Thursday, March 4, 2021

Introducing Ms. Lang

Hi! I’m Emma Lang, the new Membership Services Coordinator. My first experience working in a museum was in the summer of 2000 as a 14 year old hoop-skirt-wearing house museum volunteer in Concord Massachusetts. From that moment on, I was hooked. Since then I’ve worked in museums as varied as the Shetland Museum and Archive, National Museum of American History, Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Los Angeles Maritime Museum (where I was Curator), Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (Assistant Curator and Registrar), and worked as a freelance exhibit developer and interpretive planner in Newfoundland and Labrador. Over the years, I’ve done everything from collections management, exhibit and interpretive development to programming, and like many of us, I’ve also worked in gift shops, manned the front desk, and helped with building maintenance--ask me about what to do when sea lions decide to move into your museum’s wharf!

I have an MA in Museum Studies from George Washington University (2010) and will have completed an MA Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland this spring. Born and raised in Massachusetts I love discovering the similarities and differences between New England and Atlantic Canada and exploring the history, culture and amazing natural beauty of the region. 

I’m excited to put my years of experience in the museum world to use supporting ANSM members and I look forward to getting to know all of you.  Please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or give me a call if there’s any way that I can help. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

February 2021 Update

Welcome Emma!
This week we welcomed Emma Lang as our new Member Services Coordinator. She has hit the ground running and is excited to get to know everyone and get on the road this summer to see your museums and collections in person. You can reach her at our services@ansm email address.

Training Opportunities
Virtual learning continues. The How to be an Ally: Museum version webinar was of such interest that we'll be hosting a second round. Traditional knowledge keeper Jeff Ward is leading the discussions. Tickets are again selling quickly and March 5th is the deadline to register, so don't miss out on this great opportunity.

As mentioned last month, we are in year 2 of our Museum Studies Program rotation and that means Museums 101, Collections Management & Curatorship, and Interpretation I: Public Programming are on offer this year. Museums 101 is coming up next, and will run as a five-part series on Wednesday afternoons, March 31-April 28. Registration will open soon so watch the Beacon and/or follow us on Facebook for the announcement. 

Museum Evaluation Program
The MEP Working Group met this month to select this year's evaluators. Once again we had very strong applications and are confident that this year's teams will be fantastic. The next major step in the evaluation process is to develop the site evaluation schedule. If you are slated for evaluation this year and have staff vacations, events or activities that would impact on your availability from July 6-22, please let me know. The deadline to send in your blackout dates is March 15th, so we can get the schedule out to everyone by April 1st. 

There is so much uploading happening right now. Every day, multiple museums are submitting files for Documentation Review. It's great to see how proactive everyone is being. As I said last month, I work through these submissions in the order they are received, so thank you for being patient if you're awaiting feedback.

The next Deep Dive will take place on March 11th at 130pm. This month we'll be taking a deeper look at Documentation Review submissions - how to organize your files, what to include in your submission (and what not to include), how to complete the Documentation Review form, etc. Click here to learn more about Deep Dives, including how to register.

CollectiveAccess Updates
Advisory Service members now have 328,475 artifacts and 272,377 associated images in their databases. This is an additional 1,806 records and 5,401 images from last month. Amazing. Keep up the good work, and remember to proofread and take your time getting high quality images. Your database is your community memory keeper so let's all make sure that our work reflects that level of importance.

Regionally, here are the stats:
Southwest: 142,764 artifacts, 96,402 images
Central: 104,454 artifacts, 85,505 images
Northeast: 48,893 artifacts, 67,469 images
Cape Breton: 32,364 artifacts, 23,001 images

Congrats to the Northeast region for adding the most records and images this month! Impressive progress!

We are seeing an increase in NovaMuse use which is yet another reason for quality control measures. If you have volunteers, winter student grants, or new staff, please make sure that they are trained in documentation standards (including digitization) and are taking advantage of the help features of the database and that they reach out with any questions. And don't forget to check in with your people. We've had several curators express frustrations about quality of work, only to discover that the workers weren't being supervised adequately. 

Today's image lesson of the month is a halfmodel. What's good about this image is that a contrasting fabric was used for the backdrop, the scale was included and the image was cropped. How could it be a better image? To start, you want the halfmodel to be at the centre of the image, so there is an equal framing (ie equal amount of backdrop fabric) on every side of it. Speaking of the fabric, there are a lot of little wrinkles that become very distracting to the eye. Ironing the fabric and having a lint brush handy for any specs of dust or dirt will really improve the professional look of your photos. There is also a difference in the lighting from the left side to the right side of the frame. If you are working in a room with big windows or light fixtures, shadows can quickly appear. This is when it becomes really important to take your time to set up the shot. You can use blinds on the window, lamps and a lightbox if the object is small enough, or position a photo studio with umbrella lights if you're dealing with something large. You may not remove every single shadow, but try to make the lighting as even as you can. 

African Heritage Month
In case you haven't been monitoring NovaMuse on Facebook or Twitter, this month we've been sharing portraits of African Nova Scotians. Many of these records lacked detail and even identification, but we had a great month of connecting with communities and I'm happy to say that we've rescued 10+ people from anonymity and added context to many of these records. This was a great lesson in the benefits of being transparent about the state of our records. We don't know everything, but there are people out there who can help. All we have to do is start the conversation.

Educational Partnerships
Devlin continues to tackle a variety of projects with us as part of his Algonquin College internship. He's got a great handle on CollectiveAccess now so we'll be branching out into some other areas while still doing some database work here and there. He's made great progress on our long-term data improvement plan, but is also investigating online learning platforms and GLAM initiatives. 

This year's Fleming project has a tighter timeline than usual so even though we launched it last month, we're now in the review stage. It takes a bit of time to sort through the hundreds of records included in the project, but it's so great to see the improvements made by the students, especially on the records that they chose to enrich.

Made in Nova Scotia
Another of Devlin's projects, he has almost worked through our stockpile of Made in NS resources to reconcile - curatorial records of George MacLaren (NSM), research info picked up during our museum travels, community history book excerpts, and much more. He is searching for links in collections as he goes, and is gradually building more connections. When you're entering new records that were made in Nova Scotia, be sure to use this field to link them to the maker's profile. 

This month we added a number of new/old multimedia resources from our QR code project. It's so amazing how previous projects have brought us to this point and we can now repurpose so much content so quickly. Cheryl continues to pick away at some learning activity drafts, and Devlin will be tackling some of this as well, which brings me to our next highlight...

SME Work
Last week Devlin and I had a Zoom call with Ken Adams to talk about geospecimens in museum collections. These are old acquisitions that pre-date the Special Places Protection Act. Ken had a lot to say about these specimens and artifacts, and will be meeting with Devlin again to talk through more details and also give direction on next steps. For any museums' whose collections are included in this work, you will receive a message from Devlin with details of Ken's insights. We are also talking about developing some sort of tip sheet or other resource on this subject, and a learning activity for NovaMuseEd.

Keeping Fresh
We kicked off this month with a CollectiveAccess in Canada meeting. Always great to check in with our counterparts across the country. Plans are afoot to launch a support forum for Canadian CollectiveAccess users, so stay tuned for that announcement.

My evaluation webinar this month came from the Canadian Evaluation Society's Nova Scotia chapter - Pulling back the curtain on an organization's culture of learning and evaluation. 

The final webinar of the month was one of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative's "dreaming of a collections management system" series. To be honest, this series is mostly reaffirming our choice of CollectiveAccess...10 years ago. We are obviously still at the leading edge of databases and don't have many of the frustrations experienced by other museums. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

January 2021 Update

Training Opportunities
In case you missed it, we've decided to continue with virtual training this year. We've just kicked this off with a 3-part webinar series called How to be an Ally: Museum version. Traditional knowledge keeper Jeff Ward is leading the discussions, and we're happy to say that because it sold out so quickly, we'll be doing a second series with Jeff in the Spring. So if you missed this round, keep your eye out for another announcement. This is a good one don't want to miss out.

In February we'll be hosting a CCI workshop/webinar on the Care of Textiles. If you have textiles in your collection, this is a great chance for you to learn from the experts. 

We are in year 2 of our Museum Studies Program rotation and that means Museums 101, Collections Management & Curatorship, and Interpretation I: Public Programming are on offer this year. We are still settling on dates but there will be two in the spring and one in the fall. If you need to obtain board approval to participate, now is a good time to start conversations around your training budget and priorities.

The best way to hear about upcoming training opportunities is to subscribe to the Beacon and/or follow us on Facebook. Even with webinars we have limited spaces available and they are filling up very quickly. 

Museum Evaluation Program
As I mentioned before the holidays, we are seeing an increase in uploading which is really encouraging. I'm reviewing these submissions as they come in, but as you can imagine it takes a bit of time to read through all the files and information. So if you are waiting for feedback, please be patient, but also feel free to check in if you're wondering where you're at in the queue.

Deep Dives continue on the 2nd Thursdays of the month. The next session takes place on February 11th will take a look at the appeals process - both for evaluation and accreditation. This session will pick up on some information that was referenced in the last session on using your evaluation report but get into the nuts and bolts of ensuring that your evaluation results are accurate and your report will serve your museum well. Click here to learn more about Deep Dives, including how to register.

We opened the call for site evaluators this month, and the deadline to apply is February 12th. If you or someone you know has been working in/with museums for 10 years or more, you might want to consider working with us in this capacity. It's a great learning and giving opportunity. You can download the job description and application from from our website.

CollectiveAccess Updates
The biggest news here is that we have a new contributor to NovaMuse! Devlin put in a lot of hours this month on preparing the Northumberland Fisheries Museum's database for online sharing. It was a great way for him to learn how CollectiveAccess works, and he's a born collections manager so it was a perfect task for him. 

The number of new records and images, not to mention all the editing of existing records, continues to be really impressive. This month 1,351 new records and 6,568 new images were added. It's amazing to see all the image placeholders be filled with actual images of the artifacts - congrats to everyone for the great work in this. Collectively, Advisory Service members now have 326,669 artifacts documented with 266,976 of these records having images attached. 

Regionally, here's how these numbers play out:
Southwest: 142,400 artifacts, 95,047 images
Central: 104,303 artifacts, 84,359 images
Northeast: 47,859 artifacts, 65,163 images
Cape Breton: 32,107 artifacts, 22,407 images

With all these new images going in, be sure to make them the best quality possible. That means scanning 2-dimensional items (think Amazon book cover pictures), and using your scale and backdrop for 3-dimensional items. This bottle is a great example for some lessons. First let's talk backdrop. You should use a light (white or off-white) or dark (dark grey or black) backdrop rather than a colourful backdrop like this red one. Bright colours distract from the object being photographed while a contrasting white or black backdrop highlights an object's features. Secondly, make sure that the item is sitting in its natural position. For this bottle, that means standing it up and photographing it from the front, from a slight top-down angle. You can then zoom in and do detail shots of the label, front, back, top, bottom, etc. The other edit that I would make is to trim some of the excess left and ridge dead space from the image. You want the object to be as centred as possible - the full focus of the photo. As with the image lesson from November, if you follow these rules the artistic detail of the label will really pop. You'll end up with a great image which makes the museum look great by extension.

Educational Partnerships
In case you missed it, Devlin Lemoine has joined us from Algonquin College for his internship. Thanks to everyone who welcomed him via Facebook and blog comments. We've set an ambitious work plan but as we've seen with the Northumberland Fisheries Museum database, he's already proving that he's up to the many tasks. 

We also launched our annual Fleming College project this month (this week actually). This year we have 8 museums and 20 students participating. This means that 200 records are being reviewed, and 20 will be researched to see what extra info can be dug up. I was impressed by how excited and engaged the students were during our orientation session, and look forward to hearing their insights on our collections work. Something different about this year's project is that we have three new members of the Advisory Service participating. This is a great chance for them to have records reviewed as they step into the database and digitization work. 

Made in Nova Scotia
With some extra help around we're again picking up on our Made in Nova Scotia work. The Nova Scotia Museum has partnered with us to share George MacLaren's curatorial files on cabinetmakers, which are proving to be a treasure trove of new info. Devlin is reconciling these files with our Made in NS dataset, and then searching for and linking related artifacts from NovaMuse. As you can imagine, the scope of this work is so enormous that it will never be done. There will also be new information and links to make...just like collections management work.  

This is a good time to remind everyone to use the Made in Nova Scotia field in your database. This is the lookup field that links your object's record to the profile of the manufacturer or maker. Taking this extra step is so important because it makes the content on NovaMuse much richer, helps you to see connections with other museums, and helps to bring makers' works back together. And you can browse on the Made in NS links within your own system, so is a very useful research or exhibit development flag.

We've slowed down a bit of learning activity development, but are still adding more resources to NovaMuseEd. For anyone who's been around for a few years, you might remember our QR code project. We created and repurposed a lot of multimedia content about local stories and artifacts for that project, and now we're adding that content to NovaMuseEd for teachers since they asked for multimedia content and oral histories. We are on the cusp of adding our 100th resource and laying the groundwork for many more. If you haven't yet, reach out to your local schools and let them know about this new, free resource. And ask what resources would be most helpful to the teachers and students. Let's make sure that this initiative continues to be truly collaborative. 

SME Work
Devlin is preparing for a new SME partnership that will look at geological specimens, fossils, and stone tools...basically looking at the rocks in collections. Ken Adams, retired geologist and curator of the Fundy Geological Museum, will be working with Devlin on this project. We've never looked at geospecimens before so it will be really interesting to hear Ken's insights and advice on improving our documentation practices. As with all our SME work, we'll reach out to any museum whose information can be updated, so stay tuned and watch your inboxes. 

Keeping Fresh
One of my goals for this year is to branch out and participate in a wide variety of learning - evaluation methods, non-profit issues, collections management and databases, etc. In addition to our first How to be an Ally webinar, I participated in Propel Nonprofits' Leadership Transitions webinar which was quite interesting, partially because I don't think museums follow the transition timeline and practices that were discussed. It's no secret that museums struggle with succession planning. This webinar showed me that we need to completely shift how we think about our institutional leaders.

Another way that I've been trying to keep fresh (another work plan goal) is to share more about what we do. So this month I submitted two conference session proposals (fingers crossed they get accepted). And we've had two articles released about our work - one talking about NovaMuse and our Advisory Service and the other focusing on our recent Watercolour World partnership

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Introducing Mr. Lemoine

Hello! My name is Devlin Lemoine and I am the new intern at the Association of Nova Scotia Museums this winter. I am in the final semester of the Applied Museum Studies Program at Algonquin College in Ottawa and I am very excited to be here experiencing the east coast for the first time. I hope to take in the local culture as much as I can in these strange times, and to take part in and contribute to everything ANSM has on the go.

I have lived my whole life in Ottawa working a variety of jobs from retail and service to business analyst with a focus in enterprise architecture. I went to the University of Ottawa, graduating in 2015 with a B.A. in classical studies and in English. I have been interested in museums and history from a young age and after a period of working in business I decided to see if I could find some way to apply what I had studied to my day to day life. This led me to the Museum Studies Program at Algonquin, which I loved,and has now brought me out east!

I am very excited to be here in Halifax and for the opportunities to learn and to grow that this internship will provide. I cannot wait to learn more about the rich heritage of Nova Scotia and be a part of the ANSM team for the months to come!

~ Devlin

Monday, January 4, 2021

December 2020 Update

Yesterday a friend said that she didn't understand why people got so excited about the end/beginning of a year. January 1st was just another day in her mind. Nothing had changed. While I understand where she's coming from, I quite like the changeover. Since so many museums are closed or fairly quiet in December, it means we have fewer phone calls and emails, giving us the opportunity to tie up loose ends, finish off projects, and close up the office for a couple weeks of much-needed rest. December also means taking stock of the year's activities and carrying out performance reviews. 

2020 was weird to say the least. Taking stock of the year meant analyzing our response to the pandemic, our creativity in troubleshooting and developing alternative plans for various programs and services. In some ways, it made it easier for us to carry out our plans. We had declared the year our 'consolidation year', ie we wanted to organize things a bit better, streamline some operations, and move forward on a few initiatives. Even if things didn't go exactly according to plan, we feel good about what we did. We came up with a plan B for the year's evaluation activities and launched Accreditation, celebrating the first four museums to receive this designation. The CollectiveAccess in Canada discussion group continued to meet and even expanded to include a couple American consortia. We formalized our internship program and hosted 4 remote interns, partnering with two new schools in the process. We established a Teacher Advisory Group (TAG), surveyed NS teachers and launched NovaMuseEd with 87 educational resources, largely thanks to our wonderful interns working closely with museum staff and volunteers. We delivered multiple webinar series and held virtual community chats, giving people opportunities to connect and learn while staying safe at home. And we took advantage of many online learning opportunities ourselves, gaining new perspectives and inspiration for future ANSM efforts. We worked on policies and procedures, refreshed Nova Scotia's content on Artefacts Canada, partnered with Fleming College to review collection records and a spinning wheel expert to enrich those records' content. We also experienced a lot of change within ANSM, saying goodbye to both Jennifer and Sandi, so wrapped up 2020 by reviewing job applications and pondering how our organization is going to change in the coming year. This gave us the opportunity to think about our strengths, our weaknesses, and where we see ANSM going in the coming years. Pondering these questions at the end of such a weird year was actually great timing because we could factor in extraordinary circumstances and experiences rather than our normal work life. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we want to say thank you to all the museums who came along with us for the ride that was 2020 - for joining in on virtual learning, breaking new ground on resources for educators, and sharing ideas on the future of the Advisory Service and ANSM general services. And kudos to those of you who made great strides within your own organizations - from tackling collections backlogs to program development to online fundraising. and much more!
So many of you rose to the year's challenges and we want you to know that your efforts were seen and admired. 

Thinking back to my friend's comments, I see this annual changeover as healthy. As you all return to your museums and work, I encourage you to take stock, think about what you did in 2020 that makes you feel proud, and also what lessens you can carry forward in your work. 

So here's to the new year of 2021!