Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 2016 Update

Museums & Security Symposium (and our AGM)
We had a great time in Tatamagouche for our first ever Museums & Security Symposium. It was a jam-packed day, and in case you missed all the tweeting and Facebook posts, you can read Heather's blog recap here.

If you're wondering who Heather is, you can read her intro here.

Museum Evaluation Program
May kicked off with a bang since the 6th was the deadline to submit documents & information for the pre-evaluation review. It was kind of exciting to see all the uploads taking place, even with the mad dash to the finish/deadline. Sincere kudos to everyone who put in so much work to prep the documents and answer the questions, and kudos as preparations shift to focus on the site evaluations in July.
So what's happening now and next? Right now all those documentation packages that were submitted are being reviewed. As you can imagine, this is a lot of reading. These questions are being graded and we will then pull out various highlights as briefing notes for the evaluation teams. We have also started working on the travel arrangements for the teams. We're going to have a lot of people running around the province in July, and they'll need places to stay, cars to drive, and meals to eat.
If you are a CMAP museum and haven't confirmed your site evaluation visit date yet, please do so asap.
The other exciting thing to report in this program is that we are officially evaluating the Nova Scotia Museum sites in 2017. We were at the all sites meeting last Friday and got to share a quick overview of the program and process with the directors of these sites, and will be conducting orientation sessions this fall (just like we did with the CMAP museums last fall). It's exciting to see the evaluation program grow and develop and be embraced by the museum community as a whole.

Site Visits
The annual site visit ritual kicked off this morning with a meeting at Scott Manor House in Bedford. I will be playing a much smaller role in visits this year because of the Evaluation Program. It will be very weird not to make all of my usual visits, but we will be bringing someone in to take on this task, and you'll be in good hands. We're still building the site visit agenda, but one of the things in our list is #ProjectVicky. Similar to our focus on First World War era artifacts last year, we'll be focusing on the digitization of Victorian era artifacts this summer, but with the twist of broadcasting our progress via social media (hence the hashtag). Feel free to play along. Heather has been compiling lists of relevant items for each museum and figures that on average there are about 50-75 items at each site that still need to have their photo taken. This gives us lots of stuff to work with, and will tie in nicely with Canada 150. We'll share more details as they develop, but all that work we've been doing on dating artifacts and adding details to records is definitely paying off. Exciting times ahead :)

SME Projects
Joleen & Heather reviewing
baskets on NovaMuse
Remember a couple years ago when I was pushing digitization of baskets because we were going to partner with some experts and get them to teach us more about the baskets in our collections? Well, it's happening. Our SME (subject matter expert) is none other than Joleen Gordon, THE basketry expert of Nova Scotia and a research associate of the Nova Scotia Museum. Heather did a scan of the databases for baskets with images and came up with over 270! The beauty of NovaMuse is that we could turn these results into a tidy document for Joleen, allowing her to review them and make a few notes. She spent the morning at our office on Friday and was able to read all sorts of details about materials, culture, and other descriptive info from the images and limited info in the existing records. Joleen is eager to continue with the work and will be meeting again with Heather to review more, and Heather is developing little reports for the museums whose basket records can be enriched. No changes will be made to the records until the museums approve these reports.
We have two other SME projects on the go right now, both with a military slant to them. Thanks to our friends at The Army Museum and the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum who are each reviewing some items from their areas of expertise. We don't have timelines linked to these projects but are looking forward to learning more about these items in our collections. As you can imagine, the possibilities for SME work are practically endless, but very dependent on good quality images in the database. It's pretty satisfying to be a point where we can start to dip our toe into this work.

Made in Nova Scotia 
This rainy day project has gone from back to front burner more times than I care to remember, but I'm pleased to say that Heather is picking away at this among her various internship tasks. She's picking up where our recent NSM volunteer left off, reconciling former curator George MacLaren's research notes on furniture making in the province with the Made in NS database. Pictou county is in the works right now, and while sometimes we have little more than a name and location, we're building a solid foundation and actively pursuing opportunities to enhance this resource.

Collections Database Info
We updated the database to the latest version and as expected, a few bugs appeared. We have most of them out of the system and will making a number of other tweaks in the near future. Database work continues to be steady, with lots of inventories happening in preparation of the July site evaluations. As I mentioned above, it seems that we have reached a threshold with this work, and are doing more enrichment work now than data entry backlog work. Fantastic! But since we always like to talk about what's new (a little ironic working in heritage don't you think?), 309 new records and 749 images were added to the systems this month, giving us new grand totals of 223,252 records and 109,798 images. Looks like we'll be cracking the 225k and 110k marks really soon.

Here's the regional breakdown:
Southwest - 120,799 artifacts, 50,218 images
Central - 42,970 artifacts, 26,830 images
Northeast - 31,073 artifacts, 21,833 images
Cape Breton - 28,410 artifacts, 10,917 images

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

Our image of month for May, is fittingly, a bread basket! Also known as a "brot korb", this basket was used for raising bread dough (hence the residue). This is one of the baskets whose record Joleen could add more info. This is a great image because there aren't harsh shadows, the backdrop is free of wrinkles, the scale is nice and straight in the bottom left corner, and you can see a lot of details in the basket itself. One of the things Joleen pointed out about baskets is that it's important to be able to see the inside and how the basket was started. You can tell a lot about a basket by seeing how it all began so be sure to keep that in mind the next time you're photographing baskets. Clear, focused detail shots and different angles of the basket are important as well because it's easier to tell what the basket is made of or how it was woven.

That's all for this month. Have a fantastic week!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Museums & Security Symposium

Instead of hosting a full conference this year, we paired our AGM with a one day symposium on Museums & Security. Held at the Grace Jollymore Joyce Arts Centre in Tatamagouche the day was jam-packed full of great insights and knowledge from experts about how to keep museums and collections safe and secure.

Sgt. McLean & Const. Morgan with items stolen by Tillmann.
Image from the Globe & Mail
The day began with a presentation by Constable Darryl Morgan of the RCMP regarding his work on the John Tillman case. Although most people in the room were quite familiar with the the case, it was riveting to hear some of the details we could only get from Constable Morgan. We were urged to not believe Tillman's assertions of disguises and great escapades, and Morgan raised some important points about how museums can better keep their artifacts safer. He noted that having up-to-date videos and photos of artifacts on display and documenting their exact locations is extremely useful in determining if anything has gone missing or been misplaced. Having a collection digitized is absolutely critical in the event of a theft. He also recommended having two people on staff when visitors are present (at least one person near the door and another being a docent or in various rooms where visitors are). Video surveillance and making note of any suspicious people or behaviour (physical description, license plate numbers, date and time of visit) are also key. Already so much great information and this was just the first presentation!

The RCMP presence carried on with a talk by the Tech Crime Unit about the everyday dangers of using email or the web, and what we can all do to prevent viruses or becoming a victim of phishing scams. The key is prevention, including regular virus scanning (there are many free and reliable options out there) and firewalls. They made it very clear that it’s important not to open any emails or attachments that seem suspicious. In the museum world this can be difficult, so if an email is opened and you’re not sure what if it's legitimate or not, don't click on any links as they could open the door for viruses and hackers to do some serious damage to your system. 

Tom LeBlanc from the Department of Labour discussed the importance and necessities of being safe while on the job, good ol' OH&S. It is irrelevant whether you are a paid employee or a volunteer – it’s crucial to have adequate training and know all safety procedures. Most importantly, if you are unsure of anything at all, ask! Asking a question that can save you a lot of headaches and confusion in the future is more than worth it.
Rodney & Linda

After a great lunch and having the opportunity to pop over to the Margaret Fawcett Norrie 
Heritage Centre, we were back at it with ANSM’s Annual General Meeting. Thanks to outgoing board member Linda Rafuse for her wonderful service, and welcome to Marla Webber. We look forward to working more closely with her. Our President Rodney pointed out how busy our little organization is, and warned that we'll be looking for feedback on conferences and our AGM in the near future. We want to make sure we're meeting our members' needs. 

Tanya Sieliakus of HR-Pros presented the important basics of using best human resource management practices to stay free of legal problems. Her points were extremely relevant not only for staying out of any potential trouble, but also exemplified generally good human resource practices which should be a staple in any institution, large or small. She made it clear that happy employees are productive and safe, while unhappy employees will do the bare minimum and get into accidents more often, so having a hold on best HR practices is crucial to a happy, safe and productive group of employees or volunteers. She also stressed the point that if something isn’t written down or documented, then it didn’t happen. “Bullet-proof documentation,” as Tanya referred to it, can keep museums away from time-consuming problems and a ruined reputation.

Tying into this topic was a presentation by lawyer Richard Bridge, touching on the topic of risk management for charities and not-for-profit organizations (two terms which he noted, while often used interchangeably, are definitely different). The basis of successful risk management is rooted in good governance and management. He pointed out some governance risks which can include, but are not limited to, an unskilled, inattentive or otherwise lacking board of directors, challenges of conflicts of interest, and poor relations with others in the community or organization. Operational risks included inadequate or lack of supervision, training, and record keeping practices. Again, the key here as always is having the right information in order to prevent the worst from happening. 

Kellie talking all things disaster planning

To finish off this busy day was a great presentation by Kellie McIvor of McIvor Conservation all about disaster planning and implementation. She stressed the importance of tailoring disaster plans specifically to sites, as each one is different and therefore the emergency needs are different as well. It is vital to identify and lessen the unique risks of your site, which can be especially easy if a checklist (Kellie loves checklists!) of potential hazards and their likeliness of occurrence is completed, at least to get a start and a general idea of the sorts of risks you are likely to face. Kellie broke down the the fundamentals of a good disaster plan, which include all site and employee contact information, prevention, protocols for response and recovery, supplies and services, and finally policies and procedures. Though none of us want to think of a disaster happening at our sites, it is far better to be prepared just in case. Better safe than sorry!

When the day was all over a warm thank you was given to our gracious hosts at the Arts Centre and we were off in a whirlwind back to Halifax. What a day!


Monday, May 9, 2016

Introducing Ms. McCorquodale

Hello all! My name is Heather McCorquodale and I will be completing my internship at the Association of Nova Scotia Museums this summer as a requirement for the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College. I’m very excited to be here for the next few months as the ANSM has lots of great things on the go!

I’m originally from Prince Edward County, Ontario, which is now a bit of a tourist attraction but was (and mostly still is) very rural and quiet when I was growing up. This meant lots of time spent in the woods around our house and making art projects all the time. Growing up I had a grandmother and uncle just outside of Hamilton, who we would visit during the summer and at Christmas, and it was on these trips that my parents took my sister and I to all kinds of museums and heritage sites. After high school I decided to take Digital Photography at Durham College, and between my two years there I worked at a small museum called The Wellington Heritage Museum in Wellington, Ontario. I had a wonderful experience there as a summer student and was able to get a lot of great exposure to all the goings-on of a small museum.

There was an intern from the Museum Management and Curatorship program at the museum at the time so, in a way, she had taught me the basics of what the program I would decide to take two years later would offer. At this museum I also had the chance to combine my photographic and digital knowledge with artifacts as I was tasked with digitizing much of their canning label collection. I found it to be a lot of fun, being able to connect with parts of history while using technology and the skills I had learned at school to my advantage. A year after finishing the program at Durham, I decided to take the program at Fleming and here I am now.

Having never travelled outside Ontario before, I’m really excited to take in these new surroundings and new experiences. Halifax and the rest of the east coast seem to be amazing, filled with lots of history and fun things to see, and I know I’m in great hands at the ANSM. I’m looking forward to being able to experience a bit of the museum world and hopefully meet lots of amazing people!