Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 Update

Museums 101
We had a pretty full house for Museums 101 at the beginning of the month. There were a lot of new faces and some "new" museums represented, and it was really great to meet these people and learn about their museums. The Hooked Rug Museum of North America was a great venue for getting creative juices flowing. The deadline to submit homework is this Friday, so within the next few weeks we will get all the homework reviewed and certificates sent out to participants.
We've heard from a few people who are working through the Museum Studies Program and/or trying to plan for next year's workshops. Next year we will be offering Facilities Management, Interpretation II: Exhibitions, and Marketing & Revenue Generation. Dates and locations have not yet been set, but so long as you follow us on Facebook and are subscribed to the Beacon, you'll be sure to hear updates as soon as they are released.

Museum Evaluation Program
October was a pretty full month for evaluation work. The Working Group helped us to finish updating the evaluation documents and these are now available online (along with lots of other information and documents). We held four orientation sessions for museums that are being evaluated in 2019, and 27 museums were represented by staff and volunteers and board members. We also had a couple museums attend that are contemplating stepping into the program, so were there to learn more about it. It was interesting again to see a lot of new faces, and to hear how many people either were not involved in the 2016 evaluations, or hadn't been to an orientation session before. This really speaks to the turnover rate in museums, and more positively, to museums wanting to involve more people in the process.
So what's next? We are now rolling into prep mode, where I help museums get ready for the Documentation Review submission, due in May. It sounds like a long way off, but there is a lot of work to be done and it's obviously much easier to pick away at it than rush through things in the spring. I've got a group email set up to circulate questions and answers, as well as resources and helpful tips. If you are up for evaluation in 2019 but weren't at an orientation session and want to be getting these emails, please let me know and I will add you to the list.
For those evaluated in 2018, we've wrapped up all the responses to reports and I am actively working on the big report for CCH. It's great to see where museums have improved since 2016, and interesting to identify areas that are still a struggle.

Webinar Series
Things didn't get off to a great start with our webinar series on CollectiveAccess and Collections Management practices. Sandi has been working so hard to prepare and make sure everything was perfect, and then our building's internet went down mid-way through the first webinar. Ugh. Of all the days for something like that to happen! Thank you to everyone who sent supportive messages when Sandi emailed to explain. We have decided to do two webinars tomorrow, so the first one (how to enter data) is now going to take place Thursday at 2pm, and then the second one (monitoring work flow) will start at 3pm. We have developed a very brief participant survey to get some feedback on the webinars. This is our first foray into delivering online learning, but we're quite excited about it and the potential for really expanding and shifting how we share information. If you want more information about these webinars, contact Sandi.

SME Pilot Project
Our SME Pilot sites are continuing work with local subject matter experts. We recently received exciting footage from Kings County Museum, in which Allison Magee talks about identifying silverware. Here, he provides helpful tips on identifying materials when examining silverware.

Videos from this partnership will be released on our YouTube channel later this year. Enjoy the sneak peak!

CollectiveAccess Updates
There are now 295,611 artifacts documented with 177,064 associated images, which means that 242 new records and 361 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month - good work everyone!

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:

Southwest -131,656 artifacts, 67,228 images
Central -100,256 artifacts, 50,482 images
Northeast - 33,570 artifacts, 43,531 images
Cape Breton - 30,129 artifacts, 15,823 images

Exciting news! The CollectiveAccess YouTube tutorials have been updated - click here.

It's been a long time since I've done an image lesson of the month, so I found a nice and appropriate one for us to look at today; an invitation to a Halloween party! This is a simple 2-dimensional item, easy to pop into the scanner and get a nice, high resolution result. So how could we improve on this? By straightening the invitation. Sometimes when you place a document in a scanner it shifts when the lid goes down. This is why using the preview option can be handle. It lets you crop out your dead space and see if you need to make any adjustments to the placement of the document. Yes it takes an extra minute or two, but the results will be worth it. Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Review - Museums and Public Value: Creating Sustainable Futures

image from
It feels great to be back into the swing of professional life after a year away, and to be reading books other than The Paper Bag Princess and Octopus Opposites (although those are both awesome and favourite books). In hindsight, this probably wasn't the best book to start with. It's a bit denser than others in our library, and as such required more focus and attention.

Published in 2013 by Ashgate and edited by Carol A. Scott, this book takes a look at Mark Moore's theory about public value. For those like me who were unfamiliar with his model, it asserts that there is a strategic triangle of public value, consisting of the authorizing environment (ie government departments, agencies, etc. that provide funding and other support), the operation environment (ie museums' organizational capacity), and public value outcomes (ie the shared purpose of relevant public service). The points of the triangle feed back and forth, so public value informs how a museum operates, which in turn informs how funders and agencies provide support. Or you can start with another point, such as a museum's capacity informing how it can serve its public, as well as which funding or support it can pursue from governments or other agencies.

Moore encourages us to embrace change rather than see it as a troubling challenge, and Scott captures this beautifully in her introduction, where she shares Moore's vision of seeing "public managers as proactive stewards of public assets that can be directed purposefully to making 'a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities', and as leaders with influence to help governments 'discover what could be done with the assets entrusted to their offices, as well as ensuring responsive services to users and citizens'".

17 contributors share their thoughts and experiences in three sections: The Operational Environment: Public Value Building Blocks, Case Studies: Implementing Public Value, and Working with the Authorizing Environment. While the chapters and content vary, the focus is always on public service and engagement, working together, and being good stewards of resources. Again and again, contributors mention the need to measure programs against community needs, to get rid of old top-down models and focus on grassroots collaborations where our communities tell us what matters to them and what services they need, to plan for social impact, and to think of ourselves as community strategists rather than managers or directors.

Depending on where you are in your work life, and what is on your plate, you will likely find something in this book you can identify with. For me, there is some great information about the value of evaluations and how these can inform a museum's work. In Munley's essay on evaluating public value, she reminds us of the need to focus on social impact, have a strategic focus, give attention to learning and change, extend beyond the views of our visitors and members and reach out to everyone (including people who don't visit or engage with the museum), view other organizations as partners rather than competitors, and be sure to align resources and achievements with social needs. I also really appreciated the final chapters, where Marsha Semmel discusses the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a US federal agency, and Sharon Heal shares the perspective of a national association (UK). An interesting point was made about accredited museums having a stronger lobbying voice, which is not something that we have been discussing as we develop an accreditation program.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of talk about being good stewards, and none of the contributors shied away from making bold statements and harsh reminders of the current museum reality. Semmel shares some sobering thoughts that were first published by Morino in 2011, "the cold reality is that in our present era of unsustainable debts and deficits, our nation simply will not be able to justify huge subsidies for social sector activities and entities without more assurance that they're on track to realize results. Public funders-and eventually private funders as well-will migrate away from organizations with stirring stories alone, toward well-managed organizations that can also demonstrate meaningful, lasting impact." In a great call to action that ties in nicely with this, Heal shares part of the Museum Strategy for Wales, which states that "dismantling barriers to access, developing the learning potential of museums, and engaging existing and new users are critical issues to be addressed if museums are to fulfil their potential as organisations that contribute to their local communities". It's a good reminder that museums should not be defining what matters to their public without talking directly with the public. The answers are going to be different for each museum.

Another chapter that really struck a chord with me was Ben Garcia's "Creating Public Value through Museum Education", aka chapter 6. He encourages museums to plan strategically and always ask themselves "How will my community be different in positive and recognized ways because the museum exists and undertook this effort?" I wonder if asking that question would alter our programs, exhibits, online presence...everything that we are doing. What sort of impact would we have if we kept that question at the forefront. He also hit the nail on the head when he said that "evaluation is too often motivated by a funding opportunity and not by a strategic desire to test the value of museum programmes against the public need." We are still having those conversations with some museums, so it was reassuring to hear that this is not something unique to Nova Scotia.

For those working as interpreters or in exhibit development, there is a great case study about sharing 'difficult knowledge'. While it is slowly becoming more common for museums to share uncomfortable truths and information, the authors of chapter 7 share some encouragement from their experience in co-producing the London, Sugar and Slavery Gallery. The development was a community collaboration, and used a steering group, special training sessions, and other methods to ensure that real people and stories were being shared, rather than just dates and figures, and that the new gallery would be helping to address real issues in the community. A visiting teacher applauded the museum's efforts, saying "we are impressed by the courage shown in the description of what will stay as a dark period of our European history. I would like, and my pupils, to thank the museum for such a brilliant experience." What museum wouldn't want to get feedback like that? As the authors conclude, there is a "need to create a gallery that is authentic, complex, and nuanced."

Heal includes a great quote from a discussion paper by Davies, which seems like the perfect way to end this. "Museums of all types have vast potential to make a difference to individuals, communities, society and the environment. Yet in most museums, much of this works seems marginal, perhaps not core business. The [Museum Association] believes that having a beneficial impact is the core business of museums. The activities of acquiring, preserving, managing, researching, interpreting and displaying collections are all a means to an end."

Monday, October 1, 2018

September 2018 Update

ANSM Conference
Thanks to everyone who joined us in Annapolis Royal for the "Changing Tide" conference. While I (Karin) was only there for one day, it was still great to see all the familiar, friendly faces and to hear about the work of colleagues from across the heritage spectrum. As Krystal Tanner noted in her talk, we have really cool jobs.

Museums 101
This Thursday and Friday I'll be teaching Museums 101, part of our Museum Studies Program, at the Hooked Rug Museum of North America in Hubbards. There are two spots left, so if you have never taken this workshop or want to send someone from your museum, please contact me directly as online registration is now closed. I've got a few new things up my sleeve for this one and will be sure to tie evaluation expectations/requirements with the content. I promise it will be well worth your time.

Museum Evaluation Program
Notice has been sent to the museums being evaluated in 2019, and you can read the announcement and see the full rotation from 2019-2022 on our website. You will notice that we don't have the Documentation Review or Site Evaluation forms online anymore, as the Evaluation Working Group (formerly the MEP Steering Committee) is putting finishing touches on revisions. The group met again this month, and have been conversing by email on an almost daily basis in order to wrap this up and release the documents.
Orientation sessions are taking place in October for those that are on next year's list. If you were evaluated in 2016 and attended one of those orientations, some of the information will be familiar, but we are also going to spend some time talking about management practices and community engagement opportunities. These have been two areas in which museums have consistently struggled with evaluation, so our goal is to address your questions and set you up for better results this time around.

CollectiveAccess Update
There are now 295,369 artifacts documented with 176,703 associated images, which means that 135 new records and 674 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month - good work everyone!

The Central region added the most images this month, good job! Also, congratulations are in order for the DesBrisay Museum for reaching the 10,000+ benchmark for images added. Great work!

We have run a report for the number of records created and modified since 2015. If you are interested in receiving these totals for your site, please email Sandi at

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:

Southwest -131,595 artifacts, 67,141 images
Central -100,118 artifacts, 50,263 images
Northeast - 33,551 artifacts, 43,511 images
Cape Breton - 30,105 artifacts, 15,788 images

We are happy to report that there are new search options in CollectiveAccess to assist you with documenting the number of records added and/or modified per account. This is helpful if you wish to report to the board about progress being made. It is also extremely beneficial to have for staff and volunteer progress reports and exit interviews.

You can search for a list of records modified or created after a certain date with the following keyword search: modified:"after year" (ex. modified:"after 2016") or created:"after year" (ex. created:"after 2016"). Looking for results from a particular month? Simply add in the month: modified:"month year" (ex. modified:"June 2016" or created:"month year" (ex. created: "June 2016").

You can use this to determine productivity levels per account by adding in the username. The username will vary depending on what was chosen during the time of set-up. If you are unsure what the usernames are for your accounts, please contact us. Let's use student1 for this example. The key word search would be modified.username:"after year" or created.username:"after year" (ex. modified.student1:"after 2016" or created.student1:"after 2016"). You can take this one step further and look at monthly results. The keyword search would be: modified.username:"month year" (ex. modified.student1:"June 2016") or created.username:"month year" (ex. created.student1:"June 2016"). It is crucial that you follow this format in order to see results. Do not exclude the period, semi-colin or quotation marks from your search.

MyNovaMuse Galleries
Everyone now has log-in information for the myNovaMuse-Galleries. Remember to feature records from your museum in your galleries space when logged into the museum account. Looking for fun projects for your volunteers? Why not ask them to get involved with this initiative! Click here to watch the YouTube tutorial.

Check out this neat addition by the Kings County Museum - Fashion Through the Ages.

Photo Kit
Right now is the perfect time of year to work on digitization. Spots are still available this fall! The kit contains a light and dark backdrop set-up, lighting, and tripod (camera not included). Please contact Sandi if you would like to borrow it (available for a 3 week period). Pick-up and drop-off is at the ANSM office in Halifax.

Allison Magee, SME
SME Pilot Project
Staff at both the Kings County Museum and Colchester Historeum are continuing work with SMEs in their area. Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame has also joined in on the fun! Pictured to the right is Allison Magee, SME at the Kings County Museum, working on silverware records.

Keep an eye out for a new resource on how to connect and share stories found in your records later this year.

Interested in forming these sort of partnerships with subject matter experts in your area? Check out our 'Working with SMEs' tip sheet here.

Practice Exercise
Webinar Update
We will host a webinar series on collections management soon. We will review CollectiveAccess features and best practices in detail. The webinar series is currently in development. A schedule will be released mid-October. We are excited to offer members of the Advisory Service online training that will be both interactive and engaging. Those who tune in will also be provided with practice exercises that Sandi will review and provide feedback on. Stay tuned for more information! In the meantime, check out a sneak peak of one of the practice exercises for storage locations to the left.