Friday, May 31, 2019

May 2019 Update

Conferences & Meetings
The first conference of the month was the annual one of the Council of Nova Scotia Archives, where Sandi presented on our SME work and encouraged attendees to engage with local experts to learn more about their collections. It was great to hear about non-traditional uses and approaches to archival collection issues, and how the information in them is becoming more and more accessible. I (Karin) somehow missed getting a photo of her in action, so here she is all ready to talk up the amazing work by David, Marven and Kassandra.

I spent this week running from one conference to another. The Canadian Evaluation Society was in Halifax for its annual conference, which afforded an opportunity to learn more about broader evaluation practices and issues. I attended workshops and sessions on communication strategies for transforming results into action, evaluator integrity, community-led evaluation practices, decision-making and its impact on the evaluation process, and using results to form strategic plans. I have a lot of notes, takeaways, and information to process. It was great to delve deeper into the  evaluation world and get input on the Museum Evaluation Program from professional evaluators.

The second conference of the week was the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property, which is still taking place today and tomorrow. It's been a few years since I've attended the CAC conference, and it was great to see some old friends, colleagues, and even two of my teachers. What made this conference especially special, was that I had the honour of delivering the opening keynote. Not only was this a huge compliment, but it was exciting to share the amazing work of our member museums with a national audience. I was asked to speak on how community museums address collections care issues, and thanks to all of the great community museums we work with, had plenty of examples to share. The next session of the conference focused on conservation projects in Nova Scotia, so by lunch time the attendees had a pretty solid understanding of the scope of work being done in our wonderful province.

Museum Evaluation Program
May 3rd, aka the deadline for Documentation Review, came and went. This year felt pretty smooth since most museums uploaded their files gradually and well in advance of the deadline. So where are we at now? While museums shift gears to prepare for the July site evaluation, we at ANSM are reviewing and scoring the Doc Review files. Unfortunately, not everyone cleaned up their 2016 submitted files, so the MEP Working Group is now debating how to address this issue in the future. As you can imagine, this makes the review process much more difficult and lengthy. So while we had great intentions and thought this would make things easier, we'll have to figure out a better process for next year.
The working group is also tackling question review for 2020 and policies and procedures for Accreditation. They are a very busy group. We had one virtual meeting this month and what felt like a million emails and discussion threads in the Google group.

CollectiveAccess Updates
There are now 298,523 artifacts documents with 185,995 associated images, which means that 286 new records and 1,496 new images have been added to CollectiveAccess this month. The Southwest region added the most images this month. Great work!

Here's what the numbers look like at the regional level:
Southwest - 133,567 artifacts, 71,849 images
Central - 100,955 artifacts, 54,155 images
Northeast - 33,691 artifacts, 43,862 images
Cape Breton - 30,310 artifacts, 16,129 images

A number of new tutorials have been added to our YouTube channel to review new features in the database, please visit the CollectiveAccess tutorials playlist. Topics include:

Exporting Records to Artefacts Canada
Using the Nomenclature Website
Adding Child Records (New & Existing Records)
Using Change Log
Help Menu

Other important resources to share with your team:
CollectiveAccess Manual
NovaMuse Stories Guide
Artefact Photography Tips
QR Code How-To Guide

Fleming College
Hot off the press, we are super excited to announce that an intern from Fleming's Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program will be joining us this Fall. As part of her internship, she will be surveying museums to see what media formats are in collections, so put on your thinking caps and be ready to answer her questions about this in September. Do you have cassette tapes of oral histories sitting on shelves? Film reels or vhs tapes of old family movies? She will want to hear about it.

Artefacts Canada
As we've been mentioning, before there was NovaMuse, we shared collections info on Artefacts Canada. Over the past month we have asking permission to refresh the old 2011 records with the latest records from NovaMuse. So far, we've added 25,000 records and 30,000 images. If you haven't yet responded to a request to refresh your collections info on AC, please do so. If you haven't yet heard from us, you will soon. Or you can be proactive and reach out to us first. Our plan is to refresh AC twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall, until their website renewal process is complete and we will be able to share automatically between the two sites.

Old Loans
While we still haven't wrapped up the new Loan Reconciliation Toolkit, we can still be working on prepping lender lists in anticipation of this new resource. If you haven't asked us for your lender list yet, email Sandi or Karin, even if you think you don't have many loans in the museum. We hear that a lot and when we actually look into the records, they sometimes reveal a very different reality.

Site Visits
The schedules have been released, please check your email for updates. Hub training is the perfect opportunity for staff, summer students, and volunteers to take part in group digitization training. This year, there will be 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 tend to fill up quickly so please email Sandi ( as soon as possible to express interest in participating!

Admiral Digby Museum (Digby, NS) - Wed., June 5th 1 PM
Scott Manor House (Bedford, NS) - Tues., June 18th 9:30 AM
Port Hastings Museum (Port Hastings, NS) - Thurs., July 18th 1 PM
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

We still have openings for next week's session. Email Sandi ASAP to reserve a spot!

SME Update - we will work 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.

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!

Membership Packages will be mailed out soon! Please keep an eye out. Questions? Please contact Jennifer (admin[at]

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

CollectiveAccess - How to Enter Child Records Part 2

A great question was asked since we released instructions in a previous blog post for how to add a child record in CollectiveAccess. The question is "if a record already exists in CollectiveAccess, can I move it under a primary record?" The answer is yes!

First, bring up the record you wish to move under the primary record. Then, under the Administrative tab, you will find Location in Hierarchy. Click "Show Hierarchy."

Click the Move tab listed at the top. Find the primary record you'd like to list this record under by completing a key word search for the accession number.

Choose the primary record from the search results. Click on the primary record once displayed and you will receive the following message:

Then, click Save. You will see that the photograph (2007.5.1.1) is now listed as a child record under the primary record (2007.5.1).

Repeat these steps to add additional records under the primary record.

If you would like to remove a record from the hierarchy, click the scissors icon next to the record within the hierarchy and click save.

You can also add new records within the hierarchy using the Add tab. Choose record type and position in the hierarchy from the drop-down menus. A new record will generate as part of the hierarchy. Fill in the appropriate fields as you normally would do.

Would you like a demonstration? Click here to watch the YouTube tutorial. Please let us know if you have any questions along the way! We are here to help with this process.

Book Review - The Care of Historical Collections: A Conservation Handbook for the Nonspecialist

I'm breaking two of my rules by writing this review; this book was not the next one on the shelf of our reference library, and it is not one that we will make available for borrowing. It is old enough that some of the guidance and instructions no longer align with preservation and museological standards. But I will be delivering the Per Guldbeck Memorial Lecture at the CAC conference at the end of May, so wanted to get inside this guy's head. For those who are interested, there is an updated version of this book, although we don't have it in our collection and it is now a bit dated too.

Published in 1972 by the American Association for State and Local History, Guldbeck wrote the book "with the idea of providing small historical societies with an introduction to the problems of conservation and what can safely be done by the serious amateur."

Putting aside a silly sexist remark about women not being able to refrain from touching historic garments, I think Guldbeck and I would have gotten along quite well. Rather than try to hoard information or build himself an  empire, he wanted to spread the word and build capacity. He understood that if we all work together toward preservation goals, we have a much better chance of succeeding. Whenever he referenced these big goals and aims I was reminded of how ANSM works; how we try to build up the knowledge and skills of museum workers in Nova Scotia, how we share the lessons we learn with other museum associations and governments, and how we try to respond when we see a need. Clearly, Guldbeck saw a need and he responded to it.

I'll be honest, some of details and info that Guldbeck shared made me squirm. Even if the treatments that he recommended were still 100% up to date, I'd have squirmed. Why? Because conservation is a specialized field, and as such requires some serious training. Are some treatments simple enough for almost anyone to do? Yes. Absolutely. And are there a whole host of preventive conservation measures that people can put in place to help preserve the collection for future generations? Definitely! Thinking about that, I really love Guldbeck's mindset of just getting the information out there. However, being able to 'read' an artifact, to understand the chemistry at play, the impact the treatment will have, how to troubleshoot if things go sour, the ethics and professional principles that we follow...those skills can't be learned from this book. And some of them aren't even mentioned as issues.

But if you strip away the outdated treatment recommendations, Per Guldbeck shared a lot of timeless wisdom with his readers. I was amazed at how relevant some of his remarks still are, almost 50 years later. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

"The museum of the past may have been the community attic. But today, with the realization that it has a specific story to tell, with limited storage space, and with its obligation to preserve valid artifacts that it owns, a museum must of necessity be more discriminating in what it accepts."
Yes!! For anyone who was on the receiving end of a site visit from me or has attended our Museums 101 or Collections Management courses, this might sound familiar. This is a soapbox message I deliver time and again. Maybe they didn't exist or weren't yet adopted by our museums in 1972, but in 2019 we have very clear ethical and institutional guidelines about what should and should not be accepted into our collections. If you read this and think your museum is still the community attic, revisit those ethics guidelines. Revisit your bylaws and your mission statement and your collections management policy. These all exist to give you guidance. If you don't have a collections committee, get one in place and make sure you're using pre-acquisition review forms for every potential acquisition. Saying no isn't being rude. It's being responsible.

"If we do not care for what we already own we have no moral right to acquire more". 
Does that seem harsh to you? It shouldn't. It ties in neatly with ethical acquisition guidelines. Adding more stuff to the museum when you are struggling to care for the stuff already in it just means you'll be stretching limited resources even more, and everything will suffer as a result. In today's museum, this also extends to digital preservation. It is so easy to keep acquiring files, to keep digitizing the collection, to ask the community for copies of their photos, but many of us are lacking digital preservation procedures that will ensure this information can be easily accessed by generations to come.

"So often in our attempt to win popularity with the public, the artifact becomes simply a pawn in the game, suffering attrition, damage, or loss. In considering the practice of conservation, remember that no matter what the present interpretative philosophy of your museum, the collection is its core. Only by proper concern for your artifacts will you be able to maintain your integrity as a professional."
This reminds me of a story I heard a few years ago. A museum that also operated a cafe hired a new manager. Until someone showed up and started asking questions about following museological standards, this person had no idea the museum was a museum. They thought it was a cafe with some old stuff as decoration. This is obviously an extreme example, but the point is that it's easy to lose our way. We have to jump through countless funding hoops, feel the pressure to keep up (and improve!) visitor statistics, and are navigating the vast space and opportunities of community engagement. If we aren't careful, the collection can take a backseat and suffer as a result, rather than being an important and valued resource.

"The most important things are (a) to work only to the limits of your understanding; (b) to have systematic procedures, and (c) if you find yourself beyond your depth, admit it, and make use of specialists to help work out your problem."
Sure this was meant within a conservation context, but it can and should apply to all areas of museology. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to feel confused and swamped and overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the work. We all have a lot on our plates. No one will think less of you for reaching out and asking for advice or for being inspired by the work of another institution. There are so many amazing people in this field, and we are very lucky that they tend to have a willingness to share their knowledge. Take advantage of that.

"Making mistakes is human, but to admit to it and to learn from it is one mark of a professional."
Things won't almost go perfectly according to plan. Fundraisers will flop, exhibits will receive mixed reviews, and hindsight will always be 20/20. But as I was reminded during a morning phone call, there is always opportunity to learn, even if we feel like we know a subject well already. Which brings to mind another favourite saying of mine. Museums are educational institutions, and we've got to embrace that internally as well.