Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020 Update

It is great to hear how museums are continuing to serve their communities this summer. For those that are open, we are hearing that visitation is low but that relationships with the local community are being strengthened as people stick close to home. For those that are closed and working behind the scenes, collections management efforts and evaluation preparations are yielding really impressive results. I've said it before, but it's so cool to see how museums are thinking outside of the box right now, and each one is coming up with a creative and productive solution that works for them and their community. 

If you haven't yet applied for the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Heritage Organizations, there is still time. The deadline has been extended to September 11th. For those that have applied, we've heard that announcements are now trickling out, so keep your eye on your inbox. 

Museum Evaluation Program
We held our fourth Deep Dive this month, looking at the Facility section. It was a little bit shorter than the others, which was expected since so much of this section deals with the physical reality of the buildings during the site evaluation, but it was still great to talk about some of the big, overarching issues around facility management. If you missed the session, feel free to request the recording (or any other Deep Dive recordings). On September 10th at 130pm we'll be tackling my personal favourite, the Collections section. If you haven't registered for it yet and are interested in participating, click here.

CollectiveAccess Updates
967 new records and 3,954 new images were added to the databases. Great work! Don't forget to make those records and images accessible to the public using the access fields on the Basic and Media Representations tabs. Right now, 124,551 objects are inaccessible to the public. That's actually 1/3 of the records catalogued in our databases...a lot of info to be holding back. Let's try to fix that.

Here's how the numbers look at a regional level:
Southwest: 140,304 artifacts, 90,591 images
Central: 103,846 artifacts, 76,320 images
Northeast: 40,485 artifacts, 57,126 images
Cape Breton: 30,928 artifacts, 18,835 images

For our image of the month, we're looking at furniture. Furniture can be tricky to photograph for a few reasons - it's often hard to move, doesn't easily fit onto (or is too heavy to lift onto) a photography backdrop, and sometimes we're working in confined spaces making lighting and camera angles difficult to navigate. So while we know that sometimes the ideal images can be difficult to capture, let's focus on the goal for furniture photos. If the object is too heavy to move, let's remove everything we can that is nearby and make sure there are no distractions. If possible, use the big photo backdrop. If that isn't possible, consider plain sheeting that can be draped or hung to hide walls, moulding, windows, or other details that can distract the eye. In terms of an overall photo, you want to give the viewer an understanding of the 3-dimensional nature of the piece. In this case, looking straight on makes it hard to understand the sides and back of the chair. If the photo was taken looking down on the chair at an angle, and slightly from the side instead of the direct front, you would have a much better view and understanding of the chair. And don't forget the little scale in the bottom left corner.

Keep in mind that as we connect with more teachers and offer formal and casual educational resources, this means your records and images will be reviewed more closely. Teachers are looking for real, in depth records relating to our material culture, as well as formal resources. Let's make sure that we take the time to capture excellent images from a variety of angles, and proofread our documentation to showcase our museums at their best. 

As part of our "consolidation year" efforts to get ourselves a bit more organized, we've developed a long-term data cleaning plan for the Advisory Service. This will take us years to work through, but we're very pleased to say that Camilo got through step 1 (reconciling entities) for 13 museums. We're going to roll this into internship work plans and have it as a rainy day project, so we can keep picking away at it.

Advisory Service Training
It has been a very busy month! Thanks to everyone who joined Sandi for in-person and virtual training. It was great to see you and work together again this summer. We hosted two types of hub training, the first focused on digitizing watercolours, which we are looking forward to sharing on NovaMuse and The Watercolour World. The second focused on educational resource development, as we prepare to launch a new teacher resource section on NovaMuse. A big thank you to our host sites who made this all possible! We know the last few months have been a big adjustment and have come with new challenges but everyone's commitment to collections work really showed. Great work! Follow us on the NovaMuse Facebook page to see all of the photos from this year's training.

Watercolour images will be edited and uploaded this Fall, so keep a close eye on the What's New section on NovaMuse. Thinking about the educational resource work, the deeper we delve into it, the more it feels like a renewed purpose for NovaMuse. We just released a teacher survey to ask about wants and needs, and are getting a great response from across the province. If you haven't yet, please share our Facebook postTweet, and the link to the survey with teachers in your area. We're already hearing that teachers are excited and appreciative of any and all new resources that we can offer them. If you are in the process of creating a learning activity, feel free to reach out at any time for help, and don't forget to send your drafts to Sandi via Dropbox. If you weren't able to participate in any of the webinars but would like to work with us to develop some offerings for schools, we would love to have you join in. Reach out and we will help you get the ball rolling. 

Webinar Wednesdays have wrapped up, but we have recordings for all of the sessions. If you missed any, just let us know and we will send along the link so you can review the sessions at your leisure.

Educational Partnerships
On Friday we said thank you and goodbye to Camilo, who first joined us in June for his University of Toronto internship. During his exit interview we were musing over the various projects he tackled, and how everything really tied back to educational resource development even though that was the item in his work plan that had the least amount of focus...or so we thought! The various puzzles and colouring pages that he developed, and developed tip sheets for, are exactly what teachers are asking for now! Isn't it great when everything comes together so well at the end of a project? Huge thanks to Camilo for all that he accomplished over the summer, and best wishes as he heads back to school to learn even more about museum work.

As we mentioned in a separate message to Advisory Service members, we are also really excited to continue our partnership with MSVU and welcome a fall intern from their Child and Youth Studies program. Stay tuned for the announcement of her arrival, but consider this a heads up that we'll have someone ready and willing to help you develop new offerings for teachers, or rework current or old school programs for online access. 

Keeping Fresh
Webinars are decreasing in frequency now, but I managed to take in two that were quite helpful. The first was from the BCMA on succession planning, and the second was from the Cuseum on Supporting Schools and Educators as a Cultural Organization. Since ANSM is working on both of these things right now, they were a good fit to my work plan and gave some good nuggets of info. Have I mentioned we're really excited about how the new teacher resource section of NovaMuse is shaping up? 

And as a final reminder, don't forget to keep the museum fresh! We had multiple calls and emails this month from museums that discovered major and minor mould problems in their collections storage. If you ever find yourself in this situation, give us a call! We will help you develop a plan of action and put you in contact with the right people if the problem can't be handled in-house. Remember to keep air flowing, keep humidity levels below 60%, and include regular walkthroughs and spot checks of storage to make sure you catch any problems right away.  For other tips on prevention and recovery, check out CCI's technical bulletin.

So long from Camilo

I was originally slated to intern for ANSM for an eight-week period from June to July. After this time elapsed, I continued working with ANSM for an additional four weeks. The past three months have flown by. Despite working remotely from Toronto, I felt like I have been integrated into the ANSM team. Karin has been particularly supportive, providing guidance on a variety of topics and projects. 

During my three months at ANSM, I was involved in numerous projects. I worked with a spinning-wheel subject matter expert to enrich twenty-four spinning wheel records from sixteen different museums on NovaMuse. I used the knowledge gained from this project to develop educational activities related to spinning wheels. These activities are intended for elementary and middle school students and focus on weaving and creating yarn. I also used CollectiveAccess to research and select records that cover diverse topics and can be transcribed on NovaMuse. I oversaw the creation of colouring pages, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and crosswords based on records and images from museum collections. I also created tip sheets to accompany these resources, which are meant to help museums develop their own resources. My most recent projects involved cleaning entity records from different museum databases, testing educational activities, and creating new galleries on NovaMuse. I hope that these projects will benefit workers in the heritage field and the larger public. 

When I began the internship, my primary concern was learning more about collections management. This internship has provided me with a comprehensive overview of collections management as well as a deeper understanding of educational museum work. The insights I have gained from this internship experience will be invaluable for my future career in the heritage sphere. I would like to thank everyone at ANSM as well as the Nova Scotia museums staff that I have had the pleasure of interacting with daily for making my internship such a positive experience. I will keep in contact and hope that our paths will cross again soon!

All the best, 

Camilo Mejia