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!