Monday, November 30, 2020

November 2020 Update

Museum Studies Program
As amazing as it seems, we are now halfway through the Management & Governance course with Virginia Stephen. Thanks to everyone who has embraced online learning with us this year. While we've dipped our toes in it before, it feels like we got thrown into the pool this year. And your response to jump in the pool with us is appreciated...sincerely. We don't know what next year will bring, but we've enjoyed meeting new friends online this year, and hope that you'll all stay tuned for next year's MSP course offerings

Museum Evaluation Program
What a busy month! After the orientation refresher (if you missed it, feel free to email me and ask for the recording), we had a big increase in questions and Doc Review submissions. This is so great! It's also a little overwhelming, so bear with me as I wade through the backlog. I promise you will get feedback as soon as possible. The MEPWG also held a meeting this month. It was a very focused discussion and as always, the group was very engaged. 
We also had the 7th webinar in our MEP Deep Dive series, looking at the Marketing & Revenue Generation section. Now that we've worked our way through the 7 sections of the evaluation we'll be branching out and talking about other issues. First up is Accreditation on December 11th at 130pm. What is it? How does it work? Who's eligible? If you're interested in learning more about accreditation, you won't want to miss out. If you haven't registered yet, click here. And if you want to access the recordings of previous Deep Dives, let me know.

CollectiveAccess Updates
It's been a busy month for database work, with the migration of a new member museum into CollectiveAccess and the remaining images from summer digitization training sessions being added. And that's just the work that we've done. 6,263 new records and 3,709 new images were attached in November. This is the 6th month in a row that more than 3,500 new images were added to CollectiveAccess. Wow. I know that COVID has enabled us to do some extra behind-the-scenes work, but I think we need to stop for a minute and recognize what an enormous accomplishment this is, both for the individual museums and collectively as a whole.   

Here's the regional breakdown:
Southwest: 141,717 artifacts, 93,572
Central: 104,047 artifacts, 81,095 images
Northeast: 47,228 artifacts, 60,153 images
Cape Breton: 31,235 artifacts, 20,048 images

Congrats to the Northeast region for adding the most new records this month, and to the Central region for adding the most images!

As I've been mentioning, please keep your eyes on the new information and images being added. We want you to be presented in the best possible light and that's why quality control measures are so important. Your image lesson of the month is going to be another repeat, because unfortunately we need it again. When you are dealing with books, don't use the scale and camera. Instead you want to pop the book in your scanner to get a nice, tight image. Think about online book retailers and the crisp-looking book covers they use to advertise. That's what we are going for here. If this were a 3-dimensional object, I would have a couple other recommendations as well. The scale needs to be in the same place for all your shots, and we recommend the bottom left corner. You also want it to tuck nicely and at equi-distant along the edge of the object, sort of like a hug. Another improvement could be made with the background. Notice the edge of the table? Suddenly we go from a nice white background to a dark brownish background at the right and bottom...very distracting to the eye. You want to keep your background consistent, and use a contrasting colour to the object. So let's try to keep this in mind. Books are great for digitizing because they're so long as you use your scanner. I look forward to seeing this one redone with the scanner so that we can really focus on the artwork and give it the attention it deserves.

It's live! Thanks to all the museums who have stepped up to develop and share resources for Nova Scotian educators. We launched NovaMuseEd with an amazing 87 resources, varying from colouring pages to word puzzles to activity books, not to mention the learning activities that our MSVU interns have been working on with museums since the summer. Teachers are already testing them out and feedback is really positive. And just because it's live doesn't mean we've stopped working on it. We still have a stockpile of drafts and ideas and will continue to work on these as time and resources allow. So what's next? How can your museum use this new tool? Contact your local teachers and let them know it's available! Highlight your contributions, and have some conversations about the needs at your local schools. And have a look through your educational programs, past and present, to see what else you might be able to share on the site. We went back to our old QR code project files and found that we had oodles of videos that can be shared - and audio/video content was #3 in the list of teacher requests. If you have some ideas or questions or just want to talk about possibilities, send us an email or give us a call and we'd be happy to chat with you.
Huge thanks to the Museums Assistance Program for supporting us in this work. 

Educational Partnerships
As hard as it is to believe, tomorrow is Cheryl's last day of her MSVU placement. The past 3 months have just flown by. And we have some really great news. Since she's enjoyed herself so much, she's staying on as a volunteer! That's right, she'll be continuing with her work on NovaMuseEd and helping museums to develop learning activities for teachers. So if you thought you missed the boat, you can still get on board! As I mentioned above, we have quite the stockpile of things to work on, but don't let that stop you from reaching out. We'd be happy to include you.

We are also active with some other partnerships right now. We are preparing to welcome our winter intern from Algonquin College, who is ready and eager to join us in January. And last week I circulated a summer internship proposal to several museum studies schools. Summer feels so far away right now, and yet these students will be making their plans early in the new year. As ever, we have a whole range of interesting projects they could work on, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that someone is interested in joining us. 

And finally, I am preparing for our annual Fleming College project, where students adopt database records, review them, and see if they can dig up a bit more contextual information about our collections. Since the class is smaller than usual this year we will only be partnering with 7 museums, so please keep your eye on your inbox for a message. If you're next in the list, I've already emailed you and it would be great to have everything prepped before the holidays.

Keeping Fresh
This month was no exception in my goal to keep things fresh with continuous learning. In addition to sitting in on our museum studies program courses - Museums & Community and Governance & Management, I participated in Blue Avocado's A Primer on Financial Audits for Non-Profits. Even though it was US-based so talked about forms and requirements that are different from Canada, it had some great suggestions and ideas. And it was nice to learn about something a bit different from my usual range of topics.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2020 Edition

For my longtime readers, you will know that I have a tradition of sharing a Remembrance Day blog post that is contemplative in nature, and has 2020 ever given us reasons to contemplate. 

This year could easily be called unprecedented because of the many major movements and issues at play.  From Black Lives Matter, to Indigenous fishing rights, to immigration, to gender equality, to COVID-19 (just to name a few), these are some major shared experiences for humanity. The pandemic has caused incredible stress, sickness, death, and major changes to how we live our daily lives. It has also highlighted inequities and issues that have been bubbling beneath the surface for years, if not generations. In an age where we are all so interconnected and "in the know", it is impossible to not be touched by these issues. And while we can read news, studies, statistics and overarching reports about them, the individual experiences of these issues are vastly different. I am a white settler whose family has lived in Mi'kma'kii since the 18th century. I have to work to understand the perspectives and experiences of the Mi'kmaq because my education was colonialist in nature and the southwestern Nova Scotia that I know and love has never been a place of violence. I have to work to understand the experiences of new immigrants because my family has lived in Canada for centuries. I have to work to understand the perspectives and experiences of African Nova Scotians because I have lived a life of privilege and grew up in an area that was predominantly white. 

Dad/Grumpy and his girls. Roar!
I have to work to understand the pandemic perspectives and experiences of others, both near and far, due to the fact that my family has stayed healthy and employed and together thanks to the Atlantic Bubble. I do not have to work to understand the Me Too movement or what it feels like to be sexually harassed. As my father likes to remind me, I am woman. Hear me roar. And yes, I also recognize the privilege of having a father like that. 

The best way that we can work to understand the different perspectives and experiences of others, is to talk at the individual level. Yes it is helpful to know the overarching trends, statistics, and general information. We need to know how these individual perspectives and experiences fit into the bigger picture. But to understand, to empathize, and to make our communities stronger, we need to hear the individual realities. We need to document the individual realities. 

visiting Uncle Grenville's grave
The broad, complex, and far-ranging realities of the First and Second World Wars, and many other conflicts, have been studied and documented. We have access to many statistics and resources from many angles. And we have an increasing number of personal, individual accounts that speak to these broader experiences. But there is more work to be done. There are more stories to capture, more lessons to learn, more perspectives to understand. I did not live through the First or Second World War, so I must rely on family photos, letters, and oral histories to understand the impact on my family and the perspectives and experiences of my family at the individual level. I have to visit people, places and spaces where I can learn. I have to analyze why I am the way I am, think the way I do, and act the way I act, and how my past, multi-generationally, has impacted me. I have to work to understand.

As museums, it is our job to work to understand. We are called to share information from a variety of perspectives. Perspectives can be collective, based on location, politics, religion, gender, race...and much more. But they can also be very individualistic. And without understanding perspectives at the individual level, we will never be able to make sense of the bigger picture and overarching trends. We will not understand why some fought in wars while others stayed home unless we look at the individual stories. We will not understand what life was like for those who lost family members unless we look at the individual stories. We will not understand our communities, the grief and loss that they experienced and how this shaped their perspectives on life, unless we look at the individual stories.

Shared experiences are big, they are powerful, and they have the potential to shape our communities for generations. As we have more and more dialogue about systemic racism, multi-generational grief, inequality, the personal and economic impact of the pandemic, and other major issues, we have an opportunity and a responsibility as museums, to capture the individual realities of these shared experiences. It may not always be a comfortable task. There will be difficult conversations, differences of opinions, and very diverse memories and lived experiences to document, but we cannot fulfil our mandate to collect, preserve, and share knowledge without them. So as we honour those who fought for freedom and to protect people and communities, we must consider how we can carry that torch in our own way. We must work to understand. And we must help others do the same.