Friday, March 29, 2019

March 2019 Update

Meetings and Shenanigans
We kicked off March with a Google Hangout for CollectiveAccess in Canada. As I mentioned in the November 2018 update, this is a new discussion group that was launched for governments and provincial museum associations that are delivering database services like our Advisory Service, and using CollectiveAccess. It is also a chance for other provinces and territories to ask questions and learn from the rest of us. It was great to have some new people and provinces join in for this non-meeting. We're also sharing lots of info, resources and ideas in a Google Group.

The other notable meeting this month was with our new lawyer Peter. He's going to help with our Loan Reconciliation Toolkit. More on that later, but you know you have a good lawyer when he gets excited about "a unique, interesting problem that will yield really fascinating research".

Museum Evaluation Program
There was a last minute flurry of activity before the blackout date deadline, but everything has worked out and the site evaluation schedule has been set and circulated, along with the evaluation teams. If you're being evaluated and haven't yet confirmed your date, please do so asap. Two Q&A messages were circulated this month, and 8 museums are now actively submitting files for Documentation Review - more than a month ahead of the deadline!
The MEPWG accreditation sub-group is actively discussing the accreditation application process, so there is also lots of work happening behind the scenes in preparation for the evolution of the MEP.

CollectiveAccess Updates
Huge thanks to Cady and Linda for testing out the new features we've developed through our MAP grant. We will be rolling these changes out next week. One of the changes we are excited about is the addition of a help menu, where you can access links to resources (database manual, YouTube tutorial etc), get answers to some frequently asked questions, and also see how to contact ANSM support. We are hoping that this will be a good supplement to in-house training of new staff, volunteers, and summer students, and will be a good reminder for those who don't work in the system often.
We also have a really cool error alert system that walks you through problems and how to fix them.
So if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare and want to do some cleanup work, this is going to be your new best friend. You can just browse for problems, click on the "show editor alerts" button, and the system will walk you through the rest.
We'll be doing up new YouTube tutorials and updating the database manual with these new features and more.

There are now 297,960 artifacts documents with 181,942 associated images, which means that 193 new records and 2,529 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month. The Southwest Region added the most images this month and the Central Region was in close second. Good job!

A special mention goes out to the Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum who added 1,302 new images in the last month!

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:
Southwest - 133,407 artifacts, 69,287 images
Central - 100,686 artifacts, 52,947 images
Northeast - 33,641 artifacts, 43,682 images
Cape Breton - 30,226 artifacts, 16,026 images

Old Loans - As we've been mentioning, it's time to address old loans in museums. While it might feel easy to just ignore the issue, the sooner you face it, the higher the probability of an easy reconciliation process. The longer you ignore it, the higher the risk for the museum. We have done an analysis of CollectiveAccess records so we can see some of the loans in museums, and we are in the process of revamping our Loan Reconciliation Toolkit. As mentioned above, we are now working with a lawyer to ensure that abandoned property and privacy laws are incorporated into the guidelines, and where there are legal grey areas we will ensure that best practices and due diligence are clearly laid out. While this legal work takes place, the best thing you (museums) can do is to get your lender lists ready. And if you're part of the Advisory Service, we can do this for you. It takes a bit of time, but we will extract all of the loan records along with the lender's contact info. Then when the toolkit is complete we will roll your lists into the toolkit so you have a customized plan for addressing old loans in your museum. Remember these loans aren't part of your collection. You don't own this stuff. If they are not being tracked and regularly reviewed with the lender, they are a serious liability.

Now that is live, we strongly recommend that you bookmark the site and use it instead of your old Nomenclature book. Our newest YouTube tutorial shows you how to use the website when filling out a record in CollectiveAccess. Be sure to check it out!

Stories on NovaMuse
Have you used the Galleries feature on NovaMuse? It's the perfect opportunity to share stories in your collections with your online audience. Advisory Service members can use the contributor galleries to do this. Not a member? No problem! Create a user account and have fun piecing together stories from museums across Nova Scotia.

We have created a NovaMuse Stories Guide, which you can download from our website. It provides step-by-step instructions and examples to make sharing stories an easy process! Looking for more inspiration? Check out what other museums and users have been sharing in their galleries on NovaMuse.

Museum Moments 
Have you been following our new blog series? We have been having a lot of fun sharing good ideas, programs and projects from museums across the province. And we'd like to share more, so if your museum is doing something cool, let us know! Check out our latest post for textile storage tips from The Army Museum. More to come, stay tuned!

Fleming Partnership
Students are wrapping up their site reports as this class assignment nears its end. Deb and I will be having a debrief call to discuss how things went and how we can improve on them for next year. We have a few ideas on how to tweak things and make them more fun and interesting for the students, and hopefully more helpful to the museums.

Digitization Highlights 
Every Thursday leading up to the summer months, we will feature throwbacks on our Facebook and Twitter! Recently, we have been highlighting work done by our past interns. In our latest post, you can see Hope assisting with digitization efforts at the Queens County Museum.

Photo Kit - Our photo kit is currently available. If you're interested in borrowing it for 3 weeks, please contact Sandi.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review - Igniting Young Minds and Spirits: Youth Governance

image from
If you look, there are always examples of young people being active in their community, in politics, and in advocacy. They want their voices to be heard. One of the best recent examples that comes to my mind is the way Parkland Florida students got organized and rallied for gun control in the United States. As Barack Obama noted, youth will ask tough questions and insist on real answers; they aren't satisfied with bureaucratic non-answers or other platitudes. They see an issue and are eager to help resolve it. When we do see activism like this, there is also often a sort of voyeurism associated, almost as if adults lean in with bowls of popcorn and watch to see what's going to happen. Thankfully, not all adults respond this way.

It is with this in mind that we visit our reference library for a look at Wayne Wiens' Igniting Young Minds and Spirits, published by the Muttart Foundation in 2000. While a few of the studies and statistics are now dated, the overall content of this little resource is still very relevant and valuable to museums and non-profits in general.

When I finished reading this book, I thought to myself how great it was that Wiens didn't hold back from criticizing organizations that use youth in "token" roles or as "decoration". I've attended a number of conference sessions on youth involvement and more often than not, these advocate for a "youth representative", which can easily become a token role or misunderstood as the rep sharing the same ideas and ideals as all other youth. So to me, the straightforward way in which Wiens discusses this topic, and the range of models and ideas was very welcome. Wiens has a clear understanding of mindsets and barriers to youth participation and is able to clearly outline the benefits and reasons to include youth in community governance work. A lot of these lessons also translate to how we think about our summer students. Yes they alleviate pressure from other workers, but they (and the associated funding programs) aren't there to just babysit the museum and collection and greet visitors. If that's how you're using your students, you should read this book and think about all the youth relationships you could be cultivating.

Wiens' list of reasons to include youth are many and varied, but a few of them really jumped out at me for museums; making and implementing decisions for the whole community, building skills and self-confidence, and showing youth how to work together for common goals. He continues by taking a look at youth involvement from a philosophical standpoint. He reminds the reader that just like adults, youth have different skills and abilities, and that their involvement will not happen in isolation, but that they will bring along family, connections, and fresh perspectives. If the youth truly believe that they are respected and their input valued, they will be empowered to contribute and make a difference in their community, and this will go a long way in helping the museum deliver relevant services and address community issues. Everybody wins.

Wiens cautions that some organizations will need to change to really enable youth involvement, whether this is through by-laws, policies, or other guiding documents. Youth need to have a clear understanding and outline of the organization and their potential role. As one youth put it, "we're not stupid. We need to know what we're getting into first. We need the facts. We need information." Doesn't that sound like an unfiltered version of what potential board or committee members might say?

The term "youth development model" is used in explaining the recommended approach to youth involvement, and Wiens succinctly outlines what leaders must do in order to adopt this model and use it to rebuild communities and address issues. This includes identifying how the organization can serve youth, coming up with strategies to involve youth, and promoting personal growth among all staff and volunteers - learning and growing is good for everyone! Wiens proceeds to discuss strategies in rebuilding communities and organizing youth development campaigns, and then gets to the depressing list of barriers to youth involvement. Some of these may sound familiar; poor communications between youth and adults, resistance to change, and false assumptions about youth's abilities. He also outlined specific challenges such as transportation, resources to cover expenses, and eliminating patronizing attitudes.

As I noted earlier, Wiens definitely did his homework and knows his subject. He reviews 8 models of youth participation and they run the gamut from full youth involvement and sharing decisions with adults, to what he calls "manipulation", ie "adults pretend youth are involved" but don't actually have any real input or understanding or opportunity for feedback. He takes this opportunity to remind the reader that history (recent and distant) includes many examples of young leaders and trailblazers, from Joan of Arc to Albert Einstein to Craig Kielburger, and calls on organizations to help cultivate the leaders of tomorrow.

I'll let the author sum things up for himself.
"There is overwhelming evidence that youth involvement offers solutions to fragmented and fractured societies. Not through tokenism or patronizing lip-service on the part of adults, but with genuine interest, concern, and effort to understand each other, adults and youth can create equal partnerships to build stronger, more supportive, and more dynamic societies in which youthful members have a vital role. When young people see their efforts and involvement making a real difference, their commitment to themselves, to their communities, and to the future will grow stronger. Without doubt, youth will bring positive change."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Museum Moments - Textile Storage Tips from The Army Museum

This Museum Moment features the work of staff and volunteers at the Army Museum. Chara Kingston, Collections Manager, welcomed me into their space recently to share some of their handy storage solutions. Chara has been coming up with creative ways to improve textile storage and has involved her volunteers in the process. 
She contacted local hotels to ask for donations. Thanks to kind donations from the Prince George Hotel and the Westin Halifax, bed sheets and pillowcases are being transformed into effective storage solutions.

Tip: adding tags to the exterior and including the accession number, object name, description, and image of the artifact will help you locate an item in storage quickly.

The bed sheets were cut into three pieces and folded over to create casings (Chara calls them ponchos) for the uniforms. The sides were sewn in place. Another option is to add ties to the sides with scrap pieces of fabric if a part of the garment needs more room, such as a dress with ruffles. Pillowcases were used for smaller items, such as boots and helmets. 
Another clever storage solution is for hats. One way to prevent the brim from bending is to create a base for the hat to rest on. Do you have wrapping paper rolls or paper towel rolls at home? Why not use them to construct the base. Wrap it in bubble wrap and then add a layer of acid-free tissue paper or muslin. It's that easy!
We understand the importance of finding cost effective solutions for storage and hope that these tips were helpful! Thanks again to the Army Museum for sharing. Follow the museum on Facebook to learn more about the process!