Friday, December 20, 2019

December 2019 Update

If you feel like we do, this year just flew by. With our newly minted strategic plan in hand, we
launched into the year with cake-fuelled fervour. This week we had our annual performance reviews and ended up feeling really pleased with how much we accomplished in 2019, how many museums we served, and what 2020 has in store.

Museum Evaluation Program
This year we evaluated 29 museums across the province. It was a lot of work for all involved, and everyone stepped up to the plate and demonstrated their commitment to their museums and communities. To wrap up the 2019 evaluations, we submitted the overarching (we call it annual) report to government, and will share it on our website once we receive approval to do so.
Looking ahead to 2020, now that the orientation sessions are done we have shifted into Q&A mode as everyone starts to organize their evaluation preparations.

Today is the deadline for museums who were evaluated this year to apply for the new element of the MEP - Accreditation! We are very pleased with the number of applications received, and will be reviewing these with the Accreditation Panel in January. Announcements will be made at the end of January or beginning of February.

We are also looking for volunteers to fill two roles with the MEP - to serve on the Working Group and as Site Evaluators. If you are interested in either of these opportunities, check out the links and information on our website. You can also be in touch any time with questions.

CollectiveAccess Update
For the first time since its inception, ANSM invited museums to apply to join the Advisory Service. We've never actively advertised for this before, so we had no idea what the response would be like. We were pleasantly surprised when 4 museums applied (and were approved by the peer Info Mgt & Access Committee), bringing us back up to capacity at 55 museums. Sandi is now working with these new members on various collections issues, helping to prepare them to step into CollectiveAccess.

At the beginning of the year we had 297,945 records and 177,838 associated images in CollectiveAccess, and we are ending the year with 307,593 records and 217,417 associated images. That's an amazing 9,648 new records and 39,579 new images. Wow. We knew it was a busy year but this is really impressive. 
Here's the ever-popular regional breakdown:
Southwest - 136,843 artifacts, 83,780 images
Central - 103,019 artifacts, 62,908
Northeast - 36,583 artifacts, 54,499 images
Cape Breton - 31,148 artifacts, 17,230 images

Artefacts Canada
For those that may not remember or know, I was originally hired to manage a special project funded by CHIN, to get community museum collections online. The original project goal was to get 400 records online. We were told this was very ambitious. Fast forward a few years (shhhh, don't really count!) and we have our own collections website, but still want to share with the rest of the country on Artefacts Canada. Our friends in New Brunswick made this possible by developing an export to AC feature for CollectiveAccess. So after a very long pause, this year we could finally refresh Nova Scotian content on AC. This was a very satisfying, very big task. We ran exports for about 40 museums, refreshing and adding thousands upon thousands of records and images to AC. CHIN was so excited to see this content that one staff person actually told me it was giving her a renewed sense of purpose. We're going to keep running twice-annual refreshes until the new AC launches.

Speaking of the new AC, I'm on CHIN's Advisory Committee and we met twice this year. There are a lot of opportunities (and a lot of work) in overhauling AC and the current Artists in Canada website, but plans are afoot. And thanks to CollectiveAccess, NovaMuse, and all of the amazing collections work that museums have been doing here in Nova Scotia, we are very well positioned to launch into the new website in a very strong way.

SME Partnerships
We continued to cultivate partnerships with old and new friends this year, with the goal of helping museums learn more about items in their collections. Sandi had great fun filming SMEs on-site, and in January we'll be releasing this video footage on NovaMuse. Many thanks to David, Eric, Gary, and Joleen for working with us this year. As this work has always taken an opportunistic approach, we got ourselves a bit more organized this year, tracking things better, consolidating files, and highlighting future opportunities. Let me just say there are many. There is so much value in this work and we are all learning so much that we look forward to continuing it in 2020.

Fleming Partnership
We couldn't do all that we do without partners, and Fleming College continues to be a great partner for ANSM. We were so pleased to have Ayla with us this fall for her internship. She tackled anything and everything that we threw at her, and we (and our members) are so far ahead of where we were when she arrived in September (more on that later). We can't say thanks enough.

Last winter students reviewed and enriched 300 records from our member museum collections, and we are now preparing to launch this class assignment again in January. This time, 320 database records from 11 museums will be reviewed. Everyone learns from this partnership. Students see the reality of database records and the varied state of completion, museums get suggestions about how to improve their documentation practices, and the public gets more information about our collections, especially for items which the students choose for further research and enrichment. We are so proud of this annual project, and it came to be during a simple conversation about students needing real-world experiences while in the classroom. So I encourage you to pay attention to the conversations you're having in your communities. Is there a way your museum can meet a need?

Old Loans and New Resources
This year was a busy one for developing new resources and updating old ones. Our year-long saga with the loan reconciliation toolkit culminated with customized toolkits being sent to 32 museums. A couple museums noticed that the information from their database wasn't 100% up-to-date, which is both good news and bad news. It's bad news because the database isn't up-to-date, but it's good news because it means the museum has already reconciled some old loans. So if you are in the same boat, just look at the toolkit as a list of records that need updating in your database.

We also updated and added some new templates to our website's resources section...11 in total! We added a new section on Governance and it now has several resources relating to building your board. We also updated a lot of resources in the Collections and Management sections. If you still don't see something you need, get in touch! We take requests.

Thanks to our wonderful intern Ayla, we have a new guide on digitizing time-based media. This year we updated NovaMuse to better handle/display multimedia files, and in conjunction Ayla assessed what's out there in collections. From cassette and vhs tapes, to cylinders and records, we now have a much better understanding of the scope of multimedia content in museum collections. Who knows, maybe in the future we can do a special project to tackle some specialized digitization, but in the meantime museums have a handy guide on the subject. Wouldn't it be fun to have music on NovaMuse? I think so.

And last but not least, this year's big gift to our members was to put our reference library online. We've been wanting to do this for a long time, and this year it finally happened. Again we can't say thanks enough to Ayla for her help. We also need to say thanks to the team at Whirl-i-gig for integrating the library so well with our website. If you're looking for some museum-related reading, check out what we have in the library. If we've read it too, you'll even be able to read our book review.

Looking Ahead to 2020
In all honesty, this year felt rather frantic. We had so much on the go, were juggling so many big projects and initiatives, that we're feeling a little tired. So not only are we going to take a break for the holidays, but we are hoping that we can take things a bit slower in 2020. We'd like to deal with administrative tasks that always seem to take a backseat when there are grant deadlines and other high priorities. We also have some research and planning work to do in relation to our strategic plan - looking at membership and committee structures, building relationships with other colleges and universities, identifying opportunities for more online learning, and branding Accreditation.

So from all of us to all of you, Happy Holidays! And we look forward to working with you in 2020!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Book Review - Principles-Focused Evaluation: The GUIDE

image from
When ANSM took on the Museum Evaluation Program (MEP), it represented a steep learning curve for everyone involved. Yes we were very comfortable with museum standards, but professional evaluation standards was something we needed to research. We did a lot of reading before we launched the MEP, and we continue to read and research and talk with our colleagues who also manage museum evaluation/accreditation programs.

This brings me one of the newer additions to our reference library; Principles-Focused Evaluation: The GUIDE. Written by Michael Quinn Patton (who is recognized as a leader, innovative, and all-around go-to person when it comes to evaluation) in 2018 and published by The Guilford Press, it encourages evaluators to expand current approaches to evaluation efforts. He reminds that evaluation's professional beginnings were very project-based, and that the field must continue to evolve to meet the needs of complex and varied systems. Looking at principles enables assessment of social innovations and impacts that may feel awkward using other methods.

GUIDE is indeed an acronym, used to discuss effectiveness principles. Patton states that principles must be Guiding, Useful, Inspiring, Development, and Evaluable. He goes into detail about what each one of these words really means, so another way to look at the list is by saying that effectiveness principles need to provide advice, support decision-making, be purposeful, be adaptable and mindful of context, and enable you to judge progress.

Patton takes a variety of statements and documents, and demonstrates how to turn them into effectiveness principles that can be used for evaluation purposes. In each of these cases, I thought of museum mission statements, which provide guidance on how we operate on a daily basis. Unfortunately, those museums with 'definition statements' (we exist to collect, preserve, interpret...) do not translate well. This was one more reminder that each museum needs to determine its reason for existing, identify its community, and talk about its organizational and community values (which will dictate its principles). Patton reminds that values define who you are, but "effectiveness principles are supposed to get you somewhere."

Case studies are threaded through the book and vary greatly. For me, I really appreciated the ones relating to Homeless Youth Programs. It might not seem like it, but there are a lot of correlations between the goals and principles of these programs and the goals and principles of museums. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. Working with youth means taking a journey-oriented approach, which means each youth has had different experiences that inform who they are today. The same can be said of museums, being at different points in the organizational life cycle. The people involved, programs delivered, funding/sponsorships received, and other 'life experiences' inform who that museum is today. So in delivering an evaluation program for museums, we need to be mindful of this and focus on strengths and opportunities for positive development, just like youth programs do. And the work needs to be collaborative.

There were also a number of very poignant comments that relate to any organization. In speaking about trends in leaders and continuous learning, the author notes the following similarities, as cited in another resource:
"leaders learn to be open to the contributions of others, learn critical reflection, learn to support the growth of others, learn collective leadership, learn to sustain hope in the face of struggle, and learn to create community."
I read this as a call to action. I need to reflect on how I live and work, and be conscious when I fall short. Patton is obviously a firm believer in continuous learning, and expresses in multiple ways that to be an effective leader, learning must be a core element of someone's work, and the information learned needs to improve effectiveness and be shared with others. Continuing with this thread, one of my absolute favourite quotes; "evaluation is a learning experience, rather than a grading experience. It is a process to promote learning and collaboration, and the overall result should be a more effective, robust, and wiser organization."

The acknowledgement of human nature, both good and bad elements, was refreshing to read. As we have experienced over the past few years, it is important to be aware that sometimes people don't want to hear the truths revealed through the evaluation process and this can be difficult to deal with. But on the plus side, evaluation can give voice to those that feel like they are not being heard. This is just one of the arguments Patton uses against the phrase "best practices". He warns that using such language suggests that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem/issue, which of course negates the contextual and creative realities of an organization and the people involved therein. By focusing on adhering to principles rather than standards of practice, organizations can feel empowered and embrace greater flexibility in how they accomplish their goals.

As the Museum Evaluation Program evolves, I can see us integrating effectiveness principles into the program. It won't happen overnight, and we will still need to audit professional standards of practice, but Patton makes a solid case for using principles-focused evaluation when it is applicable and appropriate.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sayonara from Ayla

It’s hard to believe that fifteen weeks have come and gone already, but here we are, and my time with ANSM is coming to an end. I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent here, and I’ve felt totally welcomed from the beginning. I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you through the conference, workshops, and meetings. I had the opportunity to work on many different projects behind the scenes and am excited that I was able to contribute to the resources that so many museums around Nova Scotia use.

My big project this fall was the development of a guide for digitizing time-based media, which is now available on the ANSM website. This project would not have been possible without the participation and support of ANSM’s members, so a big thank you is warranted.

I am looking forward to what the next year holds for me (graduation, job interviews, getting married, and who knows what else!), and I am thankful to have my experience here as ANSM’s intern to propel me forward.

Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year!


Friday, November 29, 2019

November 2019 Update

what's more Canadian than talking about
heritage while eating lunch while
overlooking a hockey rink?
Museum Evaluation Program
Orientation sessions for 2020 are done! Phew! Anita and Karin put in a lot of mileage this month, talking about evaluation in Dartmouth, Liverpool, Sydney and Truro. It was great to see everyone and enjoy some cake together. It was especially great to meet so many board members and to hear from them how helpful and informative orientation was. We didn't go asking for this feedback, but were pleasantly surprised to have at least one board member come up to us at each session to say they were so glad they attended, and how much they learned. If your museum is being evaluated in 2020, here's some important info:
- presentation slides have been posted on our website.
- key documents (including the Documentation Review and Site Evaluation forms) can be downloaded from our website.
- the Q&A email group is being built and the first message will go out very soon. If you didn't attend an orientation session and want to be added to this learning group, contact Karin.

of course we had to have cake
For those that were evaluated in 2019, a friendly reminder that the deadline to apply for Accreditation is fast approaching - December 20th! You can learn more about eligibility and download the application form from our website. Feel free to contact Karin with any questions. We're excited to roll out this new element of the Museum Evaluation Program and look forward to celebrating museum excellence with everyone. Anita has been meeting with a sponsor and marketing company about the branding and marketing of Accreditation, so while those details aren't settled yet, they are well underway.

CollectiveAccess Updates
Over the past month, 282 new records and 2,929 new images were added to the databases. This gives us grand totals of 307,356 records and 215,891 images.

Regionally, here's the breakdown:
Southwest - 136,796 artifacts, 83,255 images
Central - 102,882 artifacts, 62,179 images
Northeast - 36,539 artifacts, 53,341 images
Cape Breton - 31,139 artifacts, 17,116 images

Our image of the month is a lesson in training, in that we can't assume a new employee or volunteer will understand collections care and handling. While we may think it shouldn't need to be said, this image is proof that you have to tell people not to wear the artifacts. This is a particularly concerning case as it is a lace glove; fragile, easily picked by a fingernail. Not to mention the oils and dirt on the model's skin that has now been transferred to this glove. No matter how tempting it might be, do not try on clothing from the collection. Mannequins and forms should be used to demonstrate how items are worn.
This is also a lesson in monitoring staff and volunteers who are doing hands-on collections work. Again, you can't assume that all is going well and that standards are being followed. It is absolutely crucial to check people's work, and to check in with them on progress. I know we're all overloaded and it is a huge relief to be able to delegate tasks, but the last thing you want to do is broadcast to the world that you're putting the collection at risk. And that's exactly what this image does.

SME Updates
The partnerships with our SMEs continue! Thanks to Gary for hosting us this month at the Army Museum and thanks to Eric, our ships portraits expert, for joining us via Zoom meetings a few times. Both Sandi and Ayla learned a lot during this process. Sandi has made great progress with editing footage this month and there are some fantastic clips of our SMEs in action that we are excited to share on NovaMuse soon. For now, here's a sneak peek behind the scenes during filming at the Army Museum.

Artefacts Canada
We have sent out a few messages now regarding refreshing content on Artefacts Canada (AC) and more than 30 museums have answered affirmatively. We've added thousands of records and images to AC. If you are among the 20ish museums that haven't yet responded and given us permission to do a biannual refresh of your information, please contact Sandi.

Old Loans and New Resources
Ayla has completed her research project and the result is a Guide to Digitizing Time Based Media. If you have cassette tapes, records, wax cylinders, compact discs and the like in your collection, you'll want to check this out.
We are also really happy to finally release the new version of our Loan Reconciliation Toolkit. This was a long time in the making, but ANSM and our lawyer are very pleased with the final result. Ayla is wrapping up lender lists right now, after which we'll be emailing customized versions to those museums who requested them. As far as we can tell, this resource is the only one of its kind in Canada. We really hope that it helps museums of all shapes and sizes in addressing the old loans sitting in their institutions.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2019 Edition

Allie & Shari.
Allie fell asleep mid-play
Last week I attended the funeral of a dear friend. When lives are cut short, especially when the person is on the younger end of the spectrum, conversations inevitably include musings on the person's hopes and dreams, what they accomplished in their short life, and how much more they could have done if they had been given the opportunity.

Tributes and reminiscences at my friend's funeral revealed common threads; a strong faith, a love of reading, a passion for music, a desire for community (especially if it involved food), an eye and voice for social justice, a knack for jokes and being silly, a talent for seeing the uniqueness in children and nurturing their individuality, and the ability to fall asleep on anyone's couch at any time.

My friend started not one, but two literacy programs, learned to play many instruments and even resorted to building her own 15th century instrument that none of us had ever heard of when she felt she needed a bigger challenge. She was energized by learning, volunteered widely, and loved to help people. She traveled and was part of musicals and festivals and lived her life unapologetically and to the fullest.

I left this funeral feeling a mixture of inspiration and regret. Listening to the tributes and accomplishments of my friend was impressive to say the least. Her legacy is far flung, it is varied, and she will be remembered and missed for a very long time. People who never met her are benefiting from what she did. I wish we had visited more often, especially after she fell ill. I wish my daughter could have had more time with our friend, as she is too young to hold on to the memories of their time together. I was really looking forward to their days of music lessons. I miss her and I miss what could have been.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium
I wish we had more time. How often do we express that sentiment? As I mused over this time of year and everything that comes with Remembrance Day, I was suddenly hit by the grand scope and scale of this loss, of times of war and conflict when funerals and memorial services and mourning were so widespread and such a common occurrence. What would a world be like where my singular grief was magnified hundreds and thousands of times. What would a world be like when so many people would be mourning for so many other people at the same time.

As I pondered all of this, the word legacy came to mind again and again. We often hear of the collective legacy of our veterans; of the rights and freedoms we are guaranteed because of their service. More and more we are hearing personal stories, as we collectively realize that time is running short for some of them to be shared in veterans' own words. As museums, if our mission is to honour and celebrate our community's past, then we must be doing this in a personal way, at the individual level. Unfortunately, even though we are engaging in oral history and other projects to capture these personal stories, they don't always get linked to databases or websites or other standard resources. They are separate, and can be lost or left behind on shelves or in files.

In an age when distractions are rampant and information is often twisted or made up, pursuing the truth and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of human experiences is a noble task for museums. We can and should be bearing witness to personal stories and lives lived, but this information has to be integrated into our sharing tools (databases and websites) in a more permanent way for this information to be disseminated and make an impact. In contemplating Remembrance Day, we should investigate and honour the legacy of our veterans, following as many threads as we can find.

Uncle Grenville and his fiancee
If we follow these threads, the information revealed provides opportunities for celebrating the men and women who served. How did they overcome hardships and endure terrible experiences? How did they care for and protect and save their friends with whom they were serving? How did they maintain their senses of humour when there wasn't much to laugh about? For those that didn't come home, what were they studying or pursuing as careers before they were called to serve? What happened to the fiancées whose wedding plans had to be cancelled? How did people adjust to life after conflict? What kind of mental and physical and emotional scars were left from such experiences? Did they maintain war-time friendships throughout their lives, participate in reunions, write letters to each other, or did they prefer to move on from that chapter and focus on a peaceful civilian life? How did people's experiences during times of war and conflict change them? What lessons did they want to impart on the next generation? What impact did people have on their communities, what memories and marks have they left behind? Can they still be seen and felt today?
Following these threads of questions and information will enable us to weave richer collections records and demonstrate legacies in our communities; to reveal connections that aren't obvious.

The questions and stories are seemingly endless. But what better way to honour people than to document and share their far flung and varied legacies. In doing so, we will remember them for a very long time to come.

Grandpa and his buddies, Burma 1945

Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 2019 Update

There is a lot on the go right now. Between the Advisory Service, Museum Evaluation Program, Strategic Plan initiatives, MAP funding deliverables, and "other fun", it's never a dull moment at the ANSM office. If you want to hear about our latest dreams and schemes, be sure to attend a regional meeting. In the meantime, here are the highlights of this month's work.

Museum Evaluation Program
This was a very busy month for the MEP. On October 1st and 8th we had meetings with the Working Group, which mostly consisted of finalizing Accreditation details and reviewing questions for 2020. I've been spending a lot of time updating forms and resources for the coming year, which will hopefully all be ready by next week's orientation sessions. As documents are approved, they are being added to our website. If you are scheduled for evaluation in 2020 and haven't yet registered for an orientation session, click here.

On October 29th we announced Accreditation, and you can now read all about it on our website as well. Accreditation ties into your evaluation year, and the first deadline to apply is December 20th.

Regional Meetings
I hit the road last week for the Southwest Curator's Group meeting in Digby. It was hands-down the most entertaining regional meeting I've ever attended. The amount of laughter was amazing. If you don't participate in these, you should. So much information is shared - ideas, successes, struggles, frustrations. It's professional development and therapy rolled into one. Next month there will be meetings in the Northeast and Cape Breton, so if you are in those regions and haven't yet connected with your regional group, we can help you connect.

CollectiveAccess Updates
Sandi has been editing images from site visits this year and there are some fantastic shots! Thanks to everyone who helped with digitization efforts. The new images are gradually being added to NovaMuse. Keep an eye on the recently added section on the homepage. You may even spot an item you helped capture during hub training

Over the past month, 488 new records and 2,776 new images were added to the databases. This gives us grand totals of 307, 074 records and 212, 962 images. 

Regionally, here's the breakdown:
Southwest - 136, 757 artifacts, 81, 976 images
Central - 102, 744 artifacts, 61, 304 images
Northeast - 36, 458 artifacts, 52, 729 images
Cape Breton - 31, 115 artifacts, 16, 953 images

For the image of the month, we bring you a spooktacular postcard. If there is information written on the back of a postcard, don't forget to scan the back as well. This is a great example demonstrating that two-dimensional items need to be scanned (or photographed straight on if in poorer condition). The border at the top of the postcard is cut off slightly and could be improved if adjusted. Take the extra time to make sure your 2-dimensional items are positioned well in the scanner. Most scanners have a preview function that makes this assessment really easy.

We are working diligently to have the transcription tool test site ready soon. A few of our Advisory Service sites have volunteered to test out this new feature. It's a great time to have a closer look at your collection and think about what material you'd like transcribed. Once ready, you can invite staff and volunteers to explore your records. Why not give them a head start? In the meantime, we encourage you to explore two online transcription tools that we are drawing inspiration from offered by the Nova Scotia Archives and the Royal BC Museum. Stay tuned for more updates!

New Resources Online
Anita, Ayla and Karin locked themselves in a room and talked through various templates and resources. Some were older ones that have been on our website but needed to be updated, and others were brand new. Here's an overview of what got added/updated, and the links:
New section on Governance that includes a board profile worksheet, checklist of material for potential board members, and prospective board member referral form.  
Collections - updated incoming and outgoing loan agreement forms and temporary receipt.
Management - updated volunteer policy.

We are still working on several other new/updated templates, so stay tuned for more announcements like this. If you have a need for a template, let us know and we'll add it to our to do list.

NS Social Studies Teachers Conference
Sandi and Ayla attended the annual provincial conference "Cultural Connections" hosted by the Social Studies Teachers Association of Nova Scotia on Friday, Oct. 25th at Saint Mary's University. It was exciting to have the opportunity to meet 300+ educators from across the province and share information about NovaMuse. We asked teachers what they look for when exploring online educational resources and came back with a lot of helpful feedback. Thanks to everyone who dropped by our booth!

SME Updates
Ayla continues to work with a map expert in efforts to improve records on NovaMuse. Discussions with a ship portraits expert and military insignia expert are also on the horizon. More on this as the SME partnerships unfold. Sandi is editing video footage from her visits to museums with Joleen. New basket related content coming soon to NovaMuse!
We track all of this SME work and have just started to compile a wish list for future partnership projects. We got a great wishlist of SME work from the teachers we met. If you have items in your collection that you'd like to learn more about, please let us know and we'll add them to our list. Or, if you have local experts who you think would enjoy sharing their knowledge with museums, feel free to connect them with us.

Old Loans
This project has taken a lot longer than we thought it would, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our lawyer is reviewing the final draft and hopes to have it back to us by tomorrow. Ayla is making fantastic headway on the lender lists, and has completed 13 so far. Once we get the loan toolkit back from the lawyer we'll publish it on our website and circulate customized toolkits that include lender lists for Advisory Service sites that requested them. If you haven't requested a lender list, let us know. We'll add you to the list. Yes the toolkit represents some work, but the toolkit will guide you through every step of the process. As we've compiled the lender lists we've encountered numerous situations where a lender has passed away within the past 1-2 years, highlighting the importance of reconciling these old loans asap. 

Artefacts Canada
Last week we circulated a message about refreshing content on Artefacts Canada (AC). As we've mentioned in the past, CHIN is working on updating the website, but in the meantime our friends in New Brunswick have developed a tool to easily contribute through CollectiveAccess. We contributed to AC from 2006-2011, but stopped when we switched databases in 2011. Over the past 8 years we've all been doing a lot of work on collection records, so many of the early contributions to AC were outdated and missing images before we did our first refresh this Spring. It's great to be able to refresh these records and mirror what is being shared on NovaMuse in the 'national inventory' (an early term used to describe AC). If you haven't yet responded to last week's message seeing permission to do a biannual refresh of your information, please contact Sandi.

Time-Based Media
Ayla's research project is focusing on multimedia holdings in museum collections. This is something we've never investigated before, so thanks to everyone who responded to her survey about what you have in your collections. She's now writing up her report which will include a guide on how to address these items (digitization, preservation, etc.). This ties in nicely to some NovaMuse upgrades to better share audio and video content, as well as some new preservation tools underway for CollectiveAccess. Isn't it nice when the stars align?

Advisory Service Survey
It is also that time of year, when we check in with members about their likes and dislikes about the Advisory Service. Sandi circulated the annual survey last week, so please remember to complete it. We want to hear your ideas on improvements, what you like best, what is of the least interest, etc. Basically, we want your feedback. The deadline to complete the survey is November 15th.

Museum Moments

Do you have tips you'd like to share regarding collections management? What about an event or special project you'd like to highlight? We'd love to hear about and share your success story in a featured blog post. Check out our latest Museum Moment post to see what it's all about. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Museum Moments - Engage, Collaborate, and Share

It's important to keep things fresh in museums, offering new content and thinking about ways to engage, collaborate, and share our knowledge with each other. Temporary exhibits are a great opportunity for community engagement and to generate interest. The development of temporary exhibits that focus on local history and stories leads to new content, discussion, and memorable experience for visitors. A great example comes from the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame with the launch of a temporary exhibit featuring the work of Bruce MacKinnon in July this year.

“Sports Illustrated: The Nova Scotia Edition”--- Collection of Bruce MacKinnon originals to be exhibited at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame:

"His work has been a daily fixture in many Nova Scotians’ lives for decades-- Bruce MacKinnon brings humorous, witty and poignant commentary to the pages of The Chronicle Herald with his skillful editorial cartoons. The Hall of Fame will be unveiling a new temporary exhibit in summer 2019 that features a selection of MacKinnon’s greatest sport cartoons. We are very pleased to be able to work with MacKinnon, The Chronicle Herald, StFX and private lenders to share this incredible collection of original drawings. Expect to take a stroll down memory lane with familiar faces and newsworthy moments that are equally thought provoking and amusing. The exhibit opens in July."

The official launch on July 15th featured a Q&A with Bruce MacKinnon himself. This temporary exhibit demonstrates the power of community partnerships and the importance of working with others to showcase local history. This exhibit is running from July 2019 - 2020.

Another notable mention is the Halifax Sport Heritage Walking Tour, which encourage you to visit historic sporting sites in the city. The NSSHF took this one step further by creating a new gallery on NovaMuse highlighting items in their collection with ties to the stories featured in the walking tour. This same approach can be taken for temporary exhibits. Why not create a place for your exhibit to live on using NovaMuse? 

The Cumberland County Museum hosted a travelling exhibit from July 26th-October 6th: "Enemy Aliens: Internment in Canada, 1914-1920," by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation. According to an article by the The Chronicle Herald, "One of the largest camps was in Amherst, located between Park Street, Patterson Street and the rail line, and had a population of 853 men. It closed in September 1919." It's important to look for connections to local history when considering temporary exhibits and this is a great example of this approach.

Past "What is it?" Cabinet -
West Hants Historical Society 
Looking to make an exhibit more interactive? Why not consider building a 'What is it?' and 'Who am I?' temporary exhibit, which encourages visitors to fill in the gaps. Don't know an object's history of use? when it was made? who made it? Ask your visitors. Not only will you be pleasantly surprised by what you learn during this process, it is another opportunity for participation. Many of our Advisory Service sites see positive results when they ask the public to help identify unknown items or individuals in photographs. This can be done both onsite and online.

Remember to include a link to the record on NovaMuse in your social media posts! This directs your audience to the online record, which often contains more detailed information. Crowd-sourcing information is a fantastic way to encourage the public to contribute their own knowledge and invest in your collections.

Monday, September 30, 2019

September 2019 Update

Museum Evaluation Program
Reports were mailed out on September 6th. It felt great to meet this deadline, and huge thanks go to the evaluation team leaders who did reviewing and proofreading for us before reports went in the mail. If you haven't already, please let me know that you received your report.

As soon as I write this blog post and answer a few more emails, I'll be circulating the announcement about 2020 evaluations. If your museum is scheduled for an evaluation next year, watch your inbox. The announcement will include orientation session dates and registration information.

We had hoped to launch Accreditation at our annual conference, but it was decided that the MEP Working Group needed to review and talk through a few more things before we launched. They have two meetings scheduled for the coming weeks, so stay tuned because information about Accreditation is coming really, really soon. The MEPWG will also be finalizing adjustments to the evaluation forms, so again, stay tuned and we'll let you know when that info is available on our website.

To wrap up 2019 evaluations, this Friday is the deadline to submit questions or comments about evaluation reports. After that we set the scores in stone and work on the statistical analysis for the big overarching report. If you were evaluated this year, don't forget to complete the post-evaluation survey. The feedback we get is very valuable in improving the program and process.

CollectiveAccess Updates
Tomorrow is Sandi's final site visit of the season, and it's been another great one for digitization and hub training. It's also easy to tell by this month's numbers that the cavalry (aka summer staff) have dispersed. Over the past month, 624 new records and 2,144 new images were added to the databases. This gives us grand totals of 306,586 records and 210,186 images.
Regionally, here's the breakdown:
Southwest - 136,701 artifacts, 80,169 images
Central - 102,460 artifacts, 60,527 images
Northeast - 36,351 artifacts, 52,598 images
Cape Breton - 31,074 artifacts, 16,892 images

Don't forget to set your records and images to be accessible to the public so people can see them on NovaMuse. We've got a big gap between the number of records in the collections and what is actually being shared.

It's been a long time since we've done an image of the month lesson, so let's get back to that shall we? Here we have an interesting print of a child with some dogs. The child appears to be dressed for a hunt, and the dogs are eager for the chase. Lots of interpretive potential. Unfortunately, the photograph doesn't do the artifact justice. First and foremost, artifacts should not be directly on the floor, even if it's just for photographing purposes. The wide 'leftover' space on the right and left are very distracting, with different colours, a door frame, tiled floor, and moulding all distracting us from the artwork we are supposed to be focusing on. The camera should have been oriented vertically instead of horizontally so more of the item was captured, and the print should have been photographed head on instead of at an angle. Fabric or other light blockers should have been used to avoid glare and reflections in the glass of the frame, giving us a better view of the print's details. The scale is also directly against the frame, obscuring some of those details. As we've seen in the past, this is an instance where taking a few extra minutes to do a proper set up would have resulted in a much better image that we would be proud to show off to the world.

SME Updates
Sandi has had fun working with SMEs this summer, and now Ayla is stepping into this job for the fall. Right now she is busy reviewing maps in museum collections and will be reviewing these with a new SME friend over the next couple of months. This is a new area for us to investigate, and we're excited to learn more about the maps in museum collections and see how we can improve their documentation. If Ayla and David are able to tell you more about a map in your collection, she will be in touch.
If you have items in your collection you'd like to learn more about, please contact Sandi or Karin. We would like to come up with a prioritized list of SME needs, so knowing what you're interested in learning about would be very helpful.

Multimedia Survey
Ayla's big internship project is to assess and develop a plan for dealing with multimedia in museum collections. This could be old vhs tapes of home movies, audiocassettes of oral histories, and much more. If you haven't yet completed her survey, please do so. We want this plan to capture all the kinds of media in collections and help us prioritize future special initiatives, and we can't do that without your input. It will take a bit of work if you need to check what's on shelves or in boxes, but we think it will be worth the effort. Links to the survey were sent out in early September and again last Friday, so check your inbox for those messages. If you can't find the link and need it to be resent, contact Sandi, Karin or Ayla.

Old Loans
The loan reconciliation toolkit has been updated, and is now being reviewed before it is released. There is a lot of good legal information in it, and it takes a very practice, step-by-step approach to addressing old loans in collections. No matter your size or shape, the steps are the same and we hope you will find it helpful. We will announce when it gets posted to our website. Lender lists continue to be developed. If you haven't yet requested yours, contact Sandi or Karin.

ANSM Annual Conference
In case you missed it, we spent a couple days in Sherbrooke Village recently. While it was a little chilly, it was nice to be in such a beautiful part of the province and enjoy talking and learning about visitor experiences and fundamental museum practices. People are still sending in photos of their conference experience, so stay tuned to our Facebook page for a photo album to appear shortly. In the meantime, here's a photo I took during one of my experiences - the art of the travel journal was a session that looked at how to get people to slow down, put down their phones, and enjoy making some art in a beautiful location. The lemonade and cookies didn't hurt either. This was one of four sessions that used a hands on experience to get people thinking about what simple experiences they can create for their own museum.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Introducing Ms. McKay

Hello! My name is Ayla, and I will be interning with the Association of Nova Scotia Museums for the next fifteen weeks as my final requirement to graduate from Fleming College's Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management (CHCM) program. I am looking forward to the work I will be doing here.

Originally from Saskatchewan, I have called Halifax my home for the last twelve years. I graduated from Dalhousie University in 2012 with a B.A.(Hon.) in Social Anthropology, and spent the next six years exploring my options before I discovered the Conservation program at Fleming. After spending two years at NSCC completing a diploma in print production and four years working in a variety of environments, I hope to bring the best of my varied experience forward into my work.

I am very pleased to be back in Halifax for my internship, as I've grown to love it and its rich history and heritage in the time that I've lived here. I am excited for the growth and learning opportunities that this internship will provide to me, and will strive to offer the best of my abilities in return!


Friday, August 30, 2019

August 2019 Updates

Museum Evaluation Program
Writing, writing writing! September 6th is the day we hope to mail out evaluation reports to the 29 sites evaluated this year. 19 reports are complete, and the remaining 10 are all partially complete, so we are on track to meet this deadline.

We are also actively planning for 2020 evaluations. Orientation sessions will take place in October and November, and once we finalize the arrangements, we will announce dates and locations. There will again be four sessions across the province. If you are slated for evaluation in 2020 or are interested in learning more about the program, this is a great place to start.

Membership Renewal
If you are a member of the Advisory Service and haven't yet sent in your membership renewal, now is the time. We won't name names, but there are still a few outstanding renewals. Emails and phone calls are coming your way! We have some special projects and partnerships up our sleeves for fall and winter; we need your renewal in order for you to participate. You won't want to miss out. Trust me.

CollectiveAccess Updates
It's kind of cool to think about how far we've come. In 2006, it was decided to try and get some collection records online. Now here we are in 2019 with 305,962 items in CollectiveAccess, with more being added every day. "Only" 230,345 are available to the public on NovaMuse, so don't forget to check your access status when you're adding new records.
Over the past month, 4,720 new records and 14,616 new images were added. Wow. Those are very impressive numbers. 
Here's the regional breakdown:
Southwest - 136,677 artifacts 79,208 images
Central - 102,088 artifacts, 59,545 images
Northeast - 36,309 artifacts, 52,446 images
Cape Breton - 30,888 artifacts, 16,843 images

Don't forget about the new features! Our YouTube tutorials cover how to use the change log and manage statistics. You can also learn how to use the new editor alerts function to clean up records. Remember that the Help Menu provides quick access to FAQs, Resources, and contact information. The CollectiveAccess Manual has also been updated to reflect the new database features.

It's never too early to plan for next season! Why not start using the Seasonal Work Calendar? Remember, you can customize this document to suit your site's needs.

Hub Training
Hub Training - Old Sydney Society
& Wallace and Area Museum
In August, we offered hub training at the Old Sydney Society and Wallace and Area Museum. It's hard to believe we are nearing the end of the summer but don't worry! There is still one session remaining:

DesBrisay Museum (Bridgewater, NS) - Thurs., September 12th 9 AM

Registration is nearly full so email Sandi ( to secure one of the remaining spots! If you participated in one of the hub training sessions this year, please send in your feedback - you would have received an invite to fill out the online survey by email and it's not too late to reply.

Joleen and Museum Staff
SME Update
Joleen and Sandi visited L'Acadie de Chezzetcook to see a number of baskets in person. We can't thank Joleen enough for sharing her knowledge and participating in this partnership once again. She shared many insightful tips that we are excited to share with you soon. We plan on editing the video footage, which will be featured in the audio/video feature on NovaMuse shortly.

Looking to partner with subject matter experts in your own community? Check out our SME tip sheet! This is a great place to start.

Don't forget the video series showcasing the SME partnership with Kings County Museum. Learn more about bottles and silverware directly from the experts.

Transcription Tool Update
We are currently working on a test site and a few of our Advisory Service sites have been so kind to test out this new feature for us. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore two online transcription tools that we are drawing inspiration from offered by the Nova Scotia Archives and the Royal BC Museum. Stay tuned for more updates!

Old Loans
We mentioned last month that we had just received info from the lawyer helping us on this special project. Once evaluation reports are finished, Karin will finish updating our reconciliation toolkit. We've got a long list of museums that have asked for help in developing their lender lists, but if you haven't yet requested yours, be in touch with Sandi or Karin. We'll add you to the list and send you a customized loan reconciliation plan using the new toolkit.

Museum Moments 
Do you have tips you'd like to share regarding collections management? What about an event or special project you'd like to highlight? We'd love to hear and share your story in a featured blog post!

Conference Update
Registration is now open for this year’s conference: Mining Your Museum: Making Every Nugget Count. This year’s conference theme is capacity building. Tues., September 17th 7:00pm – Thurs., September 19th 5:00pm at Sherbrooke Village. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

July 2019 Update

Site Evaluation, Port Hastings Museum
photo credit Yvonne Fox
Museum Evaluation Program
The much anticipated site evaluations took place this month. 12 museum professionals served as evaluators and criss-crossed the province, visiting 29 sites over the course of three weeks. You can check out our evaluation photo album on Facebook to see where we went and what these museums are up to.

So what happens next? The evaluation process is far from over. Karin is now tabulating the scores from the 87 site evaluation forms, after which the evaluation reports will be developed. For those museums that were evaluated in 2016, you'll notice some additional graphs and info in this year's report, including a comparison between this year's results and your previous results. Reports will be mailed out in early September.

IMAC & Advisory Service membership
If you haven't yet sent in your membership renewal, now is the time to do it! We have a lot on the go, and you don't want to miss out on opportunities to participate in special projects.
In more exciting news, IMAC met yesterday and approved three applications for museums to join the Advisory Service. Yay new friends!! They approved another application at their last meeting, so that means we are now at capacity with 55 museums participating in this membership program. Last fall as part of our strategic plan, we set a goal of reaching capacity by 2023, so we were really pleased by the response to our call-out for new participants.

CollectiveAccess Updates
301,212 artifacts documented with 193,426 associated images,  which means that 1,660 new records and 3,385 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month. Congratulations to all regions for collectively breaking the 300,000 mark! Great work.

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

Southwest - 134,564 artifacts 75,411 images
Central - 101,344 artifacts, 56,106 images
Northeast - 34,546 artifacts, 45,659 images
Cape Breton - 30,758 artifacts, 16,250 images

Hub Training
We have reached the half way mark for hub training sessions. Don't miss out! Why not attend one of the three remaining sessions?

Old Sydney Society (Charlotte Street, Sydney, NS) - Tues., August 13th 10 AM
Wallace and Area Museum (Wallace, NS) - Thurs., August 29th 9 AM
DesBrisay Museum (Bridgewater, NS) - Thurs., September 12th 9 AM

Hub Training - Port Hastings Museum
There are spots remaining in our upcoming session. Advisory Service members also expressed interest in later training opportunities this year so the last two sessions will take place in August and September.

Haven't had the opportunity to join in yet? These sessions are a great time for you to take part in digitization training once you wind down from a busy summer at your museum. This year, there is a focus on digitizing 2-dimensional items with connections to manufacturing and makers in Nova Scotia, further enhancing connections to Made in Nova Scotia. Spots fill up quickly so please email Sandi ( as soon as possible to express interest.

New and Improved Resources
Looking for an easy way to track changes in CollectiveAccess? Watch our latest tutorials to learn how to use the change log and manage statistics. Did you know the database can also suggest edits? Learn how to use the new editor alerts function to clean up records.

The CollectiveAccess Manual has also been updated to reflect new database features.

Looking to expand your galleries on myNovaMuse? Why not check out Webinar 5 - Identifying, Linking & Sharing Stories in our collections management webinar series and the NovaMuse Stories Guide. This would be a fun end of summer project for students. Did they take interest in specific records that tell a great story? Why not share it with your online audience as well! Did you have a fantastic temporary display? Why not feature it in a gallery so that others can see it's a part of your online collection! The sky is the limit. If you are having trouble finding your log-in information, please contact Sandi.

Exciting news! We are in the process of developing a transcription tool for NovaMuse. We will be working with a few museums in the Advisory Service to test out this new tool shortly.

One of our ongoing goals is to continue to add new entries and expand on existing entries in the manufacturer database. Do you have information about manufacturing and/or makers in your area and would like to share? Let us know! We'd like to add to our Made in NS resource list.

SME Update
Joleen w/ Lordly House Museum (bottom left)
Joleen and Sandi (bottom right)
We are working with a few returning SMEs this year who have been so kind to offer their expertise to further enrich records found in CollectiveAccess and on NovaMuse. We are excited to announce that we have received funding to improve the multimedia capacity of NovaMuse that will give us the opportunity to add a more robust narrative to records online. Our SMEs are great sports and will be the first to contribute to this enhanced feature. 

This month, Sandi visited the Dartmouth Heritage Museum and Lordly House Museum with Joleen Gordon who has offered to share her knowledge of baskets and wooden flowers with us. Video footage of the artifact identification process will soon be added to records on NovaMuse. Sandi and Joleen looks forward to visiting the Acadian House Museum in August. More updates on SME work soon!

Old Loans
Last week we received more info from the lawyer helping us on this project. We are very pleased with the results as they help to clarify the risks associated with 'permanent' loans in museums. The next step is to add all of this legal info into our loan reconciliation toolkit. We've also had many museums ask for lender lists to help them jump start the reconciliation process once the toolkit is released. This is really encouraging, and we hope to see a drastic reduction in the number of outstanding loans in the years to come. If you are a CollectiveAccess user and haven't yet asked for your lender list, contact Sandi or Karin.

Museum Moments 
Do you have tips you'd like to share regarding collections management? What about an event or special project you'd like to highlight? We'd love to hear and share your story in a featured blog post! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review - The Birth of the Museum: history, theory, politics

image from
As we've shared on social media, in the winter we took advantage of a fantastic book sale and also received two very generous donations of museum literature. These have greatly expanded our reference library.

The first 'new' addition that I read felt like an appropriate place to start. Written by Tony Bennett (not that Tony Bennett) and published by Routledge in 1995, this is not your standard book on the history and development of museums. Bennett takes a serious look at museological development in Australia, Europe and North America, and how museums played a role in social development, gender equality, education, and much more. He also looks at the motivations behind these activities. What I really appreciate about Bennett's take on museological history is that he doesn't shy away from harsh truths. Rather than tooting our professional horn, he acknowledges the good, the bad and the ugly. He also includes world fairs, exhibition centres, and other similar activities and events in his analysis, and includes many quotes from early museum designers and planners that reveal motivations and goals, some of which will make you shake your head. This makes for a rich, diverse look at how we have showcased and displayed, celebrated and mocked our collective history, and how those teachings and the museum environment have translated into long-term, generational lessons.

Bennett identifies three issues that were driving forces in 19th century museum development. Firstly, museum designers and planners absolutely thought of museums as public, social spaces and wanted to make a serious shift away from the private, exclusive museums that were in existence. The second issue, also a major shift, was to move from presenting cabinets of curiousity to educational forums that would teach visitors. This teaching would be done through exhibit design and labels. George Brown Goode presented a lecture in 1889 that noted a desire to transform the museum of the past "into a nursery of living thought". I think that's a great question to ask ourselves today. Is our museum a nursery of living thought? Are we cultivating questions and discussions? The third issue was really about the visitor. Designers and planners recognized that society was changing, partially because of the industrial revolution, and that there was a huge opportunity for education around things as simple as being polite. The museum's public, accessible space offered an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to gather, to watch and learn from each other. This concern over proper behaviour even translated into building design, with promenades, galleries, and elevated areas providing plenty of open space and ability for museum staff to keep an eye on visitors and address any "inappropriate" behaviour immediately. They also expected visitors to monitor and address issues as well, through disapproving looks or remarks.

Bennett reminds us that while western museums were some of the first public places that welcomed and encouraged women to visit (go equal rights!), this often came from a place of fear. Planners were afraid that museum crowds would turn into mobs, and that the buildings and collections would be damaged. They figured that men behave better when women are present, so if they encouraged men and women to visit museums as a social activity, this would help to maintain order. No I am not making this up.

He also faces colonialism head-on, and demonstrates how these racist attitudes have had a lasting impact on our societies. His discussion on chronological exhibit design will make you think.
"The devices which rendered human progress into a performable narrative within the museum entailed that only some humans and not others could recognize themselves as fully addressed by that narrative and thus be able to carry out its performative routines." Let's admit it, we've been really slow at changing out exhibits and labels and other interpretive text, so there is some insensitive information still being presented that definitely doesn't help in the era of reconciliation. I still sometimes see "Micmac" in Nova Scotia's museums, even though I remember being told clearly as a young child in school, "even though the textbook spells it Micmac, it should be spelled and pronounced Mi'kmaq". Not that I'm trying to age myself, but that was almost 30 years ago. I think it's time to show a little respect to our First Nation friends and neighbours.

Even our educational history is tarnished with elitist intentions. Bennett shares numerous quotes that illustrate the hope of museum founders to improve the morals and behaviour of the low classes in order to render them more acceptable to encounter while out in society. In the various quotes that Bennett shares on this subject, the museum planners come across as wanting to make things better for the privileged in society, rather than trying to help lift anyone out of poverty or illiteracy or ignorance. Believe it or not, instruction booklets for museum visitors were part of this process, and included things as fundamental as how to dress. They may speak of the benefits to the "lower classes", but their comments are dripping in elitism and a desire to make the spaces popular with the privileged.

In thinking about this complex and difficult past, Bennett encourages museums to look to their visitor statistics and make use of them (yes!!! a thousand times yes!). As he puts it, "studies of museum visitors thus make it abundantly clear not only that museum attendance varies directly with such variables as class, income, occupation and, most noticeable, education, but also that the barriers to participation, as perceived by non-attenders, are largely cultural. Those sections of the population which make little use of museums clearly feel that the museum constitutes a cultural space that is not meant for them - and, as we have seen, not without reason."

Aside from the different perspective presented, which I will be rolling into our Museums 101 course, finishing this book left me with a series of questions. I wonder what I've been programmed to understand as a museum. Do I behave differently when I'm in one? What are our true intentions when we develop programs, design exhibits, or seek partnerships. Have we shaken off our elitist history? Are we trying to be self-serving? Or are we legitimately trying to make our communities better for everyone?