Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 2011 Update

Museums & Community
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
ANSM's Museums and Community workshop (part of the new core curriculum) was held Oct.6-7th in Lunenburg at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Chris and I sat in on this one and what's interesting to me is the generational divide that appears in this topic. We agreed that the methodology prescribed during the workshop was very similar to what we were taught about community engagement in school, but for some of the older crowd the information was a major shift from how their museum has operated in the past. So for anyone wondering if these new workshops are really any different than the old Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage workshops, I can assure you that they are. A lot has changed in the past 15 years, and these workshops are a great way to stay up-to-date with the field.

Meetings, etc.

The first meeting of the month was with an old acquaintance from the library community who heard about our database & website project. Next up is a meeting with the archival community, and then on to the Heritage Division.  From what we've heard so far, our sister communities have all been heading down the same road (or maybe a parallel road), so now is the time to be talking to make sure we don't inadvertently reinvent the wheel or further divide our heritage resources.  Interesting times...

We also had a very pleasant surprise this month when the director general of CHIN came to town.  Gabrielle and Claudette were in town to meet with the Nova Scotia Museum and so Chris and I got to have lunch and talk shop with Gabrielle before she went back to Ottawa.  We also got to sit in on part of her talk at the NSM, which was great because part of her talk was about what people expect from museums that share information online. Here are her top 6 expectations: immediate access, content, rich media, participation, personalization, and findability.

The Southwest Curator's Group met in Kentville on October 21st. There was a very good turnout, a tasty lunch at a local restaurant, and a spell book that opened up to reveal many mini chocolate bars. Chris and I got to present on the website development in the afternoon, and I think it's safe to say that the crowd liked what they saw.

The Information Management and Access Committee met at Fultz House on Friday October 28th.  It was a very full agenda, covering qr codes, wifi security, and of course our database renewal & website project.  This was Gail Magee's last meeting with us, so we want to extend our heartfelt thanks for all of her work over the past few years. She's done an excellent job as our secretary, and shared some very yummy food with us along the way...big shoes to fill.

Database Renewal Project - Website Development

The website survey results are in, and we had a good discussion at the IMAC meeting about website development.  We received 18 surveys in total and a number of themes came out in the feedback:
  1. The more information in the records, the better (especially for provenance). People are looking for unique, personal content. Grammar, spelling, and consistent formatting count - and speak to the trustworthiness of the site and contributing institution.
  2. The overall design should be clean & minimalist, but interesting and hint at the vast quantity and variety of information within.
  3. Users need to have the ability to sort, refine, and change the viewing method of search results, and should be given suggestions for related objects.
  4. The ability to comment, tag, share, and link to the contributing museum's website is a must.
Next on our to-do list is the drafting of supporting documentation, such as disclaimers & guidelines for use.  We've also been working on updating the Passage Game Plan to align with our new database and public expectations for the website launch.

Queens County Museum
As I was tallying up records today, I was thinking how obvious it is that sites have shut down for the season. And I'm not going to lie, the lack of progress was a little disappointing.  Adding 5 or 10 records to a museum's tally just didn't seem like a big deal.  But then I got to the overall number of records and images. I forgot my own basic rule...that each individual site is feeding into something much larger.  So even with all the seasonal museums closing up shop for another year, we added 428 new records and an amazing 2,010 images!!  We now have 170,692 records and 39,695 images in the database.  Yay team!

And now for that regional breakdown that I know people are watching:
Southwest - 83,600 artifacts, 16,640 images
Central - 34,397 artifacts, 7,276 images
Northeast - 30,451 artifacts, 12,579 images
Cape Breton - 21,944 artifacts, 3,200 images

Congrats to the Central region for adding the most artifact records, and to the Northeast region for adding the most images.  It was a tight race this will be interesting to see where things stand at the end of November.

Funding Opportunities

As you think about funding applications for next years' students and projects, keep in mind that funders like to see very tangible outcomes related to technology, and want to see partnerships.  So the fact that you'll be part of this fantastic new website is great leverage - you have a lot of artifacts to photograph, photographs to scan, and updating of object records to do; now is the time to start thinking about positioning those applications to incorporate at least some of this work.  Set yourself some goals, and feel free to call the office to discuss your application.

The call for Community Memories projects will take place after Christmas, and I've heard from a little birdie that they're looking for African Canadian stories this time around. So this is another thing to be thinking about.  Africville, Black Loyalists, the Clarion, Mathieu de Costa, Buddy Daye, George DixonWilliam Hall, Sam Langford, the No.2 Construction Battalion, Rev. Richard Preston, Marie Marguerite RosePortia White...the list goes on and on.  We have some amazing stories to share.

Stay tuned for more details via the Beacon and our Facebook page.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September 2011 Update

Database Renewal Project - Website Development
The shift in focus has taken place, and we are now all about websites.  Very few similar websites exist - most collections websites have records from only one organization.  This month we identified our top 4 comparable websites (eHive, Europeana, Gathering the Jewels, Virtual Museum of Canada) and Chris developed a website review questionnaire to determine what we like about these sites.  The Information Management & Access Committee is putting in a lot of work in this respect, and we've recruited a few friends and former ANSM staff members to help out as well.  Thanks to all!

By the Numbers
Wallace & Area Museum
Apparently I lied last month when I said we had almost 180,000 records.  That number should have been 170,000 records (sorry for the typo).  In any event, it is still a very impressive number and after this month's work we have crossed the threshold and are sitting pretty at 170,264 objects.  And the number of images?  37,685!  That means we have 22% of our collections photographed or scanned.  To put this into perspective, the British Museum shares its collection online and 30% of these items have images attached.  Anyone feel like chasing the British Museum?  I know I do!

Now for the regional breakdown:
Southwest - 83,465 artifacts, 16,275 images
Central - 34,165 artifacts, 6,754 images
Northeast - 30,445 artifacts, 12,008 images
Cape Breton - 21,889 artifacts, 2,648 images

Congrats to the Southwest region for adding the most artifact records, and to the Northeast region for adding the most images.  It's great to see progress!

Meetings and Site Visits and Events...Oh My!
Chris and I made 8 more site visits in September.  From Moose River to Springhill, Middleton to Pugwash, we definitely made the rounds.  Later this fall we will be attending the various regional meetings, so while our road trips are becoming fewer and further between, we haven't yet stopped for the winter.

ANSM's Education & Training Taskforce, aka ETT, met to talk about upcoming workshops.  We have 3 scheduled for the fall: Museums & Community, Management & Governance, and CCI's Artifacts in Aboriginal Cultural Centres.  If you've been procrastinating about sending in your workshop registration, keep in mind that the first workshop filled up well before the registration deadline, so be sure to register early.
Africville Church Museum

I also attended a very special event in Halifax - the opening of the Africville Church Museum.  After such a wet summer, the building may not have been entirely finished, but what a powerful event. All levels of government were present, and members of the Africville community shared their memories and the significance of the renaming of Seaview Park and the establishment of the museum.  I won't even try to convey the emotion and meaning of the event because I could never do it justice.

QR Code Usage Stats
Well folks, I think it's time to declare the QR Codes a bit of a rural dud.  I've spoken with a number of participating museums and they say while visitor stats are steady, September has brought an older crowd that isn't inclined to cell phone use, let alone smartphone use.  Numbers have also dropped in the city, but the codes are still being used.  One thing we're hearing from tourists is they are worried about roaming charges.  We knew this would be the case, and are partnering with CHIN to develop a wifi security guide for museums to deal with the issue.