Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 2019 Update

Museum Evaluation Program
As always, the MEP is in full swing. This month we opened the Documentation Review submission website, and are excited to report that museums are now are able to login and review their previous evaluation submission and just update what needs to be updated rather than having to resubmit everything. We are hoping this saves everyone a lot of time, effort, and stress. For those of you that are actively preparing for evaluation, a few things to keep in mind:
- museums that regularly reach out for support score on average 11% higher than those that do not,
- museums that engage in regular learning opportunities score on average 20% higher than those that do not,
- and museums that prepare for evaluation as a team score on average 21% higher than those that rely on one person to do all the work.
Please don't wait until April or May to get started on prep work. It's a lot, and we're here to help, but the sooner you reach out, the easier it is to provide that help.
We are also accepting applications from people who want to serve as evaluators. If you or someone you know is interested in applying, they can check out the program info, evaluator job description application form on our website. Last year our 11 evaluators had a combined 356 years of experience. Isn't that crazy?? It really speaks to the lifelong dedication of heritage professionals.

The Working Group (MEPWG) that supports the MEP met this month, and mostly talked about how we're going to evolve the MEP into into an accreditation program. They decided to strike a smaller group to really dive into some policies and procedures and that's what we are doing now. Lots of stuff in draft form, and lots of discussions taking place.

CollectiveAccess Updates
We have some really interesting conversations with museum workers and we are privileged to help museums with their database work. Both of these scenarios lead to discoveries of challenges facing museums, and legacy issues from previous generations of workers. And for some odd reason, we often see/hear about the same things in rapid's like the old adage that things happen in threes. So here are the latest three things to surface:

1. Original owners. When tagging someone as the original owner of an artifact, it's really important to think about what this is telling the world. The person you tagged was the first owner of that item. Here's a perfect example of how this can go wrong. Someone tagged a Nova Scotian man as the original owner of a Nazi armband. You know the ones I mean; bright red with the white circle and black swastika. What you are saying is that this local man was a Nazi. The museum worker who entered this information into the database tagged the donor, who brought back this souvenir from the Second World War, as its original owner. This is a really bad mistake to broadcast, an ugly accusation to make, and definitely not an apology you want to give to that individual or their family. 

2. Permanent loans! It's an oldie that we've blogged about and developed a resource to help with, but it just keeps rearing its ugly head. And the longer the issue is avoided, the higher the risk for museums. It is much easier to deal with one person to clear up loans than a grieving family. So we are offering to be more proactive in our support of museums with these old loans in their collections. If you are using CollectiveAccess and want some help, we will create reports for you by lender so that you can easily see who needs to be approached about which items. Just give us a call or send us an email and let us know you'd like us to do this for your museum. 

3. Tying into the permanent loan issue is capturing full contact information for donors and lenders. Your database should be your go-to for information. Did someone donate 300 items and the prospect of updating all those records is daunting?? No worries! Just click on the person's name, enter all their details and contact info, hit save, and then it gets transferred to every object record to which it is linked. You just updated 300 records in one minute, and now when you need to call someone to talk about their old loans, you've got their phone number at your fingertips.

There are now 297,563 artifacts documented with 178,768 associated images, which means that 88 new records and 930 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month. Congrats to the Central region for adding the most images this month!

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:
Southwest -133,337 artifacts, 67,711 images
Central - 100,438 artifacts, 51,345 images
Northeast - 33,613 artifacts, 43,608 images
Cape Breton - 30,175 artifacts, 16,104 images

Digitization Highlights 

Every Thursday leading up to the summer months, we will feature throwbacks to digitization work done for NovaMuse on our  Facebook and Twitter! This week's post - the Southwest region. If you have helped us in the past with digitization efforts, keep an eye out! You may see a familiar face from your museum. You'll also see two of our past Fleming interns in this week's post, Heather and Kassandra! We appreciate shares on our social media platforms to reach a larger audience, why not help us spread the word?

Fleming Partnership
Students are busy reviewing their 300 adopted artifacts' database records. I chat with them via a Facebook group so that we can learn more about CollectiveAccess and the variety of objects and documentation that exists in museums, and Deb provides support during their class time. Once they finish the initial review they'll switch to research mode...can't wait to hear what they find out about our collections.


New! The NovaMuse Stories Guide is now available! A guide for creating Galleries through myNovaMuse – learn how to link together and share stories found in museum collections. This is a great opportunity for your team to brainstorm new ideas and schedule time to develop new online content. The brainstorming activity and Stories checklist in this guide will also be very helpful! Click here to download.

Updated CollectiveAccess manual

CollectiveAccess tutorials

CollectiveAccess & Collections Management Webinar Series

Photo Kit - looking to get a head start on digitization? Our photo kit is available to borrow for a 3 week period (camera not included). Interested? Email Sandi at to check availability.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Museum Moments - NSSHF Induction Night & Museum Promotion

The Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame hosted their Induction Night on November 2nd, 2018 at the Halifax Convention Centre. Four athletes, one team and two builders were inducted, including the first equine inductee for NSSHF. 

ANSM was pleased to see a two-page spread for the museum in the Annual Program. This is a great example of how to promote and celebrate collections with a larger audience.  

Included is a summary of the museum's involvement with the Museum Evaluation Program, public programming efforts and community outreach initiatives, and collections management best practices. NSSHF completed a cost analysis for collections care, providing a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work necessary in museums. NSSHF also gave thanks to those who have supported the museum in a section titled 'Friends of the Hall.' 

Thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for setting an example for museums in Nova Scotia. The NSSHF Facebook and Twitter pages are also a must see. Their team understands the importance of celebrating the stories and connections in their museum records & sharing news with the public from all angles. Bravo!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Review - Six Keys to Recruiting, Orienting, and Involving Nonprofit Board Members

When I visit our reference library, I am not ageist. The book could be 6 months old or 40 years old...I'll read it. That doesn't mean I will blog about it. If the book doesn't contain good, helpful information (such as the one I read about setting up a historical society in the 1970s that included some advice that would not be legal today), then I just quietly move on to the next book. So when I picked this book up, I figured it would be another one that would give me insights into how boards used to function rather than seeing relevance to 21st century museums. But even though this book was published in 1991 (almost 30 years ago!), I think we can still learn a lot from it. Judith Grummon Nelson wrote it for the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, now known as BoardSource. Their mission is "to inspire and support excellence in nonprofit governance and board and staff leadership."

This workbook-style resource is concise and full of quote-worthy material. As you can guess from the title, it is broken up into six chapters, or keys. Each key includes tips and information, as well as templates for letters and forms and other tools that you can adapt and use in your organization. I love it when books are structured that way - here's what you should do, and here is the tool to do it.

As I began reading, I was struck by how relevant Nelson's writing is to our current realities. We often hear from museum staff or volunteers that are struggling with their board; not because the people are not passionate or hardworking, but because they want to recruit new people with other skills and abilities (and to give the longstanding board members a break!) and find this to be an incredibly difficult task. While Nelson is sympathetic to those realities, she very clearly reminds the reader that "the success of your nonprofit organization depends, in large part, on the quality of your governing board", which in turn reflects on the strength of your nominating committee. It is crucial to select board members who will be effective for the "current stage of your nonprofit's life". Wow. So a couple things about these remarks. First, how seriously do we think about the nominating committee? I have served in this role before, and when recruited for it, was told that it's quite simple because you just ask the people to continue in their roles for another year. It's an easy, one-day-a-year kind of job. Ummmm, okay??? Nelson debunks this myth very nicely throughout her book. The second comment that really caught my attention here is the "current stage of life". It's not about maintaining any sort of status quo, but acknowledging that the organization is a living entity that changes over time, and your board needs to be able to address the current realities and needs. Yes yes yes.
Now let's work through those 6 keys.

Key 1 - Build Your Nominating Committee
Nelson states that people serving in this capacity should have broad vision, wide contacts, be dedicated, thoughtful, and well respected within the organization. They need to be able to understand those current realities and issues, and be able to identify the kind of board members needed to move the organization to the next level/phase of its existence. The committee needs to have clear terms of reference and be outlined in the bylaws as well. There should be a plan for board development, with goals and tasks tied to specific months or dates to keep everything on track. It is a continuous job, not a one-day-a-year job.

Key 2 - Assess the Current Makeup of Your Board
Simply put, an evolving organization needs an evolving board. Nelson advocates for staggered departures, which we also advocate for. She says that "such a system of rotation serves as an easy way for your board to identify and cultivate new board members in a thoughtful, dignified, and effective way." It's a lot easier to get someone to sign on for a two-year commitment than a nebulous, potentially never-ending one. It is also a way to be proactive in ensuring that the skills and abilities you need are part of the board when you need them.

Key 3 - Identify Potential Board Members
As I alluded above, the role of the nominating committee is not to ask people to continue doing whatever job(s) they've been doing. The committee should "observe and note people who are making good things happen in your community." It should be asking others for recommendations, suggestions, ideas, etc. And it shouldn't just be asking this of current board members, staff, volunteers, or other 'friends' of the museum. Asking people outside of the museum means getting a sense of what's going on in the community, its needs, priorities, and goals. And from this information, the committee can look at the museum and its role and build the board accordingly. The tool in this section is a board referral form that enables the nominating committee to outline prospective board members and their backgrounds, skills, interests, etc.
It did feel like Nelson assumed an urban, or rather populous reality in this section. One of the issues that we often hear is how few people there are in rural areas, and that they are already involved with multiple organizations so cannot be recruited for museum work. This is definitely true in some cases, but Nelson's point here is that if you take this big picture, analytical and methodical approach, you will be more successful because it is a matching of interests and goals.

Key 4 - Cultivate and Recruit New Board Members
A question to ask yourself is how can potential board members get to know your organization? Keep in mind my last book review and the importance of engaging outsiders. Don't assume that everyone knows what you do and why. Is it easy for people learn more about the museum? Quietly and on their own terms? Through your website? Visiting with current board members and enjoying some tea and cake? Special events like an open hour, behind-the-scenes tour, workshop, or other social event? Your AGM or board meeting that invites the public to attend?
As you move into the recruitment phase, remember that the nomination process is a group discussion. Strong candidates should be met with by two museum reps to have in-depth discussions about museum operations, board role, funding, etc. They need to know what they would be stepping into. Keep in mind that as you work through this process you may discover that someone is not a good fit for the board, and that's okay! You can look at alternative roles that may be a better fit for everyone involved, like a volunteer or committee role. Maybe the person doesn't have the time, or maybe they are interested in something else. The important thing to remember is that there are options, and just because it isn't a good fit right now doesn't mean it won't be a good fit in the future. You can still build that relationship. In meeting with the candidate, make sure you have a plan ahead of time; what information will be shared, who will say what, what kind of materials or resources to give, etc. You also need to decide who will make the follow-up call (never leave someone hanging!). Once meetings take place with all the potential new board members, the nominating committee narrows the list and presents it to the board, and then to members at the AGM for voting.

One of the things I really liked about this key is the look at why people join, and why they don't. The "why nots" can be pretty simple - lack of time or not knowing the group well enough. But when surveyed about why they joined a nonprofit group, people said that identifying with the mission is key (Love this! Yet another reminder that we need to move on from our old definition mission statements!!). Others say that they are looking for a way to be involved, that they were inspired by the organization's work and wanted to be a part of it, that they wanted to socialize and meet people, to learn new skills, to be fulfilled in something outside of their career, or as follow-up to their career. In thinking about this last point, don't forget to involve the young adults; the 20s/30s in your community. These people want to have an impact, and getting involved with a museum is a great way for them to build skills, their CV, and make connections.

Key 5 - Orient Your New Board Members
It is very important to welcome new board members. Nelson includes a sample letter that can be sent from the board president, and reminds of the importance of proper orientation. Even if someone is returning after a hiatus from the board, they need to be brought up to speed on what's new, what's changed, and the current strengths and weaknesses. They can also be paired up with a current board member so they have a go-to person in case they have questions. Nelson also suggests that an annual review for all board members is a good idea; reminding everyone about where things stand and what is hoped to be accomplished over the coming year. This ties in nicely with discussions about the strategic plan.

Key 6 - Involve and Acknowledge New Board Members
When I read this section, it reminded me of a courtship. You've just put a lot of work into finding and wooing someone, so how do you keep the love alive? Nelson says it is important to engage "in activities they will enjoy and succeed at" and to acknowledge their assistance and efforts. "Otherwise, new board members may tend to become absorbed with their own day-to-day work and family activities, and just appear at board meetings - and perhaps fewer and fewer of them." So keep learning about them, their interests, and their opinions about how things are going with the museum. Ask for their input and advice, especially based on their skills and experiences (this is why you recruited them in the first place!). And talk them up! Make sure your board feels appreciated and their efforts are highlighted through newsletters, social media, meeting minutes, and of course with cake.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

December 2018 Update

And just like that, the year is over. And was it ever a busy one. 1 national discussion group, 2 book reviews, 3 workshops, 4 orientation sessions, 5 webinars & practice exercises, 5 new/updated internal procedural documents, 7 SME YouTube videos, 8 new/updated online resources, 9 new/updated YouTube tutorials, 16 blog posts, 17 workshop homework assignments reviewed, 18 museum evaluations, 290 records reviewed by Fleming students, 1,553 records migrated into CollectiveAccess, 7,766 new database records, 23,882 new database images, and we won't bother counting all the meetings...there were many.

Museum Evaluation Program
I've had a couple questions from people about the overarching evaluation report. It was submitted to CCH before the holidays, and once we receive approval, we will post it on our website for all to see. We will let everyone know when it goes online.
For the 2019 evaluations, Q&A continues, and next week we will be launching the evaluator application process. We have a slightly tweaked job description and application form, and will announce via the Beacon and Facebook. For now, if you know of any museum professionals who might be interested in volunteering their time to this program, you can direct them to our website or suggest they give us a call. We'd be more than happy to discuss.

Strategic Planning
I mentioned in the November update that our board was working through a strategic planning process. The draft plan is being tweaked, and we are incorporating it into our 2019 work plans. We feel good about it, and hope that you will too. We'll announce when it is finalized and on our website.

CollectiveAccess Update
Advisory Service museums have also been very busy. We are happy to report that staff and volunteers at these institutions, working with ANSM, Fleming, and SME partners, made improvements to 11% of the collections this year (32,184 records, including 14,267 new images). This is a very big accomplishment, fantastic work everyone! And as mentioned above, over 7000 new entries and 23,000 new images were added in 2018. Wow!

There are now 297,475 artifacts documented with 177,838 associated images, which means that 1,713 new records and 356 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month. We're getting very close to the 300k mark. That will definitely be a cake-worthy celebration.

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:
Southwest -133,312 artifacts, 67,523 images
Central - 100,410 artifacts, 50,821 images
Northeast - 33,605 artifacts, 43,568 images
Cape Breton - 30,148 artifacts, 15,926 images

SME Partnership
In 2018, we partnered with the Colchester Historeum, Kings County Museum, and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. With their help, we launched a SME pilot project. Great connections were made with local SMEs who shared their knowledge and expertise. Connections within records surfaced and over 20+ stories are now featured in the new galleries on NovaMuse. To learn more about this partnership, we invite you to read the project recap. A Stories Guide will be released soon to help you make these kind of connections in your own records on NovaMuse. Stay tuned!

museums participating in the 2019 Fleming partnership
Fleming Partnership
The next NovaMuse project will be launching mid-January. 10 museums will be participating and 300 records will be reviewed and improved. The students, teacher, and of course the team here at ANSM, are all excited about what this year's work will bring. Every year the students uncover something new that really adds to a museum's knowledge of their collections. With 300 artifacts in play, something cool is sure to come up.

As we look ahead to 2019, we see some big plans and more busy times. But we are feeling excited and energized for what comes next.

Happy New Year!

Subject Matter Expert (SME) Partnership Update

One of our goals this year was to expand the work that we do with subject matter experts (SMEs) and encourage museums to pursue these valuable partnerships in their own communities. We launched a pilot project and enlisted the help of three Advisory Service sites. With the help of staff and volunteers at the Colchester Historeum, Kings County Museum, and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, important partnerships were made with SMEs who have extensive knowledge of: silverware, bottles, lumbering & forestry, Royal Canadian Navy sports history, and football in Nova Scotia. We would like to thank Kim Troop (bottle expert) and Allison Magee (silverware expert) for the work that they completed with staff at the Kings County Museum, including a video series on artifact identification. Also, thanks to Allan Bonnyman and staff at the Colchester Historeum and Doug Wright and staff at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for their efforts.

We invite you to explore 5 new galleries & related stories. A few highlights are listed below:

Colchester Historeum - Logging, Milling & Forestry

One of the stories in this gallery is about J. J. Snook, an owner of a prosperous harness and saddle business (c. 1870). He organized a lumber camp at Farm Lake (c. 1908). Nora and George Tucker of Tatamagouche looked after the camp and are pictured onsite. You will also find a weight used for tethering horses manufactured by J. J. Snook and a photograph of the business describing it as "one of the largest horse furnishing houses in the Maritime Provinces." 

Another story is of Osborne Higgins who ran a sawmill in Crowe's Mills. The three harmonicas in this gallery were played by Higgins at home, in church, and during local kitchen parties. Higgins also purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder in February 1952 from a Truro merchant. A connection to a pair of snowshoes originally owned by Higgins was made. These were used to travel to a lumber mill site.

Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame - Royal Canadian Navy Sports in Nova Scotia 

One of the stories in this gallery is about the Halifax Wanderers Grounds, which was the center of sports activity in Nova Scotia for many years. During the summer of 1942, the Halifax’s Wanderers Grounds baseball park and clubhouse were reappropriated to act as the recreation centre for the Royal Canadian Navy stationed in the city. The clubhouse was renamed the Navy League Club House to reflect this change. On August 1, 1942, the recreation park was officially reopened by the Navy and an opening game was held, which pitted the team from Halifax against a Navy team from Toronto.

Retired Yankee baseball player George Herman “Babe” Ruth was asked to appear at the opening ceremony. At some point during the game, Ruth interrupted play to give a hitting exhibition for the 5000 fans assembled at the park. Ruth took to the plate to hit a few easy pitches from Awkie Titus, a relief pitcher for the local Halifax Defence League’s Navy Club. An autographed baseball and a photograph of the opening day ceremonies is included in this gallery.

Some of these records have ties to the Wanderers Grounds and Harry A. Cochrane, who took photographs for the Mail-Star Chronicle-Herald. Another unique story is about John "Fabie" Bates. Fabie played hockey and football for St. Francis Xavier University (St.FX) in 1915-1916 and then served in the Royal Canadian Army during World War I from 1916-1919. During the War he survived a mustard gas attack, temporary blindness and a secret allied expedition in Northern Russia. In 1919, he went back to St.FX and captained both the hockey and football teams. During his years at St.FX, Bates led the hockey team to two intercollegiate championships and in his last season scored half of the team's total goals. In 1921, Bates graduated from St.FX and went on to Dalhousie Medical School. While at DAL, he played hockey and rugby. Fabie was known as "one of the most brilliant and popular athletes ever to attend Dalhousie."

Kings County Museum - Railway Connections in Kentville

With the help of Allison Magee, a number of silverware records were examined. To connect the dots, ANSM staff searched for related records to highlight connections to the Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR). DAR started operation in 1894 and was then leased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1911. According to record P991.189.131, in 1898, DAR had a new steamer, the S.S. Prince George, built in Hull, England. She arrived in Yarmouth in November and was put on the Boston run. Both Captain Arthur and Adelbert MacKinnon were her masters. In that same year a sister ship, the Prince Arthur, was built and put into service under the command of J. Ernest Kenney and Alvin Simms. The ships ran daily during the summer months while the S.S. Prince Edward was laid up for repairs. 

A related record is The Land of Evangeline Nova Scotia Annotated Guide (2018.012.008), which is a 67 page softcover Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR) brochure that promoted travel to Nova Scotia. You will also find a 68 page soft cover brochure titled, Vacation Days in Nova Scotia (dated 1907) in this gallery (2018.012.007). 

A selection of these objects were found in the spring of 2005 by the firm of Neill & Gunter Ltd., a Design & Consulting Engineer Co. Work was completed for the town of Kentville to clean up the former Dominion Atlantic Railway (Canadian Pacific) lands located at the western end of the Town of Kentville. A large collection of items were unearthed near the railway roundhouse and donated to the museum in the fall of 2005.  It is likely that many of these artifacts were part of the dining service on the train. A letter (2008.005.011) was also found inside a can time capsule, which was encased in the cement foundation of the roundhouse. It was written on a time sheet from the Canadian Pacific Railway, signed by builders of the cement foundation, John DeWolfe, George Gillis, Harry Lynch, Harvey McLeod, and Albert Roberts. The three individuals who found the foundation wrote a response, as seen in this gallery (2008.005.013).

Medicine Bottles and More

With the advice of bottle expert, Kim Troop, various records in this gallery were examined. Most bottles are from the Jijuktu’kwejk Watershed Alliance Collection. The marks and labels indicate that some of these bottles were used by druggists in Nova Scotia. For instance, an extract bottle (2018.036.003) used by druggists like C.C. Richards and L.C. of Yarmouth (circa 1880) is in the gallery. Another bottle (2018.036.005) was produced by A.S. Hinds Company, which was based in New England (Portland, ME) as a maker of medicines for coughs and colds. Kim Troop stated that the Rawleighs medicine company bottle (2018.036.007) with continued thread on the neck is machine made, consumer glass works, c. 1940s. A popular Minard's liniment bottle (2018.036.009) was also a topic of discussion. 

ANSM staff helped identify related artifacts, such as the 3oz medicine bottle with a label stating: Manufactured by B.R. Bishop, Kentville, N.S. According to the label, it is for colds and an irritated throat. A print by Amos Lawson Hardy, a talented photographer who captured scenes of Nova Scotia during his lifetime, photographed the home of Dr. Bishop (P995.185.1).

The records found in these new galleries highlight important connections and weave together meaningful stories. The 5 new galleries feature 20+ stories intertwined in the records. ANSM invites you to explore these stories and many others in the Contributor Galleries on NovaMuse!