offer made to 56 partner sites, 27 museums opted to participate

1.2 Remote Assistance
As mentioned in item 1.1, Skype has allowed for more frequent outreach and training support.  Crossloop was used 62 times to provide training and troubleshooting assistance to community museums.  This represents over $3000 in cost-avoidance.  This service has been so well received by community museum staff/volunteers and is so easy to use that many wonder how we ever got along without Crossloop.
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
As needed database troubleshooting for 50+ partner sites using Crossloop and Skype
62 Crossloop sessions
21 Skype sessions

1.3 Documentation Package
There are currently 25 resources available on the ANSM website under the categories of Collections & Access to Information and Management.  These vary from sample forms to tip sheets to database manuals.  Given how well they have been received by the community, this work will continue as time and resources allow. 
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Compile standardized collections management documentation package, available online to 50+ Passage partners and 100+ ANSM members
12 collections management forms
10 tip sheets and manuals
3 administrative forms

1.4 Revised Database Manuals
The task of revising the database manuals was removed from the project work plan following the IT consultants’ feedback (see Appendix 1 – Database Renewal Report) on our current MS Access databases.  Through discussions with the SDI funding manager it was determined that moving forward on this deliverable would be irresponsible.  Until the new database system is in place, community museum staff/volunteers can access the existing database manuals via the ANSM website.
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Revise 3 database manuals, available online to 50+ partners through video (YouTube) and text
Initial textual revisions made to Collections database manual (prior to receiving feedback re: databases)

1.5 Software and Hardware Standardization
Two new partners joined the project this year – Wedgeport Sport Tuna Fishing Museum and Mount Hanley Schoolhouse Museum.  While the Milton Blacksmith Shop was hoping to join as well, when we discovered the reality of our database situation, it was decided (by both ANSM and Milton) that they would wait until the new system was in place in order to prevent the necessity of learning two database systems in two years.  The mentorship agreement that is in place between the Mount Hanley Schoolhouse Museum and the Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum is working well, and it is hoped that this model can be used with other museums that are just beginning the digitization process.

As mentioned in the interim report, CHIN funding allowed for the purchase of 23 webcams with built-in microphones.  This has greatly facilitated the use of Skype as a remote assistance and outreach tool.  With this funding we were also able to purchase 32 external hard drives (640GB) with built-in automatic backup software.  During the delivery of these hard drives, the automatic backup feature was set up, greatly reducing the risk of data loss.  

Also addressed in the interim report was the rfp for a technical consultant to analyze and report on the existing MS Access database structures and make recommendations on how to proceed in the future.  A full report has been written (see Appendix 1), but in short, it was determined that the Collections database is highly unstable and it is imperative that a new system be adopted as soon as possible.  The Collections Coordinator has been working with the developer of the new system to do customization work so that the learning curve for museum staff/volunteers will be as small as possible.  To date, the beta version of the new system has been completed, and the first round of testing by the ITCMA Committee will take place on December 9th.  This has involved many hours of investigation, discussions and testing, but the Collections Coordinator is pleased with how the project is progressing.  The Cemetery and Volunteer/Tracking databases will remain in MS Access until the Collections database issue has been resolved, after which the IT & Collections Management Advisory Committee will seek alternative options for these systems.

Given the amount of time required for the database renewal project work, the equipment purchase program was postponed until the fall.  A procedural document has been drafted, as well as a requisition form which will be updated prior to each biannual order (see Appendix 2 – Equipment Purchase Program Procedures and Appendix 3 – Equipment Requisition Form).
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Provide 3 new sites with standardized equipment and software
2 new sites
Prepare terms of reference for IT consultant work, select consultant, review findings and recommend action
Report written, new database system ready in beta-version

2.1 Internet Marketing for Museums
The Collections Coordinator attended workshops and read a number of books and articles on internet marketing for businesses, museums, and tourism operators.  Reviews of the workshops were written and posted on the Passage blog (http://passagemuseums.blogspot.com).  All of this information was compiled into a reference document (see Appendix 4 – A Museum’s Guide to Internet Marketing) that is available on the ANSM website.   

In addition to the internet marketing guide, ANSM partnered with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) to deliver a workshop on Strategy Development for Social Media (see Appendix 5 – Social Media Workshop Flyer).  This workshop was held at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on November 16th and due to the high number of registrations a second workshop will be held at the Acadia University Library on December 10th.  These workshops were limited to 10 participants in order to work individually with the attendees’ situations.

In order to be recognized as a leader for museums in this area, ANSM has recently added two new internet marketing platforms to its staff blogs.  ANSM now has a Facebook fan page with almost 40 followers after 1.5 weeks.  This page will allow for wider dissemination of information and increase recognition of the ANSM brand.  A YouTube channel has also been established which will be used to host how-to videos for the new CollectiveAccess database system. 
Actual Outcomes to date
Percentage of Funding Objective
Investigate & compile internet marketing recommendations available to all 100+ ANSM members
A Museum’s Guide to Internet Marketing is available on the ANSM website

Friday, November 19, 2010

Queen Elizabeth II visits Halifax

HMCS Sackville all dressed up
In looking through my pictures I realized that I missed a pretty important blogging opportunity over the summer.  Not only were Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Halifax, but they unveiled a plaque at the HMCS Sackville, our national naval memorial (and Passage member).  Since our office is down on the waterfront it was pretty easy to sneak out and capture some photos of the fleet review and plaque unveiling.  Given the recent announcement that Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged, this seems like an even more appropriate time to talk about the royal visit.

conducting the fleet review from the HMCS St. John's
The Queen's first order of business was to conduct an international fleet review in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy.  Ships from Canada, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and United States participated in the review, and many of these vessels were also open to the general public over the course of the week.  As usual, our international guests raved about the wonderful Maritime hospitality they experienced while in our port.
saying goodbye to the HMCS St. John's crew

The weather didn't really cooperate as the day was blustery and overcast, but thankfully the rain held off.  The crowds of people didn't seem to mind the weather, and were very excited to see the royal couple.  For many it was the first time to see her in person, and for others it afforded the opportunity to share memories of previous visits with their children and grandchildren.

unveiling the plaque 

The unveiling of the plaque was preceded  by a speech which was a little difficult to hear due to the helicopters flying overhead. Following the unveiling the Queen and Prince Philip did a little walk about, meeting with veterans and their families who were seated in some reserved bleachers on the dock.  I know this is part of her job, but from my vantage point, both the royal couple and the veterans they met with truly seemed to enjoy this.

leaving the waterfront
If you've never visited the HMCS Sackville, it is definitely worth checking out.  It is the last remaining WWII corvette and going aboard is like stepping back in time.  I'm always struck by how narrow and cramped the space is.  I also appreciate how the volunteers of the Naval Memorial Trust have created such a time capsule atmosphere on board.  During the summer months she can be found along the waterfront near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2010 Edition

George & Thelma with Susan-Jane

They say to write about what you know.  What I know is that Remembrance Day always makes me think of what life was like for my grandfather's generation, with so many men off to war and families left at home.  As someone once said: "by remembering all who have served, we recognize their willingly-endured hardships and fears, taken upon themselves so that we could live in peace."  As museums, we are entrusted with memories through associated objects in our collections.  It's not about the object itself, but the stories that it can tell - the memories it can share.  How better can we honour those who sacrificed so much than to shine a little light on their individual experiences?

I never got to hear Grandpa's stories firsthand since he died when I was just a baby, but as I look through his old photographs I wonder what he would have said about each of the "snaps".  I wonder how he and his buddies went from the horrors of war to playing cricket during some down time.
"on a wing and a prayer"
"spare time: a cricket match between the army & navy"
George & Ralph
What I do know about Grandpa is that he got into trouble a few times during his years of service.  I obtained a copy of his service record, and he apparently went AWOL twice.  According to my father, the first was while he was training at CFB Trenton and Grandma went into labour.  There was no way that he was missing the birth of his first child.  The second time was when he literally ran into his brother Ralph in London during an air raid and accompanying blackout, yelled at the "damn Yankee" to get out of his way, and heard the response "shut up George!"  Time flies when you're catching up at a pub.  I also know that Grandpa had a reputation for being able to "get stuff done"; he was the wheeler and dealer who traded whiskey for plane parts and retrieved drunken superiors from houses of ill repute, first in England and then in Burma.  Apparently the RAF couldn't figure out how the Canadians were keeping so many planes in the air when parts were so scarce.

reminders of home
I imagine that Grandpa would rather talk about these random encounters and shenanigans than about how scary it all was, because I know he had to do some terrifying things that no one should have to experience.  And he, just like so many other young men, carried a leather photo album of his family and friends and thrived on letters from home that promised happy days ahead.
On that note, I think I'll end this with one of my favorite lines from one of Grandpa's letters.  Such a poetic sentiment was surely echoed by many:

"Sunday has rolled around again, the weeks slide by into months, and in a few days, it will be a year since I left, does it seem so terribly long Darling?"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Northeast Regional Meeting

Hector Exhibit Centre
For those of you who don't know how Nova Scotia's heritage community is divided up, we have four geographic regions - Cape Breton, Central, Northeast and Southwest.  In each of these regions we have what we call the regional groups (I know, very original), consisting of curators, managers, volunteers, and other heritage-minded people.  About twice a year the groups hold meetings to discuss issues and compare notes.  It's been a few years since the Northeast region has held a meeting, but on November 2nd a group of us got together at the Hector Exhibit Centre in Pictou to revive the tradition.

It was a small but mighty group, and lots of great discussions were had.  In attendance were representatives from the Balmoral Grist MillCreamery Square Heritage Centre, Fundy Geological MuseumSutherland Steam Mill, Wallace and Area Museum, and the Pictou County Genealogy & Heritage Society (which operates the Hector Exhibit Centre).  Each attendee gave a brief update on the goings-on at their museum and everyone was very interested in comparing visitor stats from the season.  Paul Collins spoke about the government programs undergoing review, and Anita brought everyone up to speed on various federal and provincial issues.  As this was the first meeting in awhile, the group talked a lot about what they want to get out of these meetings, and even brainstormed on possible collaborative work.

Dayle and Shirley checking out some archival records during a break
wreck wood from the Titanic and the Conley broadax

made in Nova Scotia display

If you are a heritage organization located in the Northeast you are more than welcome to attend these meetings.  The next one is scheduled for April 28th in Tatamagouche.  We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

October 2010 Update

New Look
You'll notice that the blog look has changed.  I think this format and colouring aligns a bit better with the ANSM website and branding.  So enjoy, check out some of the archived posts, and let me know what you think. 

Social Media Workshop
We’ve had overwhelming response to the upcoming social media workshop in Halifax.  There is a waiting list of participants, so we’re looking at how we can expand the training to meet everyone’s needs.  Tracey and I are very excited about this workshop and will be in touch with participants over the coming week with more details.

QR Code Project
As you may have noticed, Alexandra took over the blog earlier this week to let you all know about the recent trip to Cape Breton.  The project is progressing nicely.  The web space for media is up and running, multimedia files are being created, and marketing and visitor instructional materials are well under way. 

Database Renewal Project
I am very happy to announce that I’ll be reviewing the beta version of our new database system with the developer next week.  Once I play around with it a bit, the first Passage database will be migrated into the new system and we’ll begin active beta testing with member sites. 
IMPORTANT:  If you have not responded to the database survey, you will not be given priority for migration to the new system.  This survey is our paper trail of who was migrated when and why.

Regional Group Meetings
Two regional meetings will be taking place in November.  The first will be in Pictou on November 2nd.  This will be the first Northeast meeting in several years, so if you’re in this region, it would be great to see you there.  The second meeting will be in Bridgewater on November 5th.  For those in the southwest who have never attended a curator’s group meeting, this is a great opportunity to start connecting.

Blog Poll
There is a new blog poll online.  I’ve had a number of conversations recently with people who are facing major cutbacks and possible closure of their museums.  So that got us wondering – how are you dealing with the current economy and financial reality?  Have you cut back your hours, laid off staff, cancelled programs or services, or maybe something else?  Let us know how you’re trying to save money.  If you have taken measures not mentioned in the poll, please email me and let me know what you’ve done and how successful it’s been.  We’ve got some museum friends in other provinces that are looking for ideas and would love to hear from you.  No personal or museum names will be shared; we’re strictly looking for information.

Artefacts Canada Tally
This month we had uploads from the Southwest and Northeast region, so the stats have changed a little bit.  The overall tally went up by an even 500 records, which now puts us at 156,540 records on Artefacts Canada. 

Here are the new regional stats:
Southwest: 69,923
Central: 39,648
Northeast: 25,731
Cape Breton: 21,238

Congratulations to the Southwest Region for uploading the most records in October.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Alexandra here!

Josh and I gave our first round of QR code workshops in Cape Breton late last week and had a GREAT time.

We left cold, wet and miserable Halifax at six in the morning and prepared ourselves for a gloomy seven-hour drive out to Cape North to visit North Highlands Community Museum. It rained pretty constantly up until the Causeway, when it cleared up and became a glorious day—an amazing welcome to Cape Breton! The drive through the Cabot Trail was breathtaking and I think I annoyed Josh with my constant picture taking, loud squealing and requests to stop the car.

North Highlands Community Museum was great. I was particularly blown away by the display of fishhooks (and one huge drillbit!) removed from local persons between 1970-1990. Sadly the display was on loan and only up for the summer, so we couldn't put a QR code on it (maybe too morbid?). They had plenty of other fascinating artefacts, however, and we enjoyed a lovely walk through their garden.

The next day we went to Les Trois Pignons in Cheticamp. The masterful hooked rugs by Elizabeth LeFort were an obvious highlight—my favourite is the near-perfect portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The eclectic collection of the late Marguerite Gallant was also great. Who knew there was a pair of Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s boots in Cape Breton?

After a late lunch at Mr. Chicken we headed back to Halifax, but not before a spooky roadside encounter with some "colourful" locals...