Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Update

Site Visits & Summer Textile Project
July was a very busy month for site visits. I've been to almost every corner of the province, seen some familiar faces and met some new people. We've talked about funding, CMAP review, the upcoming website launch, ANSM's conference, visitor statistics...so many conversations. I'm also very pleased to report that my goal of photographing another 5 objects per site has been going well. With only a few exceptions, this goal has been met and surpassed. It's good to give museum staff & volunteers a refresher course in photography, and to give a boost to the museums and our website. 
photographing a CWAC uniform
Army Museum

Hope's journey through the world of textiles has been full of amazing discoveries. It's had us climbing up ladders into storage lofts and pulling out 1960s stewardess uniforms, marvelling over the tiny waists of 19th century women, peeking into the world of fraternities with masonic vests of various ranks, and saying awwwww to a whole lot of cute kid's clothing. We've seen bonnets and shoes and top hats and bustles and corsets. Every time we said "ok, I think we've seen so much variety that we've covered everything", our next visit reveals something we hadn't thought about. We've photographed almost 300 objects (our goal was 250) and still have one more site to visit next week. Hope's photography guide will be available online in the near future and should give people some great tips.

Database & Website Info
So, apparently people are feeling competitive or productive or maybe just eager to prepare for the upcoming website launch. As I've been travelling around I've told everyone that I just want them to look good on the website. Some museums have adopted a strategic approach in focusing on images or updating old records, while other sites have just continued working according to the game plan. Whatever the approach, I think it's working. With a month and a half to go, everyone should be proud of what they've accomplished.
And now for our record-breaking month of new records & images. 3,852 new records and 6,116 images were added in July. I don't even know what to say to this, other than WOW! My goal was to get 60,000 images uploaded before the website launches, but it looks like we might actually hit 65,000 at this rate. Way to go everyone! This means we have a new grand total of 185,735 records and 59,700 images. 
By region:
Southwest: 97,015 artifacts, 25,887 images
Central: 34,755 artifacts, 12,201 images
Northeast: 30,072 artifacts, 15,456 images
Cape Breton: 23,893 artifacts, 6,156 images
Congrats to the Southwest region for adding the most records & images this month!
As we get closer to publishing these records to the world, remember that the goal is to tell a personal story with each object. The record should justify why the artifact is in your collection. So when new items are offered for donation, make sure your discussions with the donor capture associated memories and the life history of the object. If you aren't sure what to ask, think of the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. What is it? Who used it? When did they use it? When was it made? When did it come into your possession? Where is it from? Where was it used? Where did you get it? Why was it used? Why was it important? How was it used? How did you get it? How was it modified over the years? And also make sure you complete a pre-acquisition review form, a tool that will give you an unbiased answer as to whether the object should be accepted into the collection. This will give you the justification for saying no to the 20th sadiron or 10th sewing machine, and you can show the potential donor this form and clearly show them why you can't take the object. Suggest other museums they could approach and everyone should walk away happy.

Artist's signature
Sydney & Louisburg Railway Museum 
I thought I'd do something a little different for your image of the month. Instead of talking about the overall photograph, let's look at detail shots. If the item you're photographing has clothing labels, maker's marks on the bottom of ceramics, hallmarks on silver, signatures on paintings, etc etc etc., it is a good idea to get a close-up photo. To get a good quality image, set your camera to macro (the little flower setting), and use the tripod to keep the camera from shaking. These are important pieces of information, especially when it comes to research. So be sure to take your time and ensure the image is of good quality. If there are multiple labels or markings, take close-up shots of each. Assume this is the last time you'll be able to photograph the object. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 3

A Day at CCI
taking a break but still talking
Some of you might remember that the PMA meetings always include a day at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). We again started off with the recent cuts. CCI has been hit hard over the past few years and they are now working on a strategic plan to "focus its knowledge and expertise on preservation and access to significant heritage objects and collections in Canada". So over the next while CCI will be meeting with stakeholders, conducting consultations, and going through all those other fun strategic exercises.

Also on the agenda was CCI's conservation services, and how there are many upcoming anniversaries that museums should be thinking about. Federally this is being referred to as "the road to 2017", Canada's sesquicentennial year. Leading up to this we have Arctic Expeditions (1913-18), the 400th anniversary of Champlain meeting the Outaouis, the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference, 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald, WWI, , Women's suffrage, the Canada flag, transatlantic cable, Vimy Ridge....the list goes on and on. So if you have objects related to these events or other significant community anniversaries, don't forget that you can ask CCI to conserve these artifacts. Lots of info on their website about this service.
CCI's workshops are perhaps the most visible of their services, and over the years we have seen our fair share of these in Nova Scotia. Along with the other services the workshops are being reviewed, especially in terms of delivery methodology. And the good news is that they are working on 4 new workshops which will be rolled out over the next couple of years: exhibition lighting, reorganization of storage, book conservation, and box making. This is very good news.

Much of this day was spend in think tank mode. As part of their strategic planning work, CCI had a bunch of questions for the provincial associations. So we got to share the realities and needs of our members with the federal agencies that exist to serve Canadians. I know I speak for my colleagues when I say this time of brainstorming and sharing felt pretty good. Since I'm sure you're all curious, here are the key messages we left with CCI (& CHIN, & the CMA). Feel free to let me know if you think we were off the mark.
Some of the group
  1. The key challenges our member museums face in caring for their collections are - volunteer fatigue, fear of change (mostly in convincing staff/board members of preservation needs instead of doing things they way they've always been done), storage know-how.
  2. CCI can enable our member museums to better care for collections while making them safely accessible by - podcast & video how-to guides, regional representatives to personalize the connection with Ottawa, tip sheets, demos, checklists, work with PMAs on preservation curriculum
  3. Preferred methods of delivering information, advice & training are - demos, check lists, face-to-face, scalability & adaptability (make something adjustable for the different sizes and types of organizations), workshops, train the trainers, curriculum support to PMAs
  4. Other sources of support (related to collections care) and professional development are - provincial museum staff, archival councils, consultants, museum studies schools. These were given with the caveat that we are seeing very limited resources & increases in expenses, a loss of many local experts, and limited knowledge of CCI's resources
  5. The biggest contribution CCI can make to build the capacity of our member museums is - provision of information, development of knowledge in the field of conservation, scalable information for small museums, affordable workshops, partner with the PMAs
So that's a review of this year's meetings. I hope that you learned a little something, and can see how ANSM's presence at these meetings is beneficial.
Until next year, peace!
Pierre from the OMA

In case you missed them:
PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 1
PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 2

Sunday, July 29, 2012

PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 2

Bill C-11: The Copyright Modernization Act
Copyright is scary. So are polar bears.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Oh copyright. Everyone's favourite thing to deal with in museums. This is one of those topics where people's eyes begin to glaze over. So here is a brief overview of changes as given to us by a lawyer.
1. The Distribution Right - this gives creators the right to authorize the first transfer of ownership of the work, and since the distribution right is needed to widely share the info, this gives creators a bit more control.
2. The Making Available Right - the copyright owner can prevent online sharing & take action against the person/group that published the work online
3. Term Extension for Published Performances and Sound Recordings - The current copyright limit of 50 years from performance or recording is being adjusted. So if the work was published, another 50 years is added to the maximum of 99 years. This is for physical distribution only, and does not count online sharing as publishing.
4. Moral Rights for Performer - same as author's rights, and will not be grandfathered into the new legislation.
5. Fair Dealing: Parody, Satire, Education - what concerned us all here is that education has only been discussed as "formal setting", meaning in a school. Since museums are in the business of education, we will be watching this very closely.
6. User Exceptions - these are subject to specific conditions, but we heard that you can make reproductions for private purposes, later listening or viewing, or to make a back-up copy. Any non-commercial user generated content must give credit to the source and you can't exploit the existing work in an adverse way.

Does that all make sense? I'm sure you're following right along. Ok, so what else does this mean for museums?
1. Exceptions are being extended so that we can manage and maintain collections - ie. we can reproduce a work of art in an alternate format for preservation purposes.
2. Photographs follow the life+50 rule for copyright, and under the new bill it won't matter who commissioned the photograph. The photographer always holds the rights. So if you have staff or volunteers taking photographs for the museum, this means they will hold the rights unless you ask them to sign over all rights to the museum or society.

CHIN's Professional Exchange 2011 Survey
Sorry to CHIN, but these results were rather amusing to some of us around the table. For anyone not familiar with the Pro-X, it's a massive online resource for museums. Links to all sorts of good stuff that helps us do our work. "Surprisingly", the results of the survey were that people are looking for information on the basics - collections management, databases, digitization - stuff to help them manage collections. CHIN has put a lot of focus on special technologies in recent years, such as our QR code project, and so they were a little surprised that more people weren't looking for these tech-savvy innovative resources. But as we discussed this, all the PMAs agreed that while a few of our members are ready to tackle these fun and fancy things, most are still working on the basics. If someone is still entering a massive backlog into their database, they aren't going to embark on an augmented reality project. So the results of the survey seem very accurate in reflecting the reality of museums across the country.
This moose is preserved. Are your records?
Canadian Museum of Nature

CHIN's Digital Preservation Survey
So CHIN did another survey last year, this one focusing on the volume and type of digital assets held by museums, and the needs of these museums to manage said assets. I am always preaching backups, and 37% of respondents said they had lost files, and many had old floppy disks or tapes or other old formats that they are very difficult or impossible to read due to advances in technology. What CHIN learned through this survey is that many museums don't have the resources to complete an inventory of these assets, have unstable storage conditions, and have things stored in various places. Respondents identified digitization and preservation strategies as their greatest need, so CHIN will be working on a final report and figuring out how they can help address these issues.

New Technologies
This is the fun stuff. What's coming down the line? Let's start with what's here now: mobiles and tablet computing. No denying that. Next up is augmented reality and electronic publishing, following by digital preservation and smart objects.
With mobiles, most museum apps are audioguides at this point. If you want to learn more check out this recent survey. Other mobile experiences are being created through QR codes, and using existing location-based services such as Foursquare, Historypin, and SCVNGR. Tablets are being used in education and on tours to give visitors more information.
Augmented reality has great potential for education, as it allows you to combine social aspects as well as an overlay of digital information onto a physical space. Electronic publishing is mostly limited to duplicating print publications right now, but there is also big potential here - your imagination is the limit kind of thing.
Digital preservation has surfaced as a major issue since our technology is changing so rapidly. We need to be able to read all those old files (at least the important ones) and so we're experiencing software and hardware issues. Not everyone has kept their 8-track player. Smart objects are basically virtual representations that explain how they work and give the user extra information. Again this is very geographically oriented and relies on mobile technology.

PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 1
PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 3

PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 1

Yes we were just in the Ottawa area for the national conference, but we liked it so much we decided to go back for the annual Provincial & Territorial Museum Association (PMA) Meetings. Our host this year was the Canadian Museum of Nature, who gave us a great tour and tons of food to keep us going over the two days. The museum also gave me some great photo ops that are far more interesting than a bunch of people sitting around tables. I hope you enjoy them :)

The atmosphere was different from other years, and CHIN started off the meetings by saying, let's talk about the cuts. We all know that serious cuts are taking effect and this is greatly affecting our work. CHIN shared that their approach to the departmental cuts was & is to preserve investment funding, which means the Virtual Exhibits and Community Memories programs are intact. Unfortunately they are no longer able to support Young Canada Works internships or special projects with the PMAs, which is a serious blow to the provincial associations. Since 2006 we've had 9 CHIN-funded YCW interns which has allowed us to conduct research projects, photograph artifacts, create how-to manuals, test out qr codes in museums...lots of valuable and innovative work for and with our member museums. It would have been impossible to accomplish this work without this funding support. We also heard that the Canada Interactive Fund is gone, which would have been a perfect fit for our upcoming website. So now as we move towards the September launch and even more innovation, we are looking at other partnership and funding opportunities.

News from the other provinces & territories
The Yukon reported that they are revisiting their strategic plan and looking at joint marketing while Nunavut is working on building up their membership network. New Brunswick is focusing efforts on professional development for members and political advocacy, and is dealing with a restructured provincial department and recognizing the need for quality controls in the provincial inventory program. Newfoundland & Labrador is preparing to launch a new website with a members only section for toolkits and resources, and is conducting a lot of training on intangible cultural heritage in conjunction with MUN and the Heritage Foundation. Alberta's strategic plan has them focusing on sustainability and building organizational capacity while getting to know their new government and culture ministry. Their upcoming conference is about relevance, asking those tough questions about change management, closure, working with under-served communities etc. Quebec has a new mobile website and just passed 1000 Facebook fans. They have been forming new partnerships, such as working more with Library & Archives Quebec and working on the conservation of religious objects not in museums. PEI has a new website and is moving into the world of online training. Manitoba is redoing its curriculum, revamping its awards program, and working on a communications strategy. Ontario is looking at merging 3 programs into 1, undergoing a review of community museum standards, delivering webinars and preparing to launch a provincial heritage director, and have set up a nice new network system that lets them access their files from anywhere. And last but not least, Saskatchewan is also working on updating their website, have just hired a new Museums Advisor (congrats & welcome to May-Lin!!), are moving more and more into the realm of digital communications & online training, and like Alberta are addressing the issue of museum closure.
Everyone expressed that they are experiencing major challenges with the national cuts, and some also have provincial cuts to deal with as well.

Canadian Museum of Nature
The question of museums fundraising was raised and made for an interesting but brief discussion. It was acknowledged that museums need help in this area, but that statistics show that they are able to raise a much higher percentage of their budget than other charities. Corporations are now contributing as part of their marketing strategy and in accordance with a business model. Corporate philanthropy appears to have undergone a major shift.

CHIN Membership Services
I often hear from our members that their situation and struggles are unique. I won't say that isn't accurate, but I thought it might be interesting for people to hear what CHIN reported about their members. 1,527 organizations are members of CHIN, and of these 79% have between 0-5 employees. These organizations self-identify as museums, historic sites, galleries, interpretive centres, heritage/cultural centres, etc.
The Community Memories program has been very successful in Nova Scotia, and continues to be one of CHIN's most valuable services. This year 56 proposals were successful - 4 of these being in Nova Scotia. There was some discussion about content, and the idea for "themed calls" was put forward. This means that instead of CHIN announcing a general call for proposals, they would ask for more specific proposals. They have analysed existing content and identified key areas to improve, especially in areas dealing with upcoming anniversaries - the sesquicentennial, WWI, Vimy Ridge, the Halifax Explosion, etc etc etc.
If you are considering applying into this program, I would love to talk with you about your ideas.

PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 2
PMA Meetings 2012 - Part 3