Friday, March 31, 2017

March 2017 Update

Meetings Etc.
We had a lot of committee meetings this month. As you may have noticed by now, the CNSA's Education Committee meets on a monthly basis, and is gearing up even more for the annual conference in May. In other committee news...

ETT - Our Education & Training Task Force met to talk about conference survey results (Fall symposium it is!), upcoming workshops, and other fun stuff about our professional development offerings. In exciting news, we were successful in our application for the CCI workshop on Disaster Planning, and it is now scheduled to take place on November 8-9th in Halifax.

MEP - the Museum Evaluation Program Steering Committee also met this month, and selected this year's team of evaluators. We're excited to have some returnees from last year, as well as some new faces. And they've all expressed how much they're looking forward to the evaluation work.

IMAC - While the Information Management & Access Committee didn't meet this month, they are keeping busy as they've just embarked on a website review to get ideas and inspiration for NovaMuse's next big upgrade. Committee members are reviewing two online collections sites each, and making lots of notes about their likes and dislikes. If any of you have ideas for new features or improvements to NovaMuse, please let us know. We want to have a nice big wish list at the end of the review process.

Museum Evaluation Program
In addition to committee meetings and forming up the evaluation teams, there is a lot on the go with the MEP. In terms of this year's evaluations, questions are pouring in from museums, which means lots of tips & answers to questions are circulating, and we've just opened online submissions for documentation review. Mid-March was the deadline for museums to submit blackout dates for their site evaluations, so that means that next up is the development of the site evaluation schedule. This is either a major juggling act or work of art, depending on who you talk to. Lots of drawing is involved, so I guess there is that.
We are also working on evolving the program into the Accreditation Program, which means guiding documents are being developed to address eligibility, the application process, the appeals process, and benefits of the program. We're in the final stages of developing the implementation timeline and will be updating our website with new info over the next few months. Stay tuned for more info.

CollectiveAccess & NovaMuse
We had one of those rare months where a number of records were deleted from databases, as museums are actively working on winter data clean-up projects. Some are inventorying and adjusting storage locations, some are identifying and deleting duplicate records, and others are updating old entries with new information. It's all great work; great to see our collections information being enhanced. With all the ups and downs, we now collectively have 285,894 artifacts and 136,187 images in CollectiveAccess. Wouldn't it be great if those two numbers started to converge and we had images for everything? I would love to see that, and I'm sure our online NovaMuse community would as well.

Here's the regional breakdown:
Southwest - 124,425 artifacts, 56,287 images
Central - 99,138 artifacts, 39,715 images
Northeast - 32,935 artifacts, 26,412 images
Cape Breton - 29,396 artifacts, 13,773 images

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

In fun NovaMuse news, this September will be its 5th birthday and we are looking for ideas on how to celebrate! We're brainstorming here at ANSM, and we want you to brainstorm too! Email us your ideas. Let's see if we can come up with something really fun and engaging.

Made in Nova Scotia
Sandi and I continue to pick away at the Made in NS database. I'm still working on that epic silversmiths book by Donald Mackay, and Sandi has just started in on Deb Trask's book on gravestone and other carvers of Nova Scotia. We've now got 7,932 entries in Made in NS, so please, please please don't forget to use this field in your database. With all the additions we've been making, it is more and more likely that you can link your locally made artifacts to an artisan's or company's profile. We have big plans for this feature for our NovaMuse upgrades, but we've got to have the artifacts linked in order for this to work.
Also, if you have any local resources that would help us enhance the database, please let us know. We're working through our little stockpile, but we're always happy to add to it. Right now we are particularly thinking about shipbuilding and other marine-related businesses.

Fleming Project
The students wrapped up phase 1 of their assignment at the end of February, but have gone back to make a few more adjustments in some of the records. This means that 270 of our collections records got proofread and corrected. Isn't that great? It can be hard to find the time to go back and review one record, let along 270. Huge kudos to the class on their hard work. They are now busy in phase 2 of their assignment - selecting two items from the ten on their list and doing some extra research to enhance the record. It's still early days but we're looking forward to hearing about the students' discoveries.
As a friendly reminder, having good images is critical for the success of this project, and is critical in general. So keep up the digitization work, but be sure to take your time and get the best images possible.

Let's take one of the items from this project for our image lesson of the month. Here we have a penny,
a little, flat object. If you look in the museum's database, there are 4 images of it. How come so many? Because there are 2 with scales (the obverse and reverse), and then two without the scale. Since the scale can be distracting in such close-up shots, we left those images as "not accessible" in the database, and only published the photos without scales on NovaMuse. A couple things to notice about this shot - notice how centred the coin is and how uniform the contrasting backdrop is. The camera was set to macro (the little flower) in order to get improved focus. Never shoot detail shots without using macro.

#150 Touchstones
And last but not least, we're very excited to announce that #150Touchstones has returned! During the second phase, we are asking students studying Grade 11 Canadian History to select artifacts that they feel speak to Nova Scotia's role in the evolution of Canada. Each participating class will vote for their top artifacts on NovaMuse, creating a list of their personal favourites, and then voting as a class on their top 30 artifacts. Once this is done, we will be creating a virtual exhibit of the selected #150Touchstones and do some interactive storytelling about the items. It's going to be fun!

Looking ahead to April & May, it is regional meeting time again. I hope to see you all at your respective meetings. Lots of other news to share and discuss.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review - Guidelines: Roles and Responsibilities of Museum Boards of Trustees

If you hadn't figured it out yet, I've been going back to basics for my recent book reviews. We saw a real need for this in last year's museum evaluations, so sharing insights from our reference library is an easy way to address the issue.

So today's resource is another look at the foundations of museum work - governance. In 2005 the Canadian Museums Association partnered with the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization on a project sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage. They created a simple outline that anyone can follow, with the goal of making sure board members and staff "have a strong, common understanding of the roles and responsibilities of museum trustees." One of the reasons behind the resource is the increased public expectations of transparency and accountability. I think we'll all agree that without a clear understanding of your job as a board member, accountability could be a little elusive at times.

There are 4 main sections to this booklet: Public Trust, Responsibilities of the Board, Board Self-Governance, and Board Conduct. And there is also the standard introduction, additional resources, and a review of the two common board types.

I think it is important that the role of public trust is highlighted in its own little section, and that it is the first section. The authors remind us that the board's public accountability isn't just the right thing to do, but that by law, boards are publicly accountable for the museum's resources, activities, care of the collection, adherence to professional standards, and for ensuring public access.

Section 2 is all about the responsibilities of the board, and is broken down into four basic pieces - purpose, continuity, progress and identity. Very direct statements are made about what should and should not be done in each area. Some of my favourite tidbits are:
- the board should regular review the by-laws and constitution to make sure they are relevant to the museum's evolving role in society (a subtle reminder that the museum should always be growing and changing)
- former staff shouldn't be on the board for at least a few years after they leave the museum's employ, and board members should not be hired as staff
- the board develops and implements framework, operational, and advocacy policies, and monitors progress
- the board has established a long-range plan with clear objectives and outcomes, ensures that resources are available to achieve these goals, and monitors progress (I'm starting to sense a recurring theme)
- the board engages in fundraising activities. Period.
- the board must serve as a link between the community and the museum, bring community concerns and ideas to the museum and be an ambassador for the museum
- the board should be involved in discussions and activities with the broader heritage community (ie don't be insular)

Part 3 has the scary title of "Self-Governance". Cue the menacing movie music. Time and again we hear from museums that struggle in this area, especially in terms of assessing progress. If you went through the Museum Evaluation Program process last year, or are working through it this year, this stuff will sound very familiar. Recommendations include having clear bylaws, requiring quorum for meetings and decision-making, the chair playing a lead role, having job descriptions for board members, and having terms of reference for committees. One of my favourite parts of this section is on board recruitment, because succession planning is a real struggle for museums. The guidelines recommend an annual recruitment process and developing a board that is an accurate reflection of the community. The basic principles are of course to be organized, to provide good orientation information and materials to new board members, to encourage their professional development, and finally, to assess the board's work and make sure it is operating as efficiently as possible. No this is not being overly demanding of volunteers. This is good governance.

Part 4 is all about board conduct. From a discussion about meeting attendance and associated policies (ie how do you deal with someone who never comes to meetings?), to conflict of interests and adoption of a code of ethics, this section goes more in-depth about policies and procedures that every board should have in place. The discussion on liability in this section is especially helpful, as it includes a quick list of things that board members can do to minimize liability risks. The second half of this section is more about relationships. In addition to the reminders to be collegial and respect confidentiality, there are outlines for board-director relations, and board-staff relations. Outlining exactly what expectations are for board members and staff, especially in their interactions, can help you avoid a lot of trouble if personalities start to clash. The authors have provided a handy bullet list of basic expectations for both parties for quick reference.

If you are interested in reading this, or want to circulate it to your board, it is available for free online.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review-A History of Nova Scotia in 50 Objects

Book Review: 'A History of Nova Scotia in 50 Objects' by Joan Dawson
In this text, Dawson offers a refreshing glimpse into museum treasures throughout Nova Scotia. It was a treat to see a selection of artifacts from many of our partnering museums in here as well. There are two things that Dawson did when conducting her research that I greatly admire. 1) She worked with a variety of different museums from federally operated national historic sites, provincial institutions, and heritage houses to small community museums run by volunteers and 2) she spoke to staff, volunteers, and student guides [xi]. I believe this is the approach to take when conducting research. This approach provides staff at every level a chance to contribute their knowledge and benefit from the partnership.

Dawson speaks of the diversity of Nova Scotian culture and heritage over the years and has selected fifty artifacts that reflect this. The oldest artifact featured is a fossilized amphibian from the Joggins Fossil Centre and the most recent artifact is a mask from Le Centre de la Mi-Carême (Grand-Ėtang). She even gives Gus the "living treasure" an honorable mention. The artifacts chosen provide a glimpse into everyday life in Nova Scotia. There is a wide variety of objects listed, such as: clothing, sheet music, a Canada Post mailbox, and even a stagecoach. There are also beautiful items that speak to craftsmanship in Nova Scotia, such as a Mi'kmaq procupine-quill box and Acadian hooked tapestry. Dawson also identifies objects related to transportation and industry. For instance, the importance of the railway and mining in the development of Nova Scotia is addressed through items in this text. For those of you interested in learning more about what treasures await you in Nova Scotia, this is a great place to look. 

I am happy to report that artifacts from many of our partnering museums are featured in this text. I encourage you to find the featured artifacts on NovaMuse.

DesBrisay Museum
Fort Point Museum
Kings County Museum
Colchester Historium
Shelburne County Museum
Jost Heritage House
Queens County Museum
Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum
McCulloch House Museum
Antigonish Heritage Museum
Wallace and Area Museum
Randall House Museum
Yarmouth County Museum
LaHave Islands Marine Museum
Cape Breton Miners Museum
Chestico Museum
Whitney Pier Historical Society Museum
Les Trois Pignons Cultural Centre

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February 2017 Update

CNSA Education Committee
I mentioned last month that I sit on the CNSA Education Committee, and we had another meeting this month. Lots of planning activities for CNSA's conference: Facilitating Accessibility; Celebrating Diversity.

Margaret with her social media prize
We had a very full IMAC meeting this month. A lot of our committee have been serving for well over two years, and so we all decided it would be good to bring in some fresh faces and give our longstanding members an opportunity to step down and take a break. Our three new members are Pam Atwell (West Hants Historical Museum), Joanne Boudreau (Fultz House), and Margaret Mulrooney (Colchester Historeum). We are really excited to have them join us. Since the Colchester Historeum recently won our #150Touchstones contest for social media participation, this gave us the perfect chance to give her the Small Museum Toolkit book series - aka the social media prize.
The committee had lots to talk about, from our Fleming College partnership, to a recent trip to Ottawa, but one of the key items on the agenda was about moving forward. Before we launched NovaMuse the committee did a review of collections websites to inform design & functionality decisions. As amazing as it is to think about, NovaMuse is going to be 5 years old this September. So we figure it's time to go through that process again to determine how we can best move forward. We have a couple ideas up our sleeves already, but I'm sure a comprehensive review will result in all sorts of fun stuff to consider.

Provincial & Territorial Museum Association (PTMA) Meetings
My long-time readers will remember that I used to go to Ottawa every year to meet with the

Heritage workers from across the country :)
Canadian Conservation Institute, Canadian Heritage Information Network, Department of Canadian Heritage reps, and ANSM's counterparts from across the country. It was a very full two days of meetings/discussions, and we also took advantage of evenings to talk even more. We were tired by the end of it, but everyone agreed that it was a very worthwhile exercise.
We heard about CCI's strategic plan, and also that they are seeing fewer applications for conservation treatments than in previous years. That makes me want to flood them with applications from Nova Scotia. So put on your thinking cap folks. If you have something in your collection that needs some conservation help, let me know and we can talk about the application process and whether or not your situation is a good fit for this service. We heard from CHIN that Nomenclature 4.0 is going to be released in digital format in the not-too-distant future. You can be sure we'll be sharing that link once it is released. We also heard about the renewal of Artefacts Canada. Plans are still in the works but let's just say we are positioned quite well here in Nova Scotia.
Other discussions were around the Museum Assistance Program. There was an acknowledgement that the program is ripe for review & updating, especially to better accommodate current technological realities. Last but not least, we heard about the 2016 Survey of Heritage Institutions, and that there will also be a 2017 survey. Apparently not a lot of really small museums participated, so we will be asking everyone to take part in this year's survey. Government is using the results to inform decision-making, and museums can use the statistics in funding applications and advocacy work...very important stuff. So let's make sure that the results reflect realities of all museums.

Museum Evaluation Program
The big milestone for the program this month was the deadline for evaluator applications. We didn't get in as many as last year, partially because we promised not to have any former NSM staff or trustees on evaluation teams this year. We want to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest. So the next step is for the committee to meet and review the applications, and form up the evaluation teams. On the museum side of things, the 28 museums on the docket for this summer are busy preparing. Q&A emails are regularly circulated so that everyone is getting the same information and support. We learned a lot from last year's evaluations and so are applying those lessons to this year's process in order to make things easier for everyone. So far, so good.

CollectiveAccess & NovaMuse
February was a rather quiet month for database work. Our big migration was all done and a lot of museums were working on other tasks or taking a mid-winter break (we don't blame you, we aren't fans of February either). 202 new artifact records and 750 new images went into the databases, giving us grand totals of 285,965 artifacts and 135,967 images. These are big numbers. But if you look at NovaMuse you will 'only' see about 214,097 records and 113,827 images. So don't forget to make those records accessible to the public. The public expects to be able to see your collection online, and you have a great marketing and programming opportunity to showcase your ongoing, behind-the-scenes collections work.

Now without further ado, here are the regional stats:
Southwest - 124,644 artifacts, 56,451 images
Central - 99,006 artifacts, 39,497 images
Northeast - 32,921 artifacts, 26,246 images
Cape Breton - 29,394 artifacts, 13,773 images

It's been a few months since we've had an "image of the month", so let's visit one that will cover a couple of bases. You might remember that right now I'm picking my way through a book on Atlantic Canadian Silversmiths for our Made in Nova Scotia database. So let's take a look at some Nova Scotia silver. This medal was made by Richard Upham Marsters (1787-1845) and was first prize in an Annapolis Valley ploughing match. Nifty eh? We want to highlight our locally made artifacts, and that means getting great photographs of them.
If you're like me, when you look at this image your eye feels pulled to the lower left corner. You shouldn't feel that way when looking at an artifact photo. You want the object to be centre-frame of the shot. The scale is also opposite of what it should be. Make sure you are consistent in your scale placement - lower left, and incorporated into the framing rather than treated as part of the artifact. The final point I want to make about this image relates to Marsters' hallmark. You'll notice a little blob above the medallion part of the medal, just below where the ribbon attaches. Believe it or not, this actually says R.U. Marsters, and underneath it there is a lion passant. This is gold...or perhaps I should say silver. This is Marsters' hallmark. He stamped his work so it could easily be identified. Whenever you see these kinds of marks that identify the maker, whether it be on silver or ceramics or clothing, be sure to take a close-up photograph.

I'm going to wrap things up here for this month. Here's hoping March turns out to be a great month for museums in Nova Scotia.