Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November 2014 Update

Odds and Ends
Last month I remarked that October flew by, but November full on disappeared. I blinked and it was gone. Last month I was really excited to report that I'd finally gotten my to do list down to 18.5 pages, but this month I've written so many new notes that I'm back up to 22.5 pages. If you will permit me to exclude the last 6 pages of notes from conference goings and meetings, then I guess I made a bit of progress.
I conducted one final site visit of the season which included some photography of WWI artifacts. We have some really amazing artifacts in NS collections. We have just applied for a grant to focus digitization & research efforts on WWI-era items and are keeping our fingers crossed that this will unearth a whole lot of interesting stories and objects. We have an intern coming from Algonquin College to help with this project which is pretty exciting. We love interns!

MCN Conference
Speed networking under
a crazy chandelier
My big adventure of the month was a trip to Dallas, Texas to present about NovaMuse at the Museum Computer Network conference. This is what really added to my to do list as I wrote down great quotes and websites and ideas. It was the first time I'd ever attended the conference, and the first time I'd been to Texas, and the first time anyone from ANSM presented on an international level. Talk about pressure! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (via our NovaMuse channels) you will have seen some tweets and updates. If not, I'd suggest searching on those channels for #MCN2014. You can also go to the MCN YouTube channel and watch the various presentations. Here are a few of my favourite one-liners to pique your interest:
"those formerly known as the audience"
"the story is the same; it's the telling that is changing"
"if not a lot of people are using it, it doesn't mean you remove, it means you strive to improve"

For my out-of-town readers, CMAP is the Community Museums Assistance Program, a provincial funding program that has been under review for the past 4 years. It's been an interesting time with a lot of ideas floating around. As our local readers are aware, this fall ANSM entered into a partnership agreement with the NS Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage (CCH) to rework the evaluation aspect of CMAP. This wasn't a big surprise. The big surprise was when I was asked to take a secondment from my normal work to be the project lead on this undertaking. Did not see that coming. But since we at ANSM like to embrace the crazy, I decided to go for it. I hope that I don't regret that decision, and I hope that the evaluation reworking is successful. Thankfully Chris has stepped in to take over some of my responsibilities while I tackle CMAP. We have a committee in place to help with the work, with a good mix of people from across the province and representing CMAP museums of all shapes and sizes. 

Collections Database Info
With my focus shifting to the CMAP evaluation, Chris has taken on the database review work. He wrapped up another museum's system, reviewing 5,972 records. His pace is definitely faster than my pace has been over the past number of months, and it feels great to see progress being made again. We are still very far away from our georeferencing goal (apparently we were a little too ambitious), but we've still managed to map 37,774 artifacts. In Made in Nova Scotia news, we've linked 2,652 artifacts with the business profiles of their creators which is really exciting. We had no idea how that work would go; if we were being naive in thinking we could link thousands of objects to their makers or what kinds of trends we would notice in the process. This is something we've been geeking out on for sure. Every time we link an artifact it feels like we've just won a little victory.
Data entry at all the museums keeps puttering along as we're in the off-season. This month we saw 1,309 new records and 618 images were added to the databases, which means we now have a total of 217,863 artifacts and 89,313 images.

Southwest - 118,877 artifacts, 39,046 images
Central - 41,079 artifacts, 20,312 images
Northeast - 30,690 artifacts, 20,154 images
Cape Breton - 27,217 artifacts, 9,801 images

Congrats to Cape Breton for adding the most records this month and to the Central region for adding the most images. 

Your images of the month are not reminders about 2-dimensional digitization. I know, I'm surprised too. This time we're looking at 3-dimensional items and focusing on the placement of the scale. Placement is tough. You're adding an item to the photo that is rigid and cold to what might otherwise be an organic and warm object. So basically we want to 'hide' the scale. I know, at first glance that doesn't make sense. But hear me out. When you're taking artifact photos, you allow your backdrop to create a frame for the object. It allows the eye to centre and focus on your cool object. So you want to tuck that scale into the frame as though it wasn't there. Looking at the box in the first photo, you'll notice that the scale is really obvious because it isn't squared away with the image frame.It is also so tight to the object that it sort of looks attached. Make sure you can see where your object ends and your scale begins. Now look at the second image. Notice how your eye is drawn to this box? Notice how you can see the scale and yet it isn't distracting you because it fits neatly into the frame? That's what we're going for. It can take a bit of practice but I think you'll agree the end result is worth the extra effort.

Membership Renewal
Yes I am still leaving this in. We have a few stragglers who have yet to send in their renewal contract & payment. We hate to keep pestering, but this has to be settled. So again, here are your tips on how to get this done:
1. Complete and send in your contract. Make sure that it is signed by two different people: the President of the Board of Directors and the primary Advisory Service contact person. We won't accept the contract unless it has two different signatures on it.
2. Send us a cheque for $350. $50 covers your regular ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. Remember that in your renewal package there was a cost analysis of all the services delivered.

I think that's enough for now. Catch you at the end of the year!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2014 Edition

Grenville & sister Irene
A few years ago I started writing special blog posts for Remembrance Day. My second one focused on my Great Uncle Grenville, an RCAF Flight Sergeant who was a wireless operator and air gunner on a Halifax bomber.

This summer I was privileged to make a trip to Belgium to visit Grenville's grave and attend the unveiling of a memorial at the site of his plane crash. This was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity and one in which I was honoured to participate.

The architects of this commemoration were the wonderful people of the Wings Museum in Sussex, England. They've developed a partnership with some local history buffs in Belgium and have been working for years on researching RAF crash sites, and this is now translating into searching for family members of the airmen and unveiling memorials in their honour. As we in the museum field know, they don't do this because they get paid the big bucks. They do this because they are passionate about aviation history and have a great respect for the many airmen who fought for our freedom.

I knew as I prepared for the trip that it could be a moving experience. Even though Grenville died 70 years ago, I've heard stories and seen pictures and understand how devastated my family was when they heard news of his death. But I didn't expect it to be such a powerful experience. Upon arrival we met the family of another crew member and mused that our uncles were buddies so long ago and now we were carrying on that connection. In the morning we were given copies of the account of the final flight by one of the two survivors of the crash. The room quieted as we passed the pages around to read. Suddenly it was real. It wasn't just a family story. It wasn't just some young guy in family photos. This was a group of men who were in crazy circumstances fighting for their lives and the lives of others. We finally had answers to the 70 year old family mystery of what really happened that fateful night.

from WingsMuseum.co.uk
As soon as we stepped foot on the crash site, I felt a lump forming in my throat. As Marcel described the plane's final descent we felt transported back in time, hearing the roar of engines and gunfire as it exploded and crashed. This was the place where my family was crushed by the loss of a son and brother. Rather than the memorial unveiling being a quiet, intimate affair, the entire town came out to pay their respects. They didn't know us, let alone our relatives who were on that bomber in 1943. And yet they came and listened to the account of the final flight and did their best to chat even though none of us spoke Flemish. They smiled and applauded as I tearfully rambled on in English about how appreciative we were for all that they had done to honour our uncles. When the planned military flypast fell through because the planes were called to duty, local pilots stepped in to pay this respect to the lost crew.

One of the things that struck me about the trip was the way Belgian history was so real to the people. It didn't matter how many years ago something occurred, they could tell you amazing tales of their past. And this makes sense when you think about it. From the Canadian perspective, men and women left home to fight, and not all of them came back. But in Europe, events were unfolding all around. It happened in their backyards and in their skies. I asked several people how they manage to keep this appreciation for history alive, especially when we're talking about the world wars of 70 and 100 years ago. Every time I got the same answer in slightly different words. "This is what we do. We will never forget."

As I traveled the province this summer visiting community museums, I saw numerous exhibits honouring local WWI veterans, and heard about many commemorative activities that the museums either coordinated or took part in. Singalongs of WWI songs and hymns, special services of remembrance, reading of letters sent home from the front...lots of examples of respectful acknowledgements of the sacrifice paid by Nova Scotia's men and women 100 years ago. And what every museum worker told me was that these activities were far more powerful than expected. People got emotional as they thought about their relatives of years gone by and of the men and women who didn't get to come home. The museums' work made a war from 100 years ago real and relevant. Battles fought overseas in places never visited became real. Grief that had been buried for years and generations resurfaced.

This is the kind of work that museums should be doing. Going beyond the exhibits to provide opportunities for personal connections, opportunities for healing, and greater understanding of life in general.  We should adopt the Belgian mantra for our own: This is what we do. We will never forget.

we will never forget

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Database Tools

We've been talking about this for quite some time, and it's finally time to announce that our data dictionary & error reporting tools are finished and in CollectiveAccess.
When we switched databases, one of our goals was to find a more user-friendly system that wouldn't rely so much on ANSM support. It needed to be more intuitive. Now after a few years in CollectiveAccess, we're building in even more tools to guide our users in the data entry & documentation process.

Help Text
The data dictionary from our old database was incorporated into CollectiveAccess, but last winter it was completely overhauled and updated. Again, our goal was to have the system remind you of the standards of practice, provide definitions of every field, and even warn about common mistakes.
There are two ways to access the new help text. The first is to simple mouse-over the field name. A box will pop up with the info and will leave again when you move the cursor away from the field name. No muss, no fuss. Perfect for a quick reminder.

The second way to access the info is to click on the little "i" button at the right hand side of the field name. This will bring up the exact same help text, but rather than it disappearing on you, it will just stay on the screen until you click the "i" again. This is a great training tool for summer students or new staff or volunteers. They can compare what they've entered with the examples in the help text and easily assess their work. Important fields even have a little red required notation in the text.

Error Assessment
This is really cool. At least I think it's really cool. One of the issues in database work, especially if you're new to a museum, is knowing where to start. We all know there are problems that need fixing, but how do you find those problems without wasting a whole lot of time? Well, this is where our new browse button comes into play. When you go to Find - Objects - Browse, you'll notice a new option: Problems. Yup, no pussy-footing around it. Your database has some problems.
There are a number of "problems" that we've identified and told the database to flag. Clicking on the problems button will show you the list, and then you can select any of them to get your list of records. From there it's just a simple matter of working through the list. Once a record it corrected it will disappear from the list, and once there are no problems of that type, you won't see it as a browse option.

 When you go into one of the problem records, you'll notice a few new details. First, we have the lovely yield sign alerting you to the number of problems requiring attention. If you scroll over the yield sign it will expand on the issues. You will also see yield signs in the problem fields themselves. Clicking on the i for info button will provide you with the help text for that field and alert you to the problem requiring attention. If the problem is deemed serious, you won't be able to save the record until it is fixed. However, sometimes you will just receive a warning to look something over because it could be a mistake.

So that's what's new. Enjoy the new tools and I hope you'll find them helpful.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October 2014 Update

Odds and Ends
Happy Halloween!! Is it just me or did this month fly by, and I don't mean on a broomstick.
It feels like this month has involved a lot of running around, but when I look back at my day planner it really hasn't. There have been a few fun meetings with colleagues, lots of planning discussions, and general office busy-ness. I also took a few days off this month in order to use up some overtime, which is probably why it feels like I've been running in circles. I must have accomplished something this month though because the to do list is now down to 18.5 pages. But there are still outstanding items from summer travels and other adventures. Thank you for being so patient as I continue to work through the list.

Membership Renewal
Once again, there are still a few museums who have yet to send in their renewal contract & payment. We hate to keep pestering, but this has to be settled. So again, here are your tips on how to get this done:
1. Complete and send in your contract. Make sure that it is signed by two different people: the President of the Board of Directors and the primary Advisory Service contact person. We won't accept the contract unless it has two different signatures on it.
2. Send us a cheque for $350. $50 covers your regular ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. Remember that in your renewal package there was a cost analysis of all the services delivered.

Collections Database Info
This weekend we will be rolling out a system update that I'm pretty excited about. We've chatted about it and debated it and it's finally coming to fruition - you'll be able to browse through for errors and problems and the system will give you a to do list of these items for fixing. I'm really excited about this and have a full blog post ready to go that explains the features. I really hope people will find it helpful.
As for database review work, finally, after months of slow progress, I can happily report that I finished up 5,755 database records in October. There are still a few databases left to review, but it feels great to have finished another one. It also feels good to see that people continue to steadily use the database in the off season. Another 228 artifacts and 355 images were entered into the systems which gives us grand totals of 216,554 artifacts and 88,695 images. We have over 37,000 items georeferenced and over 2,600 linked to Made in NS profiles. Slowly but surely, we are making some fantastic new connections between museum collections.

Southwest - 118,804 artifacts, 38,867 images
Central - 40,907 artifacts, 19,977 images
Northeast - 30,231 artifacts, 20,103 images
Cape Breton - 26,612 artifacts, 9,748 images

Congrats to the Northeast region this month for adding the most records and to the Southwest region for adding the most images. Keep up the great work!

NovaMuse Updates
We made a couple little updates to NovaMuse this month.
The first was that we finally added the Browse by Culture option. We've been talking about this one for a long time, but before it could be released we had to review the data. For some odd reason, people were including all sorts of things in the culture field instead of just saying that an artifact was Acadian or Scottish or French or whatever. It's still not perfect, but it's a lot better than it was. And hopefully people will be more mindful of this field since it is now featured more prominently online.
We also added a new disclaimer to the website, appearing on every single detail page. This is part of our watermarking update work. While we have this same information on the Terms of Use page, we decided it would be a good idea to keep it front and centre for our online visitors. We know how hard museums work in order to make information accessible and want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due.

All for now. Have fun tonight and remember to play safe!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014 Update

Super-Saturated Thoughts
our office mood flip chart.
we've been eating a lot of
chocolate lately...
To be honest I'm feeling a little swamped right now. The to do list has shrunk by 6 pages since last month, but new items are being added every day. Museum workers are busy people, and the pace just seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. We have mused in the office that our winter "down time" (more appropriately named catch-up time) has disappeared altogether. I hear the same thing during site visits. Anyway, a few items on my to do list are websites or blogs that relate to museum work. One of them is all about solving task-saturation for museum workers, and one of the things I found while exploring its articles and relevant links was a list of little encouragements to incorporate into the work environment. This reminded me of our ANSM Cake Policy. Do we really need a cake policy? No. Do we sometimes need to take a break from the seriousness of grant applications, strategic planning, government negotiations, database & website management, etc etc ad infinitum? Absolutely. So what are you doing at your museum to help lighten the mood and boost the spirits of your colleagues? Do you have a daily mood flip chart? This is our new favourite thing at the office. Warn co-workers to keep their distance or just band together with a random mood. Either way, it's pretty fun and definitely helps to lighten the mood on tough days.

ANSM Conference
Thanks to everyone who came out to the conference. We had a great time in Sydney and are hearing that you did too. I am drafting a blog post about the conference so will wait to share more thoughts there. So stay tuned...

Membership Renewal
I mentioned this last month, but here's a final reminder about advisory service membership renewals in case you still haven't sent it in. For some reason people always mix up this process, so here's your gentle reminder about what needs to be mailed to our office:
1. Complete and send in your contract. Make sure that it is signed by two different people: the President of the Board of Directors and the primary Advisory Service contact person. We won't accept the contract unless two different people sign it.
2. A cheque for $350. $50 covers your regular ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. In the renewal notice you will see that we itemized these amounts and so all you need to do is add up the total and write the cheque for $350.
beautiful Clare

Site Visits
I am off the road and loving it. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy site visit season, but it's nice to be back in the office to tackle that 24 page to do list, enjoy the zen nature of database work, and sleep in my own bed. The remaining few visits were as different as snowflakes, and each institution had great tales of community engagement to share. I love the diversity of NS museums. Now I know I'm not supposed to play favourites, but the most exciting visit was to the Yarmouth County Museum. As I've mentioned on social media and in last month's blog post, we have a new CollectiveAccess user and contributor to NovaMuse. We are so excited to welcome our friends from Yarmouth to the group and I was thrilled to be able to "deliver" their new database and show them how to use it. The delicious brownies were an added bonus.

Collections Database Info
I finally got back to database work this month but didn't get through as much as I'd hoped. Between the conference and site visits (and homework), the month just flew by. But a lot of improvements were made and as a result NovaMuse is looking better than ever. And new records are still being added every day. This month another 209 artifacts and 399 images were added to the databases. That means we collectively have 216,326 artifacts and 88,340 images. Wow. Talk about strength in numbers.

Southwest - 118,751 artifacts, 38,696 images
Central - 40,860 artifacts, 19,898 images
Northwest - 30,163 artifacts, 20,003 images
Cape Breton - 26,552 artifacts, 9,743 images

Congrats to everyone this month on a job well done! We had a very productive summer and are gradually getting through those data entry backlogs and improving old files. Kudos! I'm very proud of you.

Your image of the month is one of my favourite artifacts from the museum whose database I'm currently reviewing. All too often we keep underwear in storage. So underneath those fancy dresses, here is the whalebone bustle that provided some extra "enhancement". Not very fancy is it? Anyway, in terms of photographing, it's pretty simple. The mannequin was 'dressed' and the shot was angled so you could understand its three-dimensional nature. Additional photos of different angles, the front clasp and other details were taken.

So here's to a bustling but enjoyable fall. If nothing else, we can be thankful that these are no longer in fashion.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review - Rust Never Sleeps

I've reviewed a number of books by now, but so far they've covered general museology, the evolution of the field, strategic planning and ethical guidelines. So I thought it might be time to delve into something a little more specific. One of the things we've been talking about lately is that we are not the experts in everything, and that's okay. What's important is that we know where to go, who the experts are, what resources are available, etc etc.

This is what brings me to one of the very specific books in our reference library. Rust Never Sleeps: Recognizing Metals and Their Corrosion Products was co-authored by Austrian, Canadian, and Dutch conservators and conservation scientists and was published by our very own Parks Canada. This means we have copies in both English and French.

Metals can be confusing, especially when you get into all the alloys and patinas. Add corrosion products to the mix and it's easy to get scared. What caused it? Will it spread to other artifacts in the collection? Can it be stopped? How can you tell the difference between active and stable corrosion? What on earth does "passive corrosion" mean??? While this handy little book won't answer all of your questions, its title really says it all. With this book by your side you'll be able to identify the various metals and their corrosion products. With sections on copper (and alloys), iron, silver, tin, and lead, you should be able to figure out exactly what is in the museum's collection. In each section are quick bullets on how to recognize that particular metal, focusing on colour, magnetism, weight, and deciphering makers' marks. Following these bullets are quick hints on corrosion of the metal, focusing on distinguishing characteristics such as colour and look.

This book is extremely visual, providing the reader with examples of the various metal types and what kinds of objects were made from each type. Additional images of corrosion types show how to know whether the corrosion is stable or active and explain what conditions or circumstances led to the corrosion.

The final few pages of the book contain advice for the reader. Common problems and solutions are outlined, and are very simple to understand and carry out. Whether you notice silver tarnish or condensation in an artifact storage bag, quick tips are there to help you alleviate the problem. The only problem I noticed in this section is that the old Preserving My Heritage website is referenced and that has since disappeared. The next section reviews factors of deterioration, or as we often call them, the 10 agents. The agents have been reviewed in a way that focuses solely on how they affect metals, which can be very useful to people who have not been trained in the basics of conservation.
For those who want to study more about metals and their corrosion, an entire page was devoted to references, and most of those books or resources can be found online or in the ANSM library.

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of workbooks and quick tip sheets; solid references that you can learn from quickly. We wear so many hats and end up running around so much in our jobs that such resources are crucial in our work. So while it won't take you long to read this little book once, it's definitely one that will be returned to, time and time again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 2014 Update

ANSM Conference
In just 3 weeks we'll be in Sydney for our annual conference. The theme is challenging our perspectives, and that means we'll be asking some tough questions and encouraging 'out of the box' thinking. Of course I always encourage museum workers to attend the annual conference, but this year feels more relevant than others. During my summer travels, questions have been raised and comments have been made about the future of museums. Several people have told me that feel like they're in a bit of a rut and need to get some new ideas or go through some sort of shift to get things moving again. As I said on-site, those are exactly the issues that we are covering at the conference. You need to be there. Period. For those people in Cape Breton, remember that this is your turn to host, ie we are only in your neck of the woods once every four years, so it would be a terrible thing for you to miss this opportunity. Check out the program & register online.
IMAC will be having a casual dinner meeting on the Thursday (Sept.18th) and is inviting Advisory Service members to join. We figure that since we'll all need to find supper in Sydney, we may as well meet up and eat together. If you're interested in this please let me know so we can make a reservation.

Membership Renewal
IMAC would also like to remind you that it is membership renewal time. For some reason people always mix up this process, so here's your gentle reminder about what needs to be mailed to our office:
1. Complete and send in your contract. Make sure that it is signed by two different people: the President of the Board of Directors and the primary Advisory Service contact person. We won't accept the contract unless two different people sign it.
2. A cheque for $350. $50 covers your regular ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. In the renewal notice you will see that we itemized these amounts and so all you need to do is add up the total and write the cheque for $350.

Site Visits
hello sailor!
This has been a busy month; 3.5 office days, 19 site visits, and I don't want to even think about how many kilometres I've driven. I've criss-crossed this province in such a way that it feels like I've visited every nook and cranny. I mentioned last month that everyone was reporting a spike in visitation, and I'm sorry to say that hasn't continued across the board this month. Most museums still said they were up or at the very least on par with previous years, but a few said they were down from last year. So I guess the usual ebb & flow is taking place. I still have 4 site visits left, and then it's back to the office for the winter. As per usual I have a massive list of homework from site visits. Some of it is fun stuff, like sorting through all the copies of local industry info to reconcile with our Made in NS database, but other homework items will require a bit more work. Please be patient with me as I work through my 30 page to do list...it's going to take a bit of time but I think the results will be worth it. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing how the customized collections game plans work out. We're already seeing progress, but I think that next summer will be the real test.
Thanks to everyone for your wonderful hospitality and good conversation. It's been tiring, but fun.

Museum Thefts
That's right, our favourite crazy story is back. The RCMP still have a whole lot of antiques and artifacts that they are trying to return to museums. It doesn't matter if you think Tillman never visited your museum or wouldn't have been interested in anything in your collection. This guy got around and took whatever he could get his hands on. It's worth a shot to let the RCMP know what artifacts are missing. There's no shame in it, and off the top of my head I can think of 5 community museums that will be having items returned. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get things back. It would be irresponsible not to take advantage of it.
If you don't have contact info for the lead investigator let me know and I will connect you.

Collections Database Info
I still haven't gotten back to database review work, but am looking forward to the zen nature of the task. It will be a nice way to calm down after running in circles all summer. Meanwhile, oodles of new records and images were added this month. Yes that is the technical term. Oodles. A whopping 17,712 new records were added this month along with a lovely 1,221 new images. The reason so many records were added is that we successfully migrated a very old database into CollectiveAccess. It was a rough go and there's still a bit of clean-up work to be done, but we've got it migrated. Phew!!
With this new addition we've blown our old numbers out of the water. 216,117 artifacts and 87,941 images are in the system. I like those numbers.
Southwest - 118,659 artifacts, 38,577 images
Central - 40,767 artifacts, 19,726 images
Northwest - 30,156 artifacts, 19,950 images
Cape Breton - 26,535 artifacts, 9,688 images

Congrats to Whirl-i-gig for adding the most records this month!! We've heard that a certain Curator will be toasting you this afternoon.
Stuffed Animal
Macdonald House Museum

Your image of the month is a personal one for me. When I was visiting the MacDonald House Museum in Cape Breton I was wandering through rooms looking for baskets when this little guy caught my eye. Why? Because my Mom has a doll made from the exact same fabric. It was her favourite doll as a child, and we have a number of photos of her hugging it tightly or pushing it in a carriage. Clearly this little doggy needed to be photographed as well. So let's talk toys. You'll notice that he has his contrasting background fabric, and the scale fits into the frame of the image, leaving doggy in the centre of the shot. I also angled him a bit so you can understand his 3-dimensional nature. What you can't see in this image is that I also took a couple additional photos in order to capture other angles and stitching detail.

That's all for now. See you in Sydney!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tribute to Kim Truchan

From Kim's obituary
I can't believe I'm saying this again so soon, but we've suffered a loss in the Nova Scotia heritage community. Kim Truchan, formerly of the Shelburne County Museum, passed away on August 5th after a 3 year battle with cancer.

As her colleagues have shared over the heritage listservs, Kim was greatly respected and well-liked. Coming to us from the arts world, she offered fresh perspectives and a creative edge, and it was inspiring. Her youthful spirit and energy, her quick smile and positivity, her intelligence and creativity...so many wonderful traits. People enjoyed being around her and knew that when she spoke up at a meeting it was because she had something very valuable to share. She wasn't just the ideas person though, but could turn ideas into action, and understood how to navigate the business side of things as well. Advocacy, funding applications, project management...she was ready to tackle it all.

As I've been thinking back to our on-site visits, I've realized that we hit it off so well that none of them seem like they could have included our introduction. As soon as we sat down, I saw that she was brimming with optimism and ideas. She wasn't afraid to "tell it like it is", preferring to face a problem than ignore it. But she knew when it was time to ask for help, and had no qualms about phoning to have a quiet talk about some issue or other. She just wanted to move Shelburne forward, and by extension, the museums of Nova Scotia. I distinctly remember returning to the office and reporting "she gets it!", which is the term we use when someone really impresses us. We all immediately knew that Kim was a wonderful asset for the museum world; we were thrilled at the prospect and it didn't take us long to recruit her.

Kim served on our Information Management & Access Committee when we were moving to a new database system and was of great assistance as we were developing NovaMuse. She LOVED that name. It had her vote from day one. The notion of museums inspiring creativity and collections serving as a new muse to artists got her pretty excited and fit perfectly with her artistic background. As soon as we started brainstorming about potential directions was when her creative juices started flowing. She always saw the big picture but never lost sight of how that translated for individual museums. Quick on the draw and eager to help museums improve themselves, Kim always had valuable input. Whether it was a discussion on advisory service membership, technical database issues or the aesthetics of website design, she could handle it all. She took the job very seriously and while most people won't notice, as I peruse NovaMuse I can see her fingerprints. Our logo with the capital M immediately comes to mind.

We worked with Shelburne on a number of special pilot projects while Kim was there. She loved being the guinea pig and playing with new technologies, whether it was installing qr codes or seeing if our database could really be used in a class assignment by a college in Ontario. She was up for anything, even when I'd caution her that we had no idea if or how something would work or that we'd be making it up as we went along. She would remind me that we learn by doing, nothing ventured nothing gained, and that it was time for museums to be innovators and break free of old and staid stereotypes. Then she'd start brainstorming other potential projects and we'd get even more excited about the possibilities.

When Kim called to say she needed to step down from IMAC to undergo treatment, she made it clear that this was a temporary thing. She was determined to beat it. She'd be taking a leave of absence, that's all. She'd still be keeping an eye on us, watching to see what we were up to, and checking in to say hi and get the latest news.

Well Kim, I hope that your leave is relaxing and peaceful and full of creative inspiration. Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights and ideas with us. You were a bright star that we lost far too soon. You will be sorely missed.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 Update

Polling the Audience
Fort Point Museum, LaHave
Site Visit Lessons
Of the 22 working days of July, I spent 15 of them on the road. That translates in 21 site visits. And as usual, I've noticed a few trends from my travels. One - apparently it's no longer cool to use your signal light before switching lanes or turning. This is messed up. Two - visitation is up! Almost every single museum has told me that they are seeing an increase in traffic this year. One site is up by 50%! This is awesome. Whatever we're doing, it's working. Unfortunately no one has been able to give me a solid reason for why their visitation is up. Three - there are a lot of new staff/volunteers this year. I don't mean summer students. I mean curators, directors, managers, board presidents, etc. This has made for some interesting discussions and questions. It has also meant that I've been helping museums come up with work plans and goals, and I'm very pleased to report that this is working well. I've visited two-thirds of advisory service museums and have almost all of the remaining
visits scheduled. I'm very pleased to say it looks like everything will be wrapped up by the end of August. I wasn't sure that was going to happen this year.

A visitor of the furry long-eared variety
Moose River Gold Mines
IMAC & Membership Renewal
Once again the illustrious chairperson of our peer Info Management & Access Committee kept things on track and moving at a decent pace for our conference call meeting. IMAC is very pleased to report that ANSM's funding application for NovaMuse and CollectiveAccess upgrades. I'm pretty excited about this since it means we'll be working through my wish list of system tweaks and website updates that will hopefully make things operate more smoothly, add some fun features, and generally make things easier to do.
Also, we need to remind you that it is membership renewal time. To make life easier we've combined the ANSM & Advisory Renewal into one form that outlines what you're signing up for. If you haven't already taken care of this, please do so asap. And since we've seen a bit of confusion, here are some tips:
1) Make sure your president and primary contact person sign the form. If you send it in with only one signature, we will get you to resubmit.
2) The cheque should be made out for $350. $50 covers your ANSM membership and $300 covers the Advisory Service. If you send a cheque for one or the other, we will have to chase you. We don't like chasing. We prefer cake eating.
3) If your board has questions about what's going on with the Advisory Service and how they get their money's worth, please review the cost analysis with them. That's the reason we include this table every year in the renewal package, so there's no doubt about return on your investment. If they have questions not covered in the package, please feel free to be in touch, but I'm feeling pretty confident that the renewal package covers off on most things.

Made in NS shipbuilder stencils
Shelburne County Museum

Collections Database Info
Database review work is still on hiatus until I get squeeze in some office/admin time. But as I mentioned above, people have been busy with database work of their own. Since it's renewal time, we actually ended up pulling 1300 records from NovaMuse when one of the smaller museums left the service, so that means even though other museums added 800 new artifact records in July, our numbers look like they've dropped. But, so many images were added that we're up by almost 1000 from last month, which is very exciting to see. I love seeing more artifact photos online as do our website visitors. I'm also looking forward to seeing some new contributors come on board. We're working with 4 museums that are preparing to step into CollectiveAccess and they have some really interesting and diverse collections. At least one of them will start contributing this year, and two are eagerly planning and working on being ready to step in next year.
So, as of today we are sitting pretty at 198,405 artifacts and 86,720 images on NovaMuse. Regionally, that means:
Southwest - 101,277 artifacts, 38,255 images
Central - 40,673 artifacts, 19,266 images
Northeast - 29,925 artifacts, 19,693 images
Cape Breton - 26,530 artifacts, 9,506 images

Congrats to the Northeast Region for adding the most records and to the Central Region for adding the most images this month!

I've decided to combine an image lesson with a database lesson this month. I've had a lot of people ask me how to handle photo or postcard albums. The really interesting stuff is of course inside the album, but oftentimes the album itself has some artistic merit, and you want to document it so you know which album you're looking for when you head into storage. And then of course there's the question of whether to treat the object as an artifact or archival holding. Decisions decisions. What to do. Well, luckily our handy dandy CollectiveAccess database can help with this problem. You can create a record for the album, and then in the little thumbnail box in the top left, you can add a new record underneath the album to show which postcards or photos are in that album. If you're pressed for time, create the album record and move on. Then when you have some time to digitize, have fun scanning each item in the album, giving each its own record underneath the original album record. Easy peasy. The only tricky part is to remember to go back to the original album record every time to put a new record underneath it. As you can see with this album, they scanned the cover as part of the overarching record required. Scanning is key here, and yes this was sort of an excuse to hammer home the point of scanning 2-dimensional items again...I know...I'm a broken record.

So that's all for now. Tune in next time for the summer site visit wrap-up and other random bits of info.

Monday, June 30, 2014

June 2014 Update

Odds and Ends
June was a very slow month, not because there weren't a million things to do, but because I disappeared for a couple weeks for family reasons. I'm still pondering and processing the experience, and as with any adventure I learned some interesting lessons (and witnessed some inspiring museum work) so will probably end up blogging about that in the near future. But I digress.
As many of you experienced, I spent my office time frantically emailing and scheduling site visits and trying to wrap up a number of tasks prior to my departure. Since I'm still suffering from "vacation brain", I won't even try to tell you what these tasks were.

WWII Helmet - safe - no padding
WWI Helmet with Asbestos padding
Important Artifact Safety
There's a lot of chatter about WWI right now and many exciting programs being rolled out by museums around the world. This is awesome. Artifacts are being taken out of storage that haven't seen the light of day in years. Museum staff are handling items that haven't been handled in years, and some of these items have been added to teaching collections so that visitors can handle them as well. This is all well and good, except that certain materials used in these military items are extremely hazardous. Asbestos is one of the biggest problems and it was used in gas masks and the lining of helmets. And unfortunately these are exactly the things that visitors would love to try on or get a closer look at. Do not let anyone wear these items!
One of the things I often mention in workshops and sometimes during site visits is that people are more important than any artifact. The last thing I want to hear about is someone getting sick from handling something they should have left bagged on a shelf. For some fantastic info on how to keep your staff, volunteers, and visitors safe when working with military collections, please visit this link. If you have any other questions about this, please send me an email or give me a call and I can provide further advice on how to address these items in your collection. Thanks to our friends at The Army Museum for the suggestion of issuing this warning and for providing the images of helmets so you know what to look for.

Site Visits
Although I should be in the thick of site visits now, I only managed to get to four sites this month. But that still represents 8 hours of driving and many more hours of chat time at museums. Thanks to the lovely folks I've seen so far. As ever, your hospitality and graciousness and openness remind me how lucky I am to have this job. As I mentioned last month, I'm actively scheduling the rest of the summer visits, so if you want to request a particular week (or have dates that really won't work for you), please let me know. Otherwise I'll just keep working on things in my own random order. I look forward to seeing everyone again and meeting the new kids on the museum block!

Collections Database Info
Since I've been running the roads I feel like this month's update is mostly about our database stats. With all the insanity and travel preparations I didn't get to do any database review work this month. I hate to fall behind like that, but such is life. I'm confident that we'll still finish the project on time (ok, hopefully ahead of schedule) and will keep picking away at the work when I find myself in the office.
Now for the fun stuff. It's obviously summer time because a lot more new info was added this month compared to last month. 977 new records and 1,358 new images were added in June. I love those big numbers! We now have 198,917 artifacts and 85,755 images. We're getting bigger and better all the time.

Here's the regional tally:
Southwest - 102,183 artifacts, 38,368 images
Central - 40,508 artifacts, 18,562 images
Northeast - 29,722 artifacts, 19,369 images
Cape Breton - 26,504 artifacts, 9,456 images

Congrats to the Southwest Region for adding the most records and images this month!

Since we are focusing more on our locally made items, I thought I'd pull one for this month's photography lesson. What's more maritime than a handmade wooden buoy? The colour in this image is very good, but there are a few improvements that could have been made to the background and the use of a scale, etc. But I'm going to focus on one particular issue. The label. Labels are ridiculously distracting in artifact images. Sometimes we want to use them when we are doing documentary photography for internal use (ie conservation photos), but when this is the image that we'll be broadcasting online to the world, we don't want any labels to appear. So please please please, remember to remove your tags and labels prior to photographing an artifact. If you don't, I will call you out on it, especially if your labels include the name of a donor (you really shouldn't do that anyway, so if I catch you we'll be having a much longer conversation).

As a reminder to everyone, since I'll be on the road for most of the summer there will be delays in answering messages and following up on requests. But as you are all aware, my "to do book" never leaves my side so I will get to you eventually. All for now. See you on the road :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tribute to Finn Bower

It is with a very heavy heart that I share the loss of a key player in Nova Scotia's heritage community; the inimitable Finn Bower. Finn was one of those people whose reputation preceded her. She was a founding member of the Southwest Nova Curator's Group and one of the longest-serving curators in a community museum. She attended as many workshops and conferences as possible so was very well-known. From what I'd heard she sounded like a giant rather than a petite soft-spoken lady.

I met Finn three months into my work with ANSM, when the Shelburne County Museum hosted one of my Collections Enrichment workshops. We had talked on the phone and by email a bit to figure out logistics, and by the time I actually got to Shelburne Finn made me feel like we'd been friends for years. Maybe it was because she had been at the museum for so long or maybe it was just her personality, or maybe a little of both, but it really felt like she was welcoming me into her home rather than her workplace.

I sometimes wondered if we would be at odds over digitization work, but I needn't have worried. Finn was of the generation of ledgers and paperwork, spending her time handwriting beautiful records that often included little sketches of the artifacts. The care and detail that she would put into her documentation was impressive. She would freely admit that she wasn't very comfortable with computers or digital cameras, but she always paid close attention when I would visit and show her the latest database changes or digitization techniques. She absolutely understood their importance and that we were opening some wonderful new doors to community engagement and online activities. So she championed other museum staff to become the experts in these areas. She knew the content, and they knew how to get it digital. She welcomed assistance and was always ready to participate in a special project. She thrived on opportunities to learn and improve things at the museum.

I sneakily scheduled my 2011 site visit to coincide with her final days on the job, and spent my time wandering the buildings with her, picking her brain. The knowledge she had of her community, and specifically the museum collection, was amazing. The pride she took in her work was unmistakeable. She could tell you where every artifact came from and why it was important; what story it told. She could tell you about every research request she'd received, and about visitors who left an impression for one reason or another. She was not only willing to spend time with visitors and answer their questions, but it was obviously a sincere joy for her to do so. It's no wonder she left such an impression with authors, researchers, and tourists alike. Her memory was impressive. Not only could she explain why something in the museum was done a certain way, she could tell you at which workshop she learned the techniques, even if it had been 20 years since she attended that particular workshop. I know that what she shared with me was just a tiny drop in the bucket of her knowledge, but spending those few hours with her and hearing her explanations had the director and I writing pages and pages of notes.

The high esteem in which she was held was very obvious at Finn's surprise retirement party. Over 40 people attended and even more sent regrets and best wishes. The Shelburne Historical Society presented Finn with a parting gift of a lovely bench for her garden. She was clearly thrilled and overwhelmed by it all. She told me that they had done too good a job keeping the party a secret; that a staff lunch the day before was all that she had been expecting. Thinking back to that conversation and the respect that was expressed at this party, it is no wonder that similar sentiments have been expressed since her passing. People have remarked on the same things; her impressive intellect, wonderful warmth, and nurturing nature.

After her retirement party I mused that Finn was the Shelburne County Museum and I couldn't imagine it without her. As with all things, life goes on and the museum has of course continued with its work. But whenever I visit Shelburne it feels like Finn is still there. I still expect her to come around every corner and greet me in her lovely melodic voice, to tell me about the latest exciting donation, fascinating research request, or interesting visitor. Her 31 years of curating can be seen and felt in every room in every building. She has left an indelible mark and a great void. She will be greatly missed.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 2014 Update

Site Visit Season
It's that time of year again. I'm starting to hit the road and live out of a suitcase. This month I visited 5 museums. These guys had some pretty specific reasons for my early visits; reviewing textile storage & recommending some simple upgrades, coming up with a game plan for the summer staff that would help to sort out of a variety of collections & database issues, etc etc. I also have a site visit agenda to cover with everyone. This year we'll be looking at new database features that will help you with on-site staff/volunteer training and let you link to our Made in NS database. We'll chat about the database review work I've been doing and what trends or issues or questions were raised. And of course we'll chat about what's coming up next and how museums can take advantage of a little extra help with their baskets and industrial objects. This ties in with our new Made in NS feature on NovaMuse; we want to spend more time focusing on locally made items. I'm looking for information on local artists or manufacturers, and am hoping to dig up some helpful resources while traveling the province. I'm also taking a nostalgic look back at what was on last year's agenda to make sure those items have been taken care of by each museum. For instance, if you still haven't bought Nomenclature 3.0, now is the time!! After I spent the past year updating records to this new standard, the last thing I want to see is someone not following it.
It's a pretty big juggling act to get to 55 museums across an entire province in only a few months. So please keep an eye on your email inbox as I'm actively scheduling right now.

Windows XP, Old Browsers, and TechSoup
Since CollectiveAccess is a current, web-based database, it's really important that your computer is also up-to-date. Our lovely friends at Whirl-i-gig work very hard to make sure the database works in the latest versions of browsers, whether Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Safari. We would have many many more headaches if they didn't make sure things were up-to-date. So if you use CollectiveAccess it's really important to make sure you have the most recent release of whichever browser you like best.
If you have Windows XP on any of the museum computers, you absolutely need to upgrade these to at least Windows 7. If you don't, not only will you have major security holes, but you won't be able to update Internet Explorer. I know this can be frustrating and expensive, but there's a very cheap way for you to handle this. TechSoupCanada is an amazing website that lets registered non-profits purchase software at extremely discounted rates. So rather than paying hundreds of dollars for your computer upgrade, if you do it through TechSoup you'll only be paying in the tens of dollars.
from techsoupcanada.ca
Reviewing these issues is also on my site visit agenda, so if you have questions or want to talk about it before trying to figure it all out, I can help on-site.

Odds and Ends
I mentioned last month that we always have lots on the go and yet keep coming up with even more ideas and things to do. This month was no exception, but it also felt like it went so fast that we didn't have a chance to cross anything major off the to do list. The usual running around to meetings was cut short due to site visit travels, but I still had several meetings with the Council of NS Archives. Since I sit on their Education Committee there was a lot of planning for their annual conference, which wrapped up yesterday. It went well, and the panel I participated in on the subject of social media brought many great questions from attendees. I also created a new Pinterest board in honour of the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival which was a lot of fun. You can check that out here. The only task that springs to mind is that I did manage to write another book review of something in our reference library; Starting Right: a Basic Guide to Museum Planning.

Collections Database Info

It's official. I'm on the home stretch of database review. This month I got through 4,155 records from two sites, and now there are only 7 databases left to go. This is really exciting since I started the review work last January. It's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to this process we now have 36,380 artifacts georeferenced and 2,547 Made in NS links, and I suspect we're in for a very productive summer at all the museums. 317 records and 519 images were added this month which means we now have 197,940 artifacts and 84,397 images. It won't be long until another milestone is reached...

Here's the regional tally:
Southwest - 101,848 artifacts, 37,565 images
Central - 40,299 artifacts, 18,180 images
Northeast - 29,573 artifacts, 19,196 images
Cape Breton - 26,220 artifacts, 9,456 images

Congrats to the Central Region for adding the most records and to the Southwest Region for adding the most images again this month!

Since we'll be focusing more this year on locally made artifacts, especially baskets and industrial items, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at basket photography. When our expert friends are browsing through NovaMuse looking to give us tips on artifacts, they need to be able to see a lot of detail. So this means taking multiple shots of high quality. For baskets, we want to document how they were woven, how handles & rims were attached to the body, and whether or not any extra reinforcements were added to the bottom. So here's a nice example of your overall 3-dimensional view. We can see inside a little bit, we can see the weave and understand the shape of the basket. And a nice contrasting backdrop was used so that the basket really pops. No distractions or confusion about what we're looking at. Your detail shots of this one would be a close-up of the little bar running up the side, the weaving of the rim, a look straight down into the basket, and then one of its bottom.

All for now. I wonder what excitement June will bring...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review - Starting Right, 3rd edition

Back to the ANSM reference library we go.
You aren't seeing double or experiencing deja vu, I have reviewed this book before. But that was the 2nd edition. This is the 3rd edition. This doesn't mean that I've run out of books to read or review. I'm still on the first shelf of our library. But when we added this one to the collection I was curious to see how different it would be. Would obvious changes have been made? Would it address all the technological aspects that were missing in the previous editions? That sounds like a lot of information to add, and this book isn't any longer than the 2nd edition.

When I read the 2nd edition I was struck by the great questions the authors were telling people to ask themselves. They didn't just want you to figure out if you're ready for a museum, the questions probed deep to determine motivations, feasibility of goals, and whether or not the ideas were sustainable. It asked how you would handle difficult situations and adapt to changing circumstances.

What struck me most with this 3rd edition was the prominence of partnerships and talking to others - that the first step was to reach out. This was definitely part of the earlier edition, but this time it seemed to be on every page. Talk to neighbouring museums. Talk to your provincial, territorial or state museum association. Talk to the national association. Talk to people who work and volunteer in museums. But not only do we need to be talking to each other, we need to be brutally honest about our past struggles and current realities. Smiling and nodding and telling someone that starting a new museum is a great idea doesn't necessarily mean you're being supportive. You might be causing more harm than good.

The other thing that struck me was the vast number of additional resources. The authors went out of their way to point people to more information on a given subject. There are pages and pages of books, organizations and websites that support the work of museums. Part IV of the book is full of sample documents - organizational chart, by-laws, job description, gift agreement, etc. This section wasn't so interesting to me since we have most of these available on our website. But to other readers I'm sure these are very helpful documents that serve to bring some of the other information together.

The book flows very logically; asking the big questions: what makes a good museum, how can you finance it, and where can you get help? If this doesn't scare you away from museum life, the second part gets into the "nuts and bolts" of operations; how to get organized, plan activities, recruit workers and make it all work together. Let's pause for a moment to talk about recruitment. This is one of my pet peeves. According to this book an organization needs to budget decent wages for staff and have a solid understanding of how they need to advertise the position. But all too often we hear about people being hired with no experience or training in museums, and the job was not advertised appropriately. Having been formally trained and knowing how many classmates struggle to find work, this drives me nuts. The people are there and willing. We just have to have realistic expectations and send the job posting far and wide.
Ok, rant finished. The third part of the book is themed "alternatives". If, as you were reading through, you started to realize just how much work, specialized knowledge, and resources go into operating a museum, and decided that maybe a museum wasn't such a great idea after, that's a-okay. This is the part of the book that will help you look at alternative options. Maybe it's joining forces with an existing group, maybe it's writing a book or developing a website that addresses a niche theme. The possibilities are endless. A museum is just one possibility, and it isn't any more special or valid than the others. It's all about finding the right fit.

As I mentioned in my last review of this book, it isn't just something for people to read when you're thinking about starting a museum. This is the kind of book and these are the kinds of questions that we should be asking ourselves on a regular basis. We need to be giving ourselves a reality check every few years or when there is a major change in the organization. If you want to read my review of the 2nd edition, click here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Made in Nova Scotia

I realized I've been mentioning our "manufacturers database" a fair bit lately, but have never really gone into detail about the work. So I thought it might be time to do that.

When this research project started in the early 1990s I was far too busy playing with Barbies to wonder what was going on in museums. Unbeknownst to me and Skipper, people across Nova Scotia were working very hard to gain a better picture of our industrial heritage. Fast forward to 2006 and we started gathering these research materials about people and companies that were creating material goods in Nova Scotia. "Industry binders" for 6 counties were uncovered: Annapolis, Cape Breton, Cumberland, Hants, Kings and Yarmouth. Another one for the city of Dartmouth was found and added to the mix. The largest body of information came from the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, the instigator of the 1990s research project, and included information on businesses across the province. The earliest entries date back to the 17th century. I can't speak to the decisions around including some businesses and not others. Given the scope of the work, I can only imagine the headaches and tedium of reviewing trade directories, phone books, maps, artifacts...it seems a never-ending task. It is extremely difficult to gather all the necessary resources for a comprehensive body of knowledge, and this difficulty would have been multiplied in the 1990s, before such online resources as the important Canadian Directories: Who Was Where.

So, once we got our hands on all those paper files we started the data entry. It was a long process since most of the records were photocopies of handwritten files. There is a reason your mother always said to write clearly (or was that just my mom?). Anyway, we deciphered and entered these thousands of records into a very basic MS Access database that my predecessor built for the job. When we switched over to CollectiveAccess, our new friend Seth migrated this as well. And there it sat for awhile. I'd get random requests for info since our members have known about the resource, but they still couldn't access it themselves. Then we launched NovaMuse.ca and realized that it was the perfect host for the industrial information. Not only could people learn about these businesses, but we could link them to museum collections across the province. Perfect! I'll skip the details of how we made this happen, but it took about a year to finesse everything.

Just prior to its launch, we realized that we had to address the name issue. Sometimes we'd been calling this the industries database, other times the manufacturers database, but we always had to tag on a disclaimer that this name was a misnomer due to the variety of businesses and companies included, local artisans to large factories etc etc. We needed a quick term to use for the browse button that said this without sounding neurotic. So we settled on "Made in Nova Scotia". This shouldn't have been such a debate, especially since we spent a number of years researching locally made items.
This new browse basically adds another layer to NovaMuse. When you click on it, you get some more options to help you find who or what you're looking for. Interested in your town? Operations from a certain time period? Or maybe you want to check and see if great great grandpa Bob's cooperage is listed. If one of the museums has something related to Bob's cooperage, you can easily navigate from the business profile to the object.

As we've worked through the reconciliation of collections databases with the 7300+ business profiles, we have found that there are a lot of holes. On the one hand we've been finding a lot of physical evidence of people and companies that aren't included in the resource - newspaper advertisements, objects that are stamped with the name of their manufacturer, photographs of factories, etc. As you can imagine, it is very frustrating to not be able to link these items. On the other hand, there are currently 7000 businesses that have no physical evidence in museum collections. Granted we still have a lot of artifact & archival records to review, but it's pretty clear that we won't ever match up 100% of the businesses.

This speaks to the larger issue of collections development. As we continue to develop NovaMuse, we are gaining a better and better picture of Nova Scotia's material culture. We can see what we have preserved well, and what we are missing in museum collections. We all have limited space and limited resources. We have to be more cautious than ever in our collecting habits, and what better way to do that than by thinking local?

So check it out. Share it with your friends. If you see someone you know, if we've missed a detail about a company or if you have information you'd like to add, let us know! And check back regularly because this is an active work in progress.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 2014 update

Oh the April shenanigans!! I don't know about you, but once the Easter long weekend hit, I was ready for two of them. Things are definitely gearing up for the summer season.

Odds and Ends and lots of Meetings
We've been doing a lot of meeting and scheming this month, trying to get a handle on the many projects on the go and keep things moving forward. Some days it feels like we're off like a herd of turtles and other days it feels like we're moving at warp speed. But as I was proofreading my proposal for a conference session this morning I once again realized that we actually accomplish a lot. Sometimes it's the culmination of years of research and planning, and other times it's a pretty quick process, but we do a lot of work with very limited resources. This month we've had meetings with the Council of Nova Scotia Archives and the Nova Scotia Museum about partnership opportunities (fingers crossed that some exciting news is in our future). I've started the process of bringing a new member into CollectiveAccess and NovaMuse (it will be a long process but we're pretty excited about the new addition to the family). I've also started scheduling my summer site visits and compiling my list of things to address on-site. In less exciting news, I've discovered that when I cross something off my to do list, 3 more things get added to it.

ANSM Workshops
I was getting a little nervous about our Museums 101 workshop in Port Hastings. There were three car accidents while we were there, which didn't seem to bode well. Fortunately we stayed safe and very well-fed inside the museum, and our hotels didn't run out of food even though there was a hockey tournament in town. Can those boys eat!! But I digress. We had a great group of people for the workshop, coming from 11 very different organizations. The diversity in roles, number of years in the field, etc., made for great discussions and everyone seemed to have a good time. At least that's what they told me on their evaluation forms. This workshop is sort of a tricky one because it's meant to get your feet wet in the museum world. We cover a wide range of topics and try to expand your understanding of modern museums. We ended up with a waiting list for this one, so if you missed it or if you know someone who should or wants to take it, we will be offering it again next year. In typical ANSM fashion we were armed with cameras but forgot to take pictures. Thankfully Anita thought it was funny that my outfit matched the ethics guide, so we do have a bit of proof that this workshop actually happened.
Next up is Museum Management & Governance, which is also full with a waiting list. In the fall we'll be having Dr. Candace Matelic return to deliver Museums & Community and we're partnering with CNSA to bring CCI in to talk about Pest Management. Registration will open sometime in the summer, so watch for those Beacon newsletters. It came out at the last workshop that some people have trouble getting the Beacon because of their government email addresses. Since we share so much valuable info about funding programs, registration deadlines, and other great stuff, you might want to consider signing up with a personal email account to make sure you don't miss out.

Fleming College Assignment
I've received the final site reports from this project which means the next step is to review & ship them off to the 12 participating museums. I had a debrief session with Deb at Fleming and she said that the students once again really enjoyed the assignment and gave her some good ideas on how to improve it for next year. That's right, no rest for the wicked. We're planning next year already. As I mentioned last time, if you haven't yet participated in one of these projects, there's a good chance that you'll be next on the list. I'll be chatting with people during site visits about this work, so if you have any questions on the subject, we will address them then.

Collections Database Info
I've definitely hit the wall with database review work. With workshop preparation & delivery, meetings, and the long weekend, I lost a fair bit of database time. This month I worked exclusively in one system, reviewing 3800 records. Part of what slowed me down was the ability to map so many records (awesome!). This is the slowest part of the process but will be a great boost to our overall stats and map offerings once we unleash that feature. I was also able to connect another 110 artifacts with local manufacturers which is really exciting. Our new Made in NS feature has been well received and we're enjoying watching it grow. There are still a lot of collections to reconcile with it, and a lot of questions to answer, but it's going well and we think we've worked the few bugs out of the system (knock on wood). It's only been online for a month and a half but we've already got 2,484 connections between businesses and artifacts!
You can also tell that museums are in summer prep mode, but we saw a nice number of new records and images get added to the systems. 232 new records and  899 images were added this month, giving us new grand totals of 197,623 artifacts and 83,878 images.

Here's the regional tally:
Southwest - 101,720 artifacts, 37,307 images
Central - 40,146 artifacts, 17,935 images
Northeast - 29,566 artifacts, 19,180 images
Cape Breton - 26,191 artifacts, 9,456 images

Congrats again to the Central Region for adding the most records and images again this month!

It's been awhile since I've done an image of the month, so let's finish this post off with a review of some basic rules. When dealing with really large objects, you don't have to follow the exact same rules of backdrops and scales. What you should do though, is isolate the object. So rather than look at a great example, let's look at how we could improve the set-up of this image. Firstly, let's remove everything from the table. Goodbye books, runner, sewing machine or whatever is sitting on top. Looking through the camera lens should only show the table and no other objects. Where the wallpaper is patterned, you might want to hang or have someone hold a backdrop fabric to provide a more even background. Your floor and backdrop won't be the same colour, but your eye won't be distracted by the lines and flowers in the wallpaper. Make sure you include the entire table in the frame rather than having the top and bottom edges cut off. I would also take a number of additional photos - side view, detail shot of the hardware, one with the drawer open, etc.

Ok, time to get back to some database work now. Happy end of April everyone, and here's hoping the snow stops soon.