Friday, January 7, 2022

Happy New Year? Welcome to 2022.


Toddler in red dress kneeling as she types on toy laptop computerFrom Maggie's desk...

Two years ago, I sat at home with my new baby, full of hope. I was planning a hopeful 2020 with lots of trips with the baby to museums and libraries, and lots of visits with friends and family. Well, we all know my hopeful start to 2020 didn’t pan out as expected. Within a few weeks we were hearing about Covid-19 in the international news, and by March it was here. All our lives changed. And still are changing.

As we start another new year, it is hard to have that same sense of hope that we normally feel in January. My baby just turned two and still hasn’t been to many museums. Omicron has us starting the year cautiously, aware more change is coming but not sure what it is. This is hard. 

But change is a time of opportunity. 

It is a time to think about what is important and build on it. It is a time to look at areas for improvement and look for solutions. It is a time of not knowing what to do next but reaching out to friends to help move forward.

Successful museums are not caught in the past nor immune from change. Although we are best known for talking about the past, what we are really about is helping people create the future. 

What is the future Nova Scotians want? And how can museums help build this future?

Stock image of Scrabble letter tiles spelling FutureWe want a future that is for everyone. This means acknowledging that this hasn’t been the case, especially in museums, and working to change practices that are racist, colonial, exclusionary, and biased. Fixing this is going to mean dismantling some of what we’ve done and allocating resources to doing some things different. In museums we are used to being “the experts” but this is our time to become the students. Museums can help amplify the voices that previously haven’t been listened to.

We want a future with healthy communities. This means identifying the needs in our community and finding ways to meet them. This will often be things that might not have been seen as “museum work” but for which we are ideally situated to do. Think about how libraries, known as places to go to get things (books, videos, magazines) for a short while also became the place to get Covid rapid tests. Think about parks, known as places to connect with nature, became meeting places when people could no longer gather in their homes. What can museums be?

We want a future that is taking care of our planet. This means better understanding our world and how we interact with it. Think about how our natural history collections are real evidence of a changing climate. Think about how our cultural history collections provide examples of living more sustainably. Think about how our intangible heritage collections contain the knowledge to not just change what we do, but also reconnect us to why we need to change and give us the strength to make changes in difficult times.

We want a future that balances work and life. This means looking internally at the realities faced by our staff – paid and volunteer. Many museums run on passion but as burnout becomes a growing reality in every work sector, we need look at how museums fuel not just their communities, but the people that keep the museums operating. This is a time of self-reflection for boards, volunteers, and staff to consider governance, human resources, and workload.

Back in the ANSM office.

Woman's face wearing a KN95 maskIn my first three months with ANSM a lot has happened. We, like all of you, are facing these same questions and searching to respond to them in our programs, teams (working groups), and office procedures. As 2022 continues, we hope you start to see the changes ANSM is making to support museums in Nova Scotia. Advisory Service this year will be focused on considering cultural collections and listening to the communities who made, owned, and used these items. Training offerings will be re-examined by the re-established Education and Training Working Group to make sure they continue to meet needs but also challenge us. The Museum Evaluation Program is undergoing major changes. This is providing an opportunity for ANSM to incorporate the feedback we have been receiving from participating museums to make the program more useful and responsive to changes museums are facing. We are on this journey with you to remain relevant and inclusive to our communities going forward.

So, as we start 2022, not full of hope but rather uncertainty, I invite you all to join us in focusing on the future and believing we can make things better. Please stay in touch. We are looking at ways to incorporate more of your work into ANSM’s Beacon newsletter and social media. We want to hear what is worrying you and what is inspiring you. Share your successes and your FAILs (first attempts at learning). Tell us what you need help with or how you might be able to help us or others. Send us cake recipes… I think 2022 is going to need many occasions for cake.

Two cartoon animals talk. One standing and one kneeling while digging in ground beside watering can. Animal 1 "Aren't you terrified of what 2022 could be like? Everything is so messed up." Animal 2 "I think it will bring flowers." Animal 1 "Yes? Why?" Animal 2 "Because I am planting flowers."

Thursday, January 6, 2022

December 2021 Update

Museum Evaluation Program
As a reminder, for any museums eligible and interested in applying for Accreditation, the deadline was extended to January 14th. This is a firm deadline though. The Accreditation Panel will be meeting shortly thereafter to review applications. 

Some strong preliminary work has been done on revisions to the program, and we're feeling excited about the new and shifting directions. ANSM staff meet with Culture and Heritage Division (CCTH) on Thursday and the MEPWG is meeting Monday to continue these discussions. More info will be shared very soon. 

Collective Access Updates
Our members across the province have continued to improve the database over the month of December with an additional 1252 artifact records and 2039 media files being added to CollectiveAccess. Overall, there is a total of 345,147 artifact records and 311,048 associated media files in our members' databases. Great work everyone. Let's keep that progress rolling into the new year! 

Here's a breakdown of the numbers by region:

Northeast: 57,561 artifacts, 78,605 images
Southwest: 147,526 artifacts, 105,490 images
Cape Breton: 33,017 artifacts, 25,563 images
Central: 107,043 artifacts, 101,390 images

Artifact Lesson of the Month 
One of the things that can sometimes happen working with collections is that we rush to get something done from entering information onto the database to taking a photograph. What we should remind ourselves is that it's okay to take our time to produce a top quality database record. It's okay to take the time to do things like research the markings on the bottom of a plate and it's okay to spend time preparing to capture a high quality photograph.

Museum artifact - Orange tin of elastoplast extension plaster. Photograph taken at angle preventing easy reading of label.
This is an example of a photograph that could have used a bit more time to prepare. When we're photographing our artifacts remember that they aren't just for our eyes only but can be seen by individuals all over the world. If you didn't know we even link related artifacts to learning resources on NovaMuseEd which means that our member's artifacts are on occasion used in classrooms across the province. 

Let's dissect this photo a bit shall we? We can start with a huge positive here - can you guess what it is? If you said it was that nice clean background then I would give you a slice of cake. What we like to see in photographs is a nice solid, neutral background that is free from debris, from wrinkles, etc. and one that contrasts and lets the artifact stand out. Now let's discuss the things that could have been done a bit differently to give it that 'wow' factor. What we wanted here was a nice 45° angle where we have a 3D object - even though that would mean showing only one side of the tin, the photographer could have simply repeated the process to document the entire artifact. The positioning of the scale is also a bit wonky. We want to place it next to the object (we recommend the lower left corner so everything on NovaMuse is consistent) without obscuring any part of the artifact. We also want the entire scale in the photograph as it helps us to gauge the size of the object itself. The clarity of the photograph could have also been a touch better so that the lettering was a bit less blurry - this could have been improved with the use of a tripod.

Don't forget that ANSM has a photo kit that can be borrowed free of charge at any time of the year. If you're interested in taking this opportunity please get in touch with me at services[at]

Two women (Cheyenne and Karin) with a blue cake
NovaMuseEd saw a flourishing of activity this month as five new learning resources were published, including two new resources in French. Over the course of the month NovaMuseEd saw 210 resource downloads - which is a 56% increase over December 2020. While there was a wide variety of resources downloaded over the course of December, the most popular was the colouring page "Lighthouse - Halifax Harbour" with 10 downloads. This month we also said goodbye to our MSVU intern, Cheyenne Hardy. Over the course of her time with ANSM Cheyenne did a tremendous amount of work from helping to complete 10 new learning resources and presenting at the 2021 SSTA (Social Studies Teachers Association) Virtual Conference to creating a Teacher Questionnaire. While we celebrated with cake and high fives we want to once again thank Cheyenne for all of her hard work and wish her the best moving forward.

Educational Partnerships
We are preparing to launch our annual Fleming College Museum Management and Curatorship partnership project on January 18th, when students will adopt a museum and do some review and research work of database records. This is a favourite project of ours and we are excited to see what the students discover this year. Thanks to the eight participating museums for opening the door to this wonderful learning opportunity.

Goodbye 2021!
It's been quite a year, with highs, lows, and plenty of changes. Kudos to everyone for navigating life in a pandemic and for working with us to server the many and varied communities of Nova Scotia. Your dedication is inspiring.