Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020 Update

What a crazy month. If you had told me on the 1st that within two weeks we'd be closing down our office and working from home, and that schools and daycares and almost everything else would be closing down too, I would have told you to stop being so alarmist. But here we are. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with messages of solidarity and concern. Anita has been working from home on a wide variety of tasks, Sandi has just started back with us in her new role as Member Services Coordinator, and Jen is in the process of moving on to her new role as the Curator of the Kings County Museum. With a toddler at home, I am putting in as much time as I can to keep things moving along. My husband is working a rotating schedule and Allie is being a real trooper in our new temporary reality, but I won't lie and say it's easy.

Speaking of online, we are shifting what we can to online. We also recognize the need for human connection in a time of self-isolation. If you are feeling lonely, need to talk, and/or want to compare notes on how your museum is changing gears in this weird current reality, please join us for our Monday Community Connection chats.

We had to cancel our Museums 101 course that was scheduled for April, and are instead testing out another new approach. I've pulled excerpts from the course content and shifted them into 7 webinars, each 45 minutes in length. We are calling it Museum Fundamentals. Rather than a set registration fee, we are asking that you simply "pay what you can". These are taking place Wednesdays at 11am, and as with Museums 101, these are a great way to introduce board members, volunteers and staff to the museum field. Please pass on this opportunity to everyone at your museum. The next webinar is looking at definition and mission statements. If your mission statement includes the words "to collect, exhibit, interpret, research and exhibit", you'll definitely want to tune in. I'll be asking some tough questions, so come prepared to ponder!
Read more and register online.

Museum Evaluation Program
We've had a few questions about this year's evaluation schedule. Today our board is holding a special meeting to discuss options, and we will be in touch as soon as a decision has been made. We know that this is a stressful time for everyone, and each museum is dealing with it differently. Some are making amazing progress on their evaluation prep work and are actively uploading. Others are finding it difficult to shift in-person meetings to online or phone meetings.
With so many stakeholders involved, from funders to museum boards and staff, not to mention the public, we are looking at every angle, and trying to anticipate all the impacts. No matter what the board decides, we know that we will all have to work together on a solution.

CollectiveAccess Updates
An impressive amount of work has been done this month. 1,053 new records and 2,273 new images were added to the databases. Great job everyone! That brings the total to 309,336 artifacts and 223,855 images overall. In a time when people can't visit the museum in person, there is an increased interest in seeing collections online. Your hard work is paying off! People are learning, sharing and being inspired by what you've shared. Working through your backlog and enriching database records is a great way to engage with your community online. Let everyone know about your latest updates!

Here are the regional stats:
Southwest - 137,786 artifacts, 85,977 images
Central - 103,221 artifacts, 66,970 images
Northeast - 37,112 artifacts, 53,590 images
Cape Breton - 31,217 artifacts, 17,318 images

Another great way for you to engage with your community right now is by using the new NovaMuse Transcribe feature. I circulated an email announcement which included links to Sandi's YouTube tutorials. In case any museums missed it, here's the video that teaches how to set your records to be transcribable. For the public, here's the video that shows you how to transcribe museum records. Let's work together to issue a public transcription challenge. As above, broadcast your efforts!

SME Partnerships
The timing might seem odd, but we've just partnered with a new SME to learn more about spinning wheels in museum collections. We often joke about how many wheels are in collections and that we don't want or need anymore. Well, David might disagree with that latter statement. He is already seeing some exciting and rare wheels, and wants to see more. Put simply, he can't tell you more about your spinning wheels if you haven't photographed them yet. So, if you are at home working on plans for the summer/fall, be sure to add digitization of spinning wheels to your list. For those of you that already have some spinning wheel photos in your database, we will be in touch.

Remember when Sandi visited museums with our SMEs and filmed some of the sessions? These recordings are now featured on NovaMuse. Check out the four galleries to explore the records examined by Terry, Joleen, and Gary. Terry examined agricultural tools, Joleen examined baskets, and Gary examined military insignia.

We also did a few virtual sessions with Eric who examined ships portraits. As you flip through the records in these galleries, click the blue "view record" button to see the recordings. The recordings will display as a thumbnail with the associated images of the artifact (as seen above). Please note that not all records have recordings in the galleries. Click here to listen to Eric's description of reef points! Are you more of a basket enthusiast? Joleen compared two baskets, one made of poplar and the other made of ash. Ox yokes more your cup of tea? Check out this description by Terry. Interested in learning more about items used in the First and Second World War? Why not start with Gary's discussion on battle dress? These are only a few of the recordings featured in these galleries. The best part is you can explore these records from home and learn from experts in the field. Looking for homeschooling materials? This is a great place to start!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review - 101 Museum Programs Under $100: Proven Programs that Work on a Shoestring Budget

image from rowman.com
For those of you that follow us on Facebook, you'll know we enjoyed a bit of book buying over the past year or so thanks to some amazing sales. And you might even recognize this title since we profiled it on Facebook as well. It hasn't been in our reference library as long as most of the other books, but it has been a popular one to borrow. 

If you're like me, collections is what attracted you to museum work. So coming up with ideas for programs, let alone developing and implementing and evaluating programs, can feel a bit daunting. Laura Hunley's book, published in 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield, aims to help. She notes in the preface that budget cutbacks at her museum meant that many programs had to be put on hold. She "began looking for other innovative and inexpensive museum programs to adapt, and the deeper [she] looked, the more [she] realized a few things: (1) Museum professionals are creative, resourceful, and innovative. We do so much with so little; and (2) [She] couldn't be the only one looking for these types of programs. Thus, 101 Museum Programs Under $100 was born." How great is that? What a perfect example of the sharing nature of our profession. 

The result of her efforts, aka this book, is essentially a catalogue of options. This is a very quick and easy read. There are only six chapters - programming for today, for children and families, for teens and young adults, for adults, and for multigenerational audiences. The final chapter talked about adapting, expanding and implementing programs. As appendices, Hunley offers up program planning checklists and worksheets, as well as the contact information for all the museums that contributed program examples. If you liked what you read but want to learn more, you can easily reach out. 

If you want to develop a new program, tweak an existing one, or are just interested in seeing what else is going on in museums, this is a good place to start. The examples are American but are very transferrable. Each example is shared as a profile, outlining target audience, attendance, overview, budget, interpretive components, staff time requirements, audience time requirements, scalability, and an analysis. In the analysis, Hunley often offers suggestions on how to adjust the program to work in different sized spaces or to accommodate smaller or larger audiences. 

This is the sort of book that will speak to different people in different ways. Using Hunley's terminology, it is very scalable. As I read, I encountered programs that I've helped to develop and deliver, ones I've participated in, ones I've heard about, and ones that I would love to see in our museums. Some are pretty traditional in nature and have been delivered for decades, and others really embrace the ideals of community service and engagement and would likely make some traditionalists very uncomfortable. 

I often share quotable quotes from the books I read. This time around, I'd like to share the programs that jumped out at me. These are not in order of preference, but simply in the order they appear in the book.

1. Summer STEAM: Signal Flags and Semaphore - kids learn some signals and create their own flag messages. Pretty applicable to our maritime province.
2. Teddy Bear Tea - a formal tea party for kids and their stuffies. So many museums in Nova Scotia offer teas as part of their programming, so why not extend this to younger audiences?
3. Teen Corps - a volunteer program for teens, where they get to help out with various museum initiatives, gaining transferrable skills and experience, and giving them the chance to share their local knowledge and perspectives. 
4. Words on Canvas - a writing competition for college students, where they are asked to write a piece of poetry that was inspired by something in the museum's collection. Submissions become bonus interpretive text/labels for their associated objects. I've seen this done and it is VERY effective.
5. Member Preview Day - open house for members only, to launch new exhibits. Perk for members and a way for the museum to test out the flow and effectiveness of the new exhibit. Win-win. I've worked these events and you can definitely learn a lot by watching how people interact with each other, the space and exhibit.
6. SPARK! Cultural Programming for People with Memory Loss - for people with early to mid-stage memory loss and their caregivers, participants do basic activities that help with cognitive functions and maintaining motor skills, and talk about community history and old photos.
7. Culture Me Mine Date Night - something for couples, but could easily work for pairs or small groups. A scavenger hunt, game show-style quiz, and craft activity make this a fun night out. 
8. Poetry N' Rhythm - a monthly open-mic event where musicians, artists, storytellers etc. are invited to share their talent. Anyone else think this sounds a lot like some Celtic Colours events?
9. Nicole Carson Bonilla: A Cowgirl's Legacy - a personal storytelling of one family's western experience. Hunley says it best, "every community contains characters with unexpected and even surprising stories. These life histories provide commentary and new viewpoints on historic narratives and changing community cultures."
10. Echoes of the Past Cemetery Tours - costumed volunteers portray people who are interred in the cemetery and share their life stories with participants. I've played one of these characters and also hear about this happening in multiple NS communities.
11. Star Parties - community stargazing! As simple or as complex as you want, provided someone can help people read the sky, and come up with a few simple activities and/or challenges. 
12. Veterans Day Program - similar to the cowgirl legacy above, this program invites veterans to share their stories and experiences, and create their own personal shadowbox exhibit.
13. Yule Log Hunt - a community scavenger hunt, where people solve local history riddles to find the hiding spot of the log. The yule log could be swapped out for almost any sort of identifiable local item.

So those are my highlights. I hope they sound interesting. 
If you want to have a sneak peek, there is a preview available through Google Books. 
If you want to borrow this book from us, click here