Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 Update

A year in review. Isn't that how such posts are supposed to start? To sum up, we've been busy. And these are just the ways that the Advisory Service has been busy. If I included info about what Anita and Sarah and the Board of Directors have been doing this would be a whole lot longer.

NovaMuse Wins National Award!
When Anita joined ANSM we had a conversation about making it the best of the best. We wanted to be a leader in the museum field, not just in Nova Scotia but in Canada. It looks like we might be on our way to achieving that goal because this year we won a CMA Award of Outstanding Achievement. This involved a trip to the Yukon (super cool!) and lots of chatting with the other provincial associations about how we did it. Having spent so much time migrating databases and then working on website development, being recognized by our peers was the icing on the cake.

Resource Development
We always have a wish list of things to do and resources to develop. Sometimes they come in as requests from our members, and other times we just realize that something is needed. This year we were able to respond to three requests by developing a condition report and glossary, consignment agreement, and employment contract letter. We also put the Advisory Service application form online and created a YouTube tutorial video for handling storage locations in CollectiveAccess. We have two more resources in the final draft stages, so stayed tuned for these in January.

Fleming College Partnership
Data Enrichment Assignment Sites
We often preach partnerships. Working in isolation is not only lonely, but detrimental to an organization's health and sustainability. So it makes me pretty pleased to think about the ways we've worked with Fleming College this year. The first was by revising and carrying out a data enrichment assignment for their Museum Management & Curatorship students. 10 community museums agreed to open up their databases for the students to review 10 of their records and then pick a couple of those artifacts to research. The final part of the assignment was for the students to write up a report on what they did and how the museum can further improve its database work. The students got some real world experience, and the museums got some extra help. When I was conducting site visits this summer I heard from several of the participating museums that they really appreciated this project; not just because of the help, but because they were giving the students a glimpse at the realities of museum work.

In the fall we were able to partner with Fleming again, this time by hosting an intern in the ANSM office. Caryn's primary work focused on the manufacturers' database system, but she also helped with our database review work, annual conference, and resource development. And we shipped her off to workshops and regional meetings and other networking opportunities. As you can probably imagine, life in the ANSM office is rather fast-paced and often hectic. We love what we do and always have lots of ideas about how we can help museums even more. So to have an extra person join the team for 15 weeks is a pretty amazing thing...and it gives us more excuses to have cake days.

Collections Database Info
Well, we finally finished reviewing all the databases in the Cape Breton, Central, and Northeast regions. That's a total of 92,420 records. By updating these to the new Nomenclature 3.0 standard and assigning dates & georeferences we have drastically improved the searchability of NovaMuse.ca. We also released a whole lot of records that were previously stuck in our quality control filter or had been set as inaccessible - 24,693 records to be exact. So while at the beginning of the year only 60,330 records from these 3 regions were available to the public, we're ending the year with 85,023 online. Yeah, I guess you can say we've been busy. Southwest region - we're coming for you in 2014.

Now let's do one more regional tally for 2013:
Southwest - 101,649 artifacts, 36,742 images
Central - 39,667 artifacts, 16,778 images
Northeast - 29,548 artifacts, 19,057 images
Cape Breton - 26,153 artifacts, 9,374 images

Throughout December another 150 records and 598 images were added which has us ending the year at 197,017 artifacts and 81,951 images. Congrats to the Central Region for adding the most records and images this month!

And now, one final image of the month. Yes I am flogging a dead horse with this one. I know that. But when I did a search for Happy New Year, this is one of the results that popped up. So let's all make a New Year's resolution together: "As of January 1st, 2014, we do solemnly swear to not take photos of 2-dimensional objects, nor will we take photos of groups of items and enter them all in one record. We will use our lovely scanner without putting a scale in the image, and will document the measurements in the appropriate field. We will link related objects using the relationship page."
There, now doesn't that feel better?

Manufacturers' Database
Our latest crazy database scheme moved miles ahead this year. Not only did we get to clean up the existing data in this system, but Chris developed a fantastic classification system and Caryn wrote a technical guide for it. We finally connected it with CollectiveAccess which means we are linking "made in Nova Scotia" items to the people and companies who made them. So far we've reconciled 27 collections with this system, matching 114 manufacturers with 603 artifacts. And now when museums are entering locally made items, they will be able to link them to this system as well. Once we finish a little tweaking of NovaMuse, this will add an entirely new layer to the site. You'll be able to navigate through manufacturers, see what industries were present in communities, learn about the companies and people who were creating and producing, and then see any items from participating museum collections. Seth still tells us we're crazy for tackling this, but we think it's cool and will be a fantastic addition to NovaMuse.ca.

Disaster Plan
One of our other side projects this year was to draft a comprehensive disaster plan and guide to all things databases. This has required pulling together pieces from various documents, contracts, and other places, and talking a lot with our tech support team. It's still not finished yet, but it's getting there. We've got our disaster scenarios identified, backup technical support team in place, contract & password information compiled, and database troubleshooting guide written.

That's all for this year! Happy New Year everyone, and we'll see you in 2014 for more fun and games :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Caryn says Goodbye

These past fifteen weeks have gone by in a flash, and I have had so much fun and learned a great deal. Over the past several months I have done a variety of activities including developing a condition report and glossary (available as a resource on the ANSM website), data cleaning and working on the manufacturers’ database. I have thoroughly enjoyed all these activities, as well as working with, and learning from, all the staff here at ANSM.

Manufacturers' Database
Technical Guide


I am happy to say that I leave ANSM having completed the technical guide for the manufacturers’
database which should help as this wonderful project moves forward and grows. It is a terrific project and I look forward to nosing around NovaMuse in the future to see how it develops. The data cleaning was also pretty cool. It has allowed me a look into a variety of collections which will be invaluable in my future career (and its just plain fun!).




ANSM conference
I was also given wonderful opportunities to get out of the office, meet some new people and experience aspects of work in museums outside the realm of collections. The conference in September, the facilities management workshop, the Southwest and Central regional meetings, and several other meetings got me out of the databases, giving me some important exposure to museums in the real world. Some of these also got me out of Halifax, showing me even more of this magnificent province which I will be very sad to leave Monday as I head home to Alberta.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Museum Profile - Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum

Paul, Karin, Barbara and Barb
When I first started working with museums in Nova Scotia, I heard tales of a community museum in the southwest region that did amazing work. Even though they were unable to attend my Data Enrichment workshop, they were eager to participate in our Artefacts Canada project and selected records for inclusion. When I finally met them in person, I understood why they were so eager. That's just how they operate.

What I appreciate most about this museum is the positive attitude. In talking with Barbara about her experiences working in the museum field, she often remarks that you just have to keep moving forward. There is always room for improvement. If you get hung up on how much there is to do or how long it will take to accomplish something then you'll never get anywhere. This is very much in tune with how ANSM operates - we love tackling crazy huge projects, but we eat those elephants one bite at a time. Maybe that's why Barbara and I get along so well.

We also get along well because Barbara is a stickler for standards. She doesn't accept the excuse that volunteer-run or seasonal museums should be cut some slack because they have fewer resources than some of the larger sites. You just have to be smart about scaling the work and focus on moving forward. Because of this mindset, Parkdale has consistently been at the top of the CMAP score chart. As such a high scorer, and for her practical approach to the work, other museums have often been referred to her for help. And she has always been ready to share her knowledge and experience. If a group was thinking about starting a museum, Paul would tell them to talk to Barbara first so they would understand just how much work was involved. I have used this museum countless times when discussing game plans and best practice examples, even if I haven't named them (I try not to name names).

Community Engagement
When you walk through the door of the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum, you are among friends. The warm welcome and request to know how you are doing aren't just platitudes. There have been several times during site visits when someone came in and Barbara and Donna have had a nice little chat with them. After they leave, I asked who the person was, and they had no idea. They'd never met them before. But in their eyes, anyone who comes through that door is a friend. I suspect that this is a big part of why their community is so invested in the museum. As you can see, Barbara's retirement part was packed! Even though Barbara was worried that no one would show up, they had to keep bringing out extra chairs to fit everyone.

The museum really is a focal point in the community; they host a number of very popular events throughout the year, including their famous Blueberry Tea. They have school groups in, are a CAP site, and have a lovely little gift shop with an ice cream freezer so the place is always buzzing with some activity or other. The focus isn't just on getting someone to go through the exhibits or engage in some sort of "museum activity". It's about serving their community, however the community needs to be served.

Sometimes when a fantastic long-standing Curator retires we get a little nervous. It can be very difficult for an organization to settle after losing someone with so much corporate knowledge. Again, Barbara was thinking ahead. Donna has been handed the reins and knows exactly what needs to be done. The two have worked closely together for years, and as her retirement approached, Barbara made sure to focus on succession planning and training. This kind of planning is unfortunately rare in our province, so once again Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum serves as a model for the rest of us.
So thanks to Barbara and Donna and the entire team at Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum for being such a bright light in the museum world.
All the best Barbara!

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 2013 Update

Is it just me or did Movember just start? And yet suddenly we're at its close. Goodbye moustaches. It's been fun seeing you around and I can't wait to hear how much money was raised for this great cause.

Collections Database Info
Last month I was really impressed by how much database review we did, but this month was even better. This month we went through and updated 16,633 records from 6 museums. We are now 5000 records ahead of schedule, and only have 2 museums left to do this year. We're feeling pretty great about this, and can't wait to cross the last two off our list. Now that we've done this work, it's really REALLY important for museum staff and volunteers to keep up the high quality. Check out my other blog posts that outline various tips and be sure to share this with all your friends.
I think people are starting to settle into winter holiday mode since data entry dropped a lot from last month. This month 303 new records and 685 images were added across the province and to NovaMuse.ca, giving us totals of 196,867 records and 81,353 images. And we now have 22,749 georeferences tagged.
Regionally, this looks like:
Southwest - 101,615 artifacts, 36,556 images
Central - 39,580 artifacts, 16,465 images
Northeast - 29,532 artifacts, 18,996 images
Cape Breton - 26,140 artifacts, 9,336 images

Congrats to the Central region for adding the most records again this month, and to the Southwest
region for adding the most images!

Shaving Mug
Our image of the month is in honour of Movember and the many men that will be shaving off their moustaches on Sunday. Mugs can be tricky to photograph since you want to do it at an angle that will show both the top and side. This mug is angled very well. We can see the decoration on the side, the details of the handle, and the all-important divider inside the cup. How could the image be improved? I would have used a dark background fabric so the mug wouldn't look so washed out, and I would have moved the scale a bit closer to the edge of the mug. As a final touch, I'd crop excess space so that the mug is perfectly centred and the sole focus of the photo.

Manufacturers Database Project
Caryn finished up her technical guide which includes instructions on how to use the database and add or update information, and we have established a great group of experts who will review new info before it goes into the system. The 7000+ manufacturers have been reconciled with our fancy classification system that Chris developed, which means it will be very easy for researchers to browse through mills or shipyards or coopers or whatever. We've just started linking collections to manufacturers which is proving to be an interesting process since we've run into a few companies or people who aren't listed in the system yet. So there's a lot of back and forth and running around to sort it all out. But we're getting there, and are really excited to see things continuing to shape up.

Random Goings-On
It felt like this month had more meetings and discussions than usual. We started off with an ANSM marketing workshop in Truro. Then I was off to the Black Cultural Centre for a site visit as they recently joined the Advisory Service. It's always interesting when a new site comes on board; lots to learn about eachother and figure out how ANSM can help the museum move forward.
In keeping with tradition, I wrote a Remembrance Day blog post with a sort of personal twist. You can read that here.
I also wrote a little book review from our reference library on an anthology about the evolution of museology, titled "Reinventing the Museum". I really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it. You can read my review here.
I had two education committee meetings this month - one with our Education & Training Task Force and the other with the CNSA's Education Committee. It's really great (and super important) to collaborate with our sister organization on educational offerings. It's kinda nice to not have workshops or conferences scheduled on the same days.
One of the more interesting discussions of the month was an expert panel teleconference call to discuss CHIN. Just as CMAP & SDI are being reviewed at the provincial level, the federal government regularly reviews its departmental programs. So here's hoping that us "experts" gave good enough feedback to the evaluators to result in some positive changes.
One of the more exciting things that is happening in the Halifax area is that a new social group has started up that fits in with the "Drinking about Museums" phenomenon. This is basically when a bunch of museum workers go out to a pub together to talk shop. We all know how easy it is to just keep our heads down and focus on our own work, so it's nice to see something starting up that will cultivate some more cross-pollination and awareness of eachother's work.
And finally, this morning we ended the month with a Central Region Heritage Group meeting. I stuck to the office, but Caryn and Anita went and just informed me that it was a really great meeting.

Ok, that's all for now. There's one more meeting this afternoon and then that's it for this month. Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review - Reinventing the Museum

Well, it has once again been a very long time since I delved into our reference library and did a book review. This time I've pulled out a nifty anthology edited by Gail Anderson - Reinventing the Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift, published by AltaMira Press in 2004. As with any such anthology, sometimes a statement or viewpoint will make you cringe or go "WHOA! They were so far off with that prediction!" But overall, these are the people who have shaped the museum field, and they had/have lots of great things to say.

I'm not going to spend my time going into detail about the contents as someone else has very ably reviewed the book and focused on its contents. Instead I thought I'd focus on a number of quotes that jumped out at me. If they don't whet your appetite to read this, I don't think anything will.

Alma Wittlin, in her article on museum renewal, drew attention to John Gardner, who "is credited with having stated that "most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they can't solve their problems, but because they won't see their problems."'

Duncan Cameron called us to action: "Where museums, be they of art, history, or science, have the knowledge and the resources to interpret matters of public importance, no matter how controversial, they are obliged to do so."
He also gave us a grave warning: "Museums and art galleries, like the majority of other cultural institutions, must institute reform and create an equality of cultural opportunity. Society will no longer tolerate institutions that either in fact or in appearance serve a minority audience of the elite."

For anyone who has attended our Museums 101 workshops, we talk about the "five functions of museums", which has been an accepted museological concept for the past 40 years. The functions include collecting, conserving, researching, interpreting and exhibiting, and almost always show up in museum mission statements or mandates. Well, Stephen Weil figures it's time to simplify that: "The essential functions of museums are reduced to three: to preserve (to collect being viewed as simply an early step in that process), to study (a function that remains unchanged) and to communicate (this third function being a combination of...to interpret and to exhibit)."
When we think about our online activities via social media, NovaMuse.ca, the Virtual Museum of Canada, and other avenues, are we not communicating truths that have been preserved and illuminated through study?

Harold Skramstad focused more on the educational aspects of our work: "The closely controlled environment of the school, open during very limited hours and not available to all members of a family or community-based group, cannot match the environment of the museum for encouraging groups of all kinds to learn together."

Lois Silverman continued with the theme of education and interpretation: "...the paradigm itself broadens our notion of the museum educator's role to be one who is knowledgeable in the ways people make meaning of objects and skilled in facilitating dialogue and negotiation."

Stephen Weil had a lot to say on the relevance of museums in today's society: "...a museum's collections - which might once have been thought of as its 'end' - can now be seen as a 'means', as an instrument for the achievement of a larger end and simply one among a number of resources that the museum can employ to carry out its service obligation to the public."
He also cautioned that "...a museum may only be considered essential so long as its impact is perceived to be both valuable and incomparable."

Will Phillips' article was one of my favourites; full of great reality checks: "Organizations that are not exploring and using [new technologies]...will move more and more slowly at higher and higher operating costs."

Robert Janes wrote on the subject of leadership and the future of the field: "Simply put, patriarchy and control foster isolation; while individual responsibility and stewardship nurture the web of community relationships."
Perhaps his most blunt statement: "Are there too many museums? In short, yes there are."

So there you have it. If you've been working with museums for 20 years or more, you should probably read this book. Or if you're new to the field and want to learn more about the evolution of museums, this is a great place to start. I guarantee it will help you understand how and why certain changes have taken place, and give you solid suggestions about how to adapt to current realities. These great thinkers were not afraid to tell it like it was/is. There's no sugar coating, just a serious analysis of our profession. I like that.
If you want to read another book review that goes into detail about the book's contents, click here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2013 Edition

Walter's Attestation
Papers from Library &
Archives Canada
Lately there's been a lot of talk about war. Not because of where Canadian soldiers are currently serving, but because of the looming centenary of the Great War - World War I. Museums are in exhibit & program planning mode, digging through collections for interesting local stories to share with the public. At least once a week I have a conversation with a museum about their work; an interesting discovery, an update on the digitization progress, or questions about funding applications for their proposed commemorative project. So as the centenary of the Great War looms closer and closer, I've been thinking a lot about how quickly it has slipped from recent memory.

When I was young, discussions about war always meant talking about grandparents - whose grandfather served where and in which branch of the services. So when Remembrance Day rolled around, it was a time to be proud of our grandfathers as they visited the school wearing their medals earned during WWII. Standing next to them gave us such pride, even though we were too young to really understand their sacrifice.

I can share many stories about my family's contribution to the war efforts of 70 years ago, but WWI is a lot more difficult. How did that information fall to the wayside? Is 100 years really so long? So difficult to recall?

I love to visit my grandmother's cousin Hilda. She's now 92 years old but her mind is still as sharp as a tack. Her father served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during the Great War and was wounded at Vimy Ridge. He spent the rest of his life walking with the aid of two canes. I never met Walter, nor have I prodded Hilda for information that he may have shared about his war-time experiences. From what I have heard, he was a very quiet man and didn't have a lot to say on the subject. But I can't help but wonder at how his life was changed. He left rural Annapolis County a healthy young bachelor farmer, and returned home a permanently wounded man.

Listening to Hilda's stories about years gone by always involves a bit of detective work - she'll tell you a grand tale but never what year it happened, and sometimes she won't even name names. That's not a lot of information to go on. And she's 92 years old. The daughter of a WWI veteran is 92! And while I know she has some scrapbooks that surely document the Great War, the stories have not been passed down to the same extent as those of WWII. Besides, she says no one would be interested in such drivel.

The responsibility of museums to revive these lives and tales of a century ago is daunting. The realization that we've lost so much first and second-hand knowledge; terrifying. Our job is to connect people with the past - to facilitate dialogue and enable people to make meaning of objects and other material remains. Without the personal stories associated with the objects, it is far more difficult for people to connect with and appreciate this heritage. Unless we can personalize the material evidence, a division photo is just a bunch of guys in uniform, the uniforms are just some old clothes, and badges are just cloth patches. So as we continue to prepare for the upcoming centenary, I hope that we are able to uncover some of these lost lives and stories. I hope that we can prove dear Hilda wrong - that people are interested and do care about the great sacrifice paid by her father and his many compatriots.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 2013 Update

Site Visit Homework
For anyone who hasn't experienced a site visit with me, I always carry a notebook with me. This is where I write all of my homework items - requests for information, resources to develop, etc etc. Sometimes these requests are all over the map, and other times people always seem to ask the same questions, no matter what part of the province I'm visiting. This year I heard two trends - governance and summer staff. There seems to be a lot of confusion over roles and responsibilities. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there about non-profit governance. For instance, the CMA has a guide on the Roles & Responsibilities of Museum Boards and Trustees. Click here to download it. The Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education also has a large number of free resources on their website; these are not museum specific but provide great guidelines for any non-profit group. Click here to access their resource page. As for summer staff, we have a resource on training & supporting seasonal staff in our reference library, which is available to our members for borrowing.

IMAC Meeting
Your illustrious advisory committee met on the the 25th to talk all things advisory service. We welcomed Jocelyn Gillis from the Antigonish Heritage Museum as our new Northeast rep, and Nova Scotia Museum Curator of History Martin Hubley as our NSM rep (Martin technically joined us in the summer but this was his first meeting). It was also Caryn's first IMAC meeting so we had a lot of introductions and explanations to do with all the new faces. In sad news, it was Anna's last meeting as she is leaving to focus on her academic studies. We want to thank her so much for all of her dedication and hard work over the past few years. I know that not many people ever met her, but she was instrumental in the NovaMuse development process; always providing in-depth and thoughtful analyses of whatever component we asked her to look at. She really will be missed.
Gary once again chaired a very efficient meeting which of course resulted in jokes about military precision. We talked a lot about databases and next steps for NovaMuse.ca, resource development, disaster planning, and marketing. One suggestion was that we ask all our users to include a line in their email signature to invite people to visit the collection online at NovaMuse.ca. This might not sound like much, but it's another easy way to promote the site.

Collections Database Info
New resource! I've heard from a lot of people that they like our youtube video tutorials on how to use CollectiveAccess. Well, after much delay, I've got one up on how to edit storage locations. The difference with this one is that you get to hear my lovely voice walk you through the process. A critique of the earlier videos is that people kept expecting someone to start talking. So this time I've cut out the captions and just talked instead. Please let me know which method is the most helpful, or pass along other suggestions for improvements.

We had a great month of database review, getting through 11,756 records from 6 museums. We're still not caught up to where we want to be, but we've made some great headway and are definitely a lot closer. As I've mentioned before, I'm keeping tabs on any trends and this month wrote my second blog post on database tips. Some recommendations are based on changes in standards, but a lot of what I'm seeing can be attributed to inconsistency in data entry. So be sure to read the post and think about your data entry practices. Things were definitely busier this month with data entry work too - 1,642 new records and 2,486 images went into the systems and onto NovaMuse.ca. So now we're setting at grand totals of 196,564 artifacts, 80,668 images, and 20,640 georeferences.
Ok, and now it's time for the great regional breakdown:
Southwest - 101,550 artifacts, 36,208 images
Central - 39,365 artifacts, 16,171 images
Northeast - 29,527 artifacts, 18,984 images
Cape Breton - 26,122 artifacts, 9,305 images

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

1930s Halloween Costume
Last month's update was so full of info that I decided not to include an image of the month. So in the spirit of the day, let's look at a 1930s Halloween costume. We've talked a lot about clothing in the past, so let's revisit some of the quick issues here. The costume should be on a mannequin instead of laying flat, and the scale should be in the lower left instead of the lower right. That's the negative side. What is really great about this image is the colouring. Those colours are dead-on. You can tell by the colouring of the scale and how the contrasting backdrop is almost the exact same shade in every corner. This is fantastic. So let's just remember the rule about keeping the object in its natural position, in this case on the body, and we're off to the races...or the picnic based on this outfit. Perhaps a Sound of Music performance? The hills are alive with loud, bright flowers??

Manufacturers Database Project
Chris and Caryn have been focusing most of their attention on this project, reconciling duplicate entries, connecting companies that were bought or merged, and assigning companies to a very cool industrial classification system developed in-house. Caryn's research project is to write a technical guide for the database, so has been working on that end of things, writing our data dictionary and coming up with a methodology for adding & updating information once it is linked to the databases and NovaMuse.ca. Our next step is to start connecting all the collections to the manufacturers, so our good friend Seth is working on some coding and system updates, and then we'll be off to the races. Exciting times!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Museum Database Lessons - Part 2

Object Names & Capitalization
from churchm.ag
I can be lazy in my capitalization sometimes when writing to friends via email or Facebook. But when I'm working in a database or doing anything that I want to be viewed as "professional", I become a real stickler. And this is a mindset that I hope everyone adopts. When you look at how Nomenclature 3.0 presents object names, the first letter is always capitalized. They tell you to use Chair, Rocking rather than chair, rocking. But for some reason not everyone is following this standard. At the other end of the spectrum, I'm seeing some records that are entirely capitalized. For anyone unaware of what this means in the written and/or online world, anything entered in CAPS LOCK means you are YELLING at your reader. I know that some of these records have been migrated from very early database systems that automatically capitalized everything, but that doesn't mean you should continue the practice in our lovely new system. The last thing we want is for any museum to look lazy or crazy on NovaMuse, so please remember to capitalize correctly.

Gender Designations
Some museum databases have a gender field, but we use the Object Type field for this information. One of my pet peeves here is that people aren't consistent with how they enter a gender designation. Male-associated objects have been plugged in as man, men, man's, men's, gentleman's...so many different ways to say it. So let's pick one method and stick to it. If it's a female item, enter Woman's in the object type field. Man's can be entered for male-associated items. You don't know that the owner of the object was a gentleman or a lady, so don't make that assumption. They might have been a jerk with no class at all.

Categories

I love our CollectiveAccess database system. It's so lovely. And one of the things that I love about it is that it wants to make our lives easier with shortcuts. Yes please!!  For the category field, this means we only have to pick the most specific, or lowest level, category. For instance, if you have a hay rake, it falls under Tools & Equipment for Materials Agricultural Tools & Equipment → Harvesting Equipment. So in the category field, just enter Harvesting Equipment. 

Source

This field is NOT optional. You need to document who gave you what. Once this name is entered, references to the donor in other fields should be done by calling them "the donor". We don't want to broadcast the names of our donors via NovaMuse. So please stop putting in "donated by XXX" in your history of use or narrative or description or anywhere else. You've already documented it in the Source field.

Acquisition Method

This field is NOT optional. If your paper records are lost of destroyed, the database becomes your proof of ownership. In my first Database Lessons blog post I ranted a bit about skimping on data entry and referring people to the paper records. Again, we have to get out of that mindset. The database is where information from the temporary receipt, gift agreement, donor questionnaire, condition report, and every other document related to the item gets pulled together into one resource. 

Media Files

I know I rant about good pictures in my monthly updates, but I'm still seeing problems here. And honestly, I think this stems from students or volunteers being handed a camera and told to "take pictures of the artifacts". Um, yes. That is technically what they'll be doing. But it's a little more complicated than that. These images are being shared with the world, so don't you want them to be professional-looking and of high quality? So let's do a quick review here:
Gavel & Block
Desbrisay Museum
1 - images need to be at least 1200x1200 pixels
2 - two-dimensional items should be scanned
3 - use the macro setting for detail shots
4 - make sure the object is the only object in the photograph
5 - angles and lighting matters
6 - if the picture didn't turn out, redo it.
7 - the image file name needs to match the accession number, but replace any dots with underscores or dashes (1999.4.5 = 1999_4_5.tif). Don't ever add extra numbers or letters for additional views or it looks like you've changed the accession number. Use qualifying terms for additional views, ie 1999_4_5_side.tif or 1999_4_5_label.tif.
Look at what your peers have posted on NovaMuse and you'll quickly be able to tell what makes a good (or bad) artifact photo.
I've also had a lot of questions from people whose images weren't appearing on NovaMuse. More often than not, the images weren't online because they hadn't been set to be accessible. Once a record is set to be accessible, you have to do the same for any media files that have been attached.

Read Museum Database Lessons - Part 1

Monday, September 30, 2013

September 2013 Update

Site Visits & Meetings
Barry, Karin & Dave
Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum
The only site visit this month was to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum. If you've never visited this museum, it's a must-see! They think of the museum as comprising three buildings, but everything is connected so you can go from the entrance & gift shop into the gallery, and then into the hangar. If you're mechanically inclined, enjoy tinkering, and live near Enfield, you should seriously go talk to these guys. Their workshop is super cool, and they always have some sort of restoration project on the go.
I also had an end of season chat with my counterpart at the Council of Nova Scotia Archives. She's fairly new to her job and since we share so many member institutions thought it would be good to do a site visit review. We sit on the other's education committees, and are keen to coordinate more. Good times ahead!

ANSM Annual Conference
CMA Executive Director John McAvity
sharing insights on the national picture
A hearty crew met in Halifax at Dal's University Club for our annual conference. We had some great sessions and conversations. My buddy Ern came down from CHIN to talk about social media, NS Museum staff reviewed their Interpretive Master Plan work, we heard a lot of great best practices during two panel sessions, we had a serious discussion about developing a Museum Fund for the province, and also about the possibility of ANSM taking over the administration of CMAP. For me though, the highlight was Dr. Matelic's keynote address. As a few people put it, she gave us some tough love about being sustainable institutions. She told us that most North American museums are stuck in old models and struggling to find relevance and sustainability. Apparently most people don't really understand collaboration: shared creation & meaning, a strategic framework for problem-solving, a process of participation, and durable commitments created for mutual gain. I particularly loved her talk about leadership. The old authoritative model is done. Totally ineffectual. Candace went into detail here, but she had a few points that I think sum it up nicely, taken from Kouzes and Posner. I challenge you all to think about how you lead/operate your organization, and embrace these steps: Model the way. Inspire a shared vision. Challenge the process. Enable others to act. Encourage the heart.

Database Info
So we've gotten a serious amount of work done this month. With Caryn, Chris and I on the case, we've tackled a few things that have been sitting on the wish list for a long time. First up is the old cross reference field. With CollectiveAccess, our old cross reference field is null and void. That's what the relationships feature is for. So we're moving the data from cross reference to its proper home, and then that field is going to disappear. We're also looking at the Culture field. We want to make this field browsable on NovaMuse, but when we looked at it we found a bunch of really dirty data that needs fixing up.
Database reviews are still underway, and this month we completed another 4 systems, weeding through 6,700 records of which we were able to map 600. We're a little behind my goal, but I'm not afraid of playing catch up. With a lot of museums closing for the season we didn't have a ton of database work being done, but another 463 records and 893 images went into the system. That gives us grant totals of 194,922 records and 78,182 images. Regionally, this is what it looks like:
Southwest - 101,467 artifacts, 35,836 images
Central - 37,836 artifacts, 16,095 images
Northeast - 29,521 artifacts, 16,961 images
Cape Breton - 26,098 artifacts, 9,290 images

Congrats to the Central Region for adding the most records and images this month. They beat the southwest by one artifact record, and 9 images. I think that's our closest race to date!

New Resources
We've got a few new resources in the final editing stages. Is it just me or does this always take longer than expected? First up is a condition report form. This has been on my list for a long time, and thanks to our illustrious intern Caryn it's finally on its way. Second on the list is a loan reconciliation package, which the very brave Chris has tackled. We talked about loans at each site visit, and this can be a really difficult subject to address, so we're treading carefully with this one. As ever, please let me know if you have requests for new resources. Chances are, if you need a template, someone else needs it too. Feel free to check out what we already have online at http://ansm.ns.ca/ under the resources tab. Everything is free to download.

Data Dictionary 2.0
I've finished the new data dictionary help text for our fun database system, but it hasn't been installed yet. Special thanks to Jamie at CNSA for helping with the archival view. The process was a lot more involved than I thought, and was the first time since our migration that I really sat down and looked at each field. This analysis uncovered a number of issues that will now drive me crazy until I resolve them. The final document ended up being 24 pages long, so you can be sure that the definitions and field guidelines will be much more comprehensive. The next step is to work on the live assistance and error reporting. I'm really excited to launch this new feature. Yes this is me geeking out, but I think it's going to really help with on-site training and data consistency.

Manufacturers' Database
Say what?!?! That's right. We are resurrecting this 20+ year old research project...again. At this stage in the game "manufacturers" is a bit of a misnomer. We're really talking about a database of people and businesses that were creating material products in our beautiful province. For anyone unfamiliar with the history of the project, the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry did some research on the subject in the early 90s, and then 6 county museums complimented this by doing local research. The earliest entry is from the 1600s, a sawmill in Lequille. Since my 2006 arrival on the scene we've done bits and pieces of work on the project, first getting all the existing paper records into a database, conducting some additional research, and then migrating to CollectiveAccess. Now, thanks to a little support from the province we're going full tilt; cleaning up the data, adding new info, and linking items from the collections to the various entities. When we're done, the system will be integrated with NovaMuse, adding another layer to the site, and allowing people to read more about the makers of our museum collections. So excited to finally be moving forward on this, even though Seth says we're crazy for attempting it :)


Don't forget to check out September's other blog posts:
Collections and Original Contents, a little discussion about old medicines and other substances that are often found inside bottles and other containers.
Introducing Ms. MacGregor, getting to know our intern Caryn.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Collections & Original Contents

When I was studying at Fleming College, our amazing program coordinator Gayle would often remind us that people are far more important than artifacts or the museum. Health and safety always comes first. So with that in mind, I think it's time we had a little chat about all those old medicine bottles, apothecary kits, cleaning supplies etc etc.

These days, when an object is offered to the museum, staff & volunteers sit down and carefully discuss the item using a pre-acquisition review form, addressing any issues or concerns from the get go. But that doesn't exactly help with those age-old acquisitions that were collected long before anyone worried about the adverse health effects of museum collections. And since most of our institutions don't come with staff scientists, state of the art labs and serious dollars backing them, we need to come up with a manageable solution to the issue. Community museums exist to serve their communities, and if you have a bunch of old bottles full of their original contents that no one can go near, that's not really serving anyone.

I love authenticity as much as the next person, but we have to make sure that the museum is safe for our visitors, volunteers, and staff members. So let's start by talking about all those funny medicine bottles that are still partially filled with pills, liquids, powders, and goopy substances that probably weren't so goopy in their earlier days. I know I know, a lot of that stuff is so harmless that the odds of someone getting sick or hurt are very slim. But there's still a chance that someone could be allergic to the unlisted ingredients in the breast tea. There's a chance that pests will be attracted by the alluring smell and wreak havoc on the collection. And there's always that one kid who thinks it would be funny to eat or lick the grossest thing possible, and ends up getting sick as a result. Yay liability issues!

There's something really pretty about billowing clouds, except when they are clouds of lye billowing from a broken bottle. By keeping the original contents in the bottle, changing environmental conditions and chemical changes built up until they quite literally burst. The lye wanted its freedom and wasn't going to take no for an answer. And now we're left with a ruined bottle that can't be put out on display. If the museum had properly disposed of the contents during the accession process, or had a rule that they wouldn't accept anything with dangerous original contents, they'd have a lovely empty bottle to include in their exhibits and programming.

I can think of a number of museums that have such objects in their collection, and I know that sometimes they adopt an "out of sight out of mind" attitude. For items in storage, they've been in storage for years. No one intends to put the apothecary bag on display, so why mess with it? Or the objects have been in a locked display cabinet for ages and it's seen as a hassle to open and check on things. In a way, we seem to have aligned with the mindset of the general public in that museum collections are perpetual. Sure new items come in, but old items never leave; the collection is never reassessed. The only problem with this mindset is that it's wrong. Very wrong. If museums are vibrant and active organizations, that means the collection is constantly being reassessed, just like we are always mindful of our mission and mandate and everything else related to its operation. Relevance is key.


So the next time you come across a medical container with original contents, check out the label, and get on the phone wtth your local pharmacy. Tell them what you have and that you'd like to dispose of the contents but keep the container (assuming it's in decent shape and you'd like to keep it in the collection). If it's just a matter of dumping out some old pills or powders, the process will be very easy. Pharmacists are used to dealing with that stuff and will be happy to help. Make sure you take some pictures of the object for your records, documenting what was in the container before disposal. Add the pictures to your database (don't make them accessible to the public), add some descriptive info in your cataloguer remarks field, and you're off to the races. For any non-medicinal contents, call your municipal office and talk to the waste disposal people. It's the same process here - this is what we've got, we'd like to keep the container, and can you help us dispose of the contents in a safe manner.

So now it's time for your test. If you look at this image and think to yourself, "COOL!" rather than "YIKES!", it might be time to rethink your mindset. This room of apothecary bottles is totally accessible to the public. Yes there's a low wooden barrier, but that can be easily hopped over and then it's just a matter of picking out which bottle you want to play with first. Not good. So let's make a pact. People's safety comes first.

For the record, none of the images used in this post were taken in Nova Scotian museums. And no, I will not tell you in which museum they were taken.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Introducing Ms. MacGregor

Hello, my name is Caryn and I am excited to be here at the Association of Nova Scotia Museums for the next four months. This internship serves as my final semester of the Collections Conservation and Management (CCM) Program at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario.

I grew up in Alberta, for the most part in a little city just outside of Edmonton, with the first few years down in southern Alberta. I have an arts degree with a major in Anthropology (minor in Canadian history) from the University of Alberta. During the four summers while I was at university I worked at my local museum which fed my love of museums and led me to Fleming College and the CCM program.


The program has given me a lot of practical knowledge and experience and I am looking forward to applying it here (and learning much more) during my internship.

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 2013 Update

Site Visits
Charles Macdonald Concrete House
As hard as it is to believe, the summer is drawing to a close, and I've survived another year of running the roads. August was insanely busy with site visits. Seriously, I was only in the office 5 days and was starting to forget what my house looked like. I visited 21 museums, spanning the province, and then took a couple days to sleep. Thanks to everyone for all their wonderful hospitality, for all the tasty treats, the good conversation, and the positive feedback about ANSM and NovaMuse. There are some really amazing and dedicated people working in our community museums, and it's always a treat to sit down and hear about all their shenanigans :)

Database Info
Since an entire month has passed I feel like I should have lots of updates about the updated data dictionary feature and disaster plan and all the other schemes and dreams we've been working on. So I guess all I can say right now is that my return to the office signals a serious attack on my to do list. It's only day 3 of my return, but I'm already feeling optimistic that my head will be back above water in the next week or so.  

Since I've been on the road all month I haven't been able to do any database review work, and Chris is now working on our next scheme. So we're still sitting around the 50,000 record mark. But thanks to the efforts of all the museums, another 300 records were mapped, which puts us at 19,465 of our 40,000 goal for this year. In terms of data entry, 1,241 object records were entered and 2,209 images were attached. Based on my site visit conversations, it sounds like there are a number of museums who are also in "clean up" mode now - all of the basic info has been entered and now they're going back and updating existing records. And with NovaMuse up and running I think people are taking it a bit easier this year, embracing the opportunity to plug away at improving existing info. So here's how things sit:

Southwest - 101,251 artifacts, 35,421 images
Central - 37,619 artifacts, 15,671 images
Northeast - 29,491 artifacts, 16,917 images
Cape Breton - 26,098 artifacts, 9,280 images
Congrats once again to the 
Southwest region for adding the most records and images this month!
Quilt
Old Court House Museum

Your image of the month comes from the Northeast region; a nifty commemorative quilt that celebrates the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Loyalists in Guysborough. I've seen some really amazing quilt pictures and some really bad quilt pictures. Sometimes people create an artistic folded view that really works well with the camera, and other times they do like Guysborough and hang the quilt from the wall. The latter is obviously the ideal for such a beautiful object. Each block is different and we want to make sure the viewer can see all of these differences. I recently asked a museum in the US how they captured such beautiful photos of their quilts, hoping they had devised some sneaky method of hanging. Believe it or not, they just laid them on the floor and were able to shoot down from above. So keep that in mind as well in case you have a loft area that would allow you to do this. For additional shots, look to see if there are any tiny details that might get lost in such a large image. Sometimes a quilter will include their initials in a block, or use some very intricate and decorative stitching in a certain area.


I think this is where I'm going I'm going to wrap up. I look forward to seeing everyone at the ANSM annual conference in a few weeks, and will have some fun news to share next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 Update

Site Visits
MacDonald House Museum
This pretty much sums up my July experience. I visited 23 sites in all 4 regions and have thoroughly enjoyed all the chats I've had with staff and volunteers. I've been really impressed with the quality of summer staff this year, and have seen a number of really great special projects taking shape. As I mentioned last month, it's been great to sit and talk about how to move forward at the individual site level rather than pushing through the major projects we've been working on for the past couple of years.
I've got a lot of homework items from the visits; things to fix, stuff to check on, and resources to develop, so please bear with me as I don't have a lot of office time to get this work done over the summer. I will get to it all eventually.

IMAC Meeting
I took a break from travels for a meeting with our illustrious advisory committee. We have a new chairperson; Gary from the Army Museum. Maybe it's the military precision that he brings to the table, but we somehow managed to have our shortest meeting in recent memory. Lots of chatter about upcoming plans, disaster recovery work, site visits, and our server upgrade. We reviewed applications from museums interested in joining the advisory service. We realized that last year that we needed to bring new sites in at a non-database level first in order to build a relationship with the staff/volunteers and make sure other aspects of the museum operation are organized before throwing a new database at them. I'm actually really excited about this, since it's a more holistic approach to the work. Sometimes it seems like the focus is solely on the database and collections work, and museums are so much more.

NovaMuse Stats
I thought it'd be fun (ie random) to look at how people are finding NovaMuse; what terms they're typing into their search engine that end up leading them to our fancy site. I was sort of hoping we'd notice some trends here so people would know what our visitors are most interested in, but I think the top 10 list is pretty random. I swear I'm not making these up: Michael Rupp Chronometers, Taylor-Forbes Guelph Canada sadiron*, Jon Beausang, Acadian House Museum, Lakeshore Bruins, Army Museum Halifax Citadel, HMCS Sorel, Little Flower Orphanage Cape Breton, David Obed Parker, and Francis Drake New Glasgow. See, I warned you. Very random. But we can tell a couple things from this - people are looking for info on Nova Scotian museums and reading about them on NovaMuse (hooray!), and there is interest in industrial collections. Other than that, I'd say we should just keep plugging away at adding more content, making sure that we have nice full records with great images.
*this does not mean we should collect any more sadirons!!

Database Info
As I've mentioned during site visits, this year is our clean-up year. So I've started work on our enhanced data dictionary. As most people have noticed, not all of the database fields have help text, and since we regularly get requests for training resources for new volunteers or staff, we're going all out to create a fancy pants data dictionary 2.0. Seth calls it training wheels. It won't replace the need to conduct on-site training with your seasonal staff or new volunteers, but we're excited to finally tie up this loose end and make things a little more sustainable.
The other big database task we're working on is a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. We have various pieces in various places, such as my technical troubleshooting guide, but we figured it was time to pull all this stuff together in one master document. So, let's say hypothetically that we fill up the server and need to upgrade our storage plan, anyone will be able to pull that section of the plan and know exactly how to proceed. Speaking of which, we had a fun problem this month. We filled up our server. Everyone has been so productive since we switched to CollectiveAccess that we ran out of space. So we've now doubled our storage which means there's plenty of room to grow.

And now for my favourite part of the database news, the monthly tally. Chris and I are still working on database review work, and have now processed over 50,000 records, of which we've mapped 19,153. It's also obviously the busy season because we now have 193,218 records and 75,080 images in the databases. That means that 1,328 new records and 1,453 new images were added in July:
Southwest - 100,329 artifacts, 34,025 images
Central - 37,415 artifacts, 15,058 images
Northeast - 29,407 artifacts, 16,907 images
Cape Breton - 26,067 artifacts, 9,090 images

Congrats again to the Southwest region for adding the most records and images this month, and for cracking the 100k mark!

Photograph
NS Sport Hall of Fame
Before I wrap this up, It's been far too long since I gave an image of the month tip. I know I know, but in my defence, I have no defence. I've been trying to find different kinds of artifacts and issues to raise, and the more I blog, the more difficult this becomes. But here's a good one...I hope. We've got a fantastic 1923 team photo, but it's seen better days. Some people might want to crop out the torn edges and focus solely on the photo, or solely on the photo and bottom of the matboard where all the players are named. The problem with this approach is that it misrepresents the item. Detail shots are great, but we want to make sure the images in the database are true representations of the object; that the image in the database will match the item when you go to find it in the museum.


All right. I think that's enough for now. Time for some rest before tomorrow's site visits as I head up the Cabot Trail.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 2013 Update

Site Visits
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm
With all the meetings and visitors and other goings on throughout June, I was late starting my annual site visits, but I still managed checking in with five sites in the Central, Northeast and Southwest regions. I'm actively scheduling and travelling now, so if you don't have a site visit scheduled yet, I will be in touch over the next week or so. What I'm hearing so far is that June saw a modest increase in visitors from last year, which is great. So far I've also been really pleased with how people are moving forward at each museum. This is the first time in several years that I've been able to just sit and chat about stuff without a major project or deadline looming - no more database migrations or website launches! You have no idea how refreshing this is; to be able to figure out how to move forward and clean up old issues and just plug away at stuff.


NovaMuse Statistics 
Quite awhile ago I asked our Facebook fans what they'd like to see more of on NovaMuse. I figured this would be useful as people were making their summer staffing plans and thinking about potential exhibit topics. I don't have a picture to share, but here's what we're seeing on NovaMuse: we all know the home page suggests themes for visitors to check out. Art, Farming, Fishing, and the Military are the most popular themes. We're also seeing that people love checking out the contributor map from the home page. This is great because one of our big goals with the site was to direct people to the contributing museums - this is where you can go to see the stuff!
This also raises the point about documentation and making sure you put the right category in the object record. If you don't, your artifacts won't get into the right theme and this makes us all look bad.


Database Info
The funky issues we experienced last month with Internet Explorer have now been fixed. 
One funny holdover is that the daily synchronization was only picking up certain records during its sweep. So, if you've been waiting for an image or record to appear on NovaMuse and it's just not showing up, here's what to do. Go into that record and make a simple change. Maybe you can add a date or georeference, or add something to the description, or measurements...it doesn't matter what the change is, but by making this change it will "wake up" the record for the daily sync. Something is new which means the sync knows to grab and update the info online.

The database review work continues. Chris and I have finished 10 sites, representing over 48,000 records. This puts us 3,000 records ahead of schedule which feels pretty great.  Once we finish the quick and dirty review we want to go back and do some research to further narrow down begin & end dates, so the more work museums do on their own records, the more time we'll have to do in-depth research and make improvements. So basically this is one of those "help us help you" situations. Speaking of helping, I finally published a blog post on some database lessons - trends we've noticed as we've been reviewing records. This is a must-read for anyone doing cataloguing and/or data entry. We're still keeping track of trends and will share more lessons when we get a full page worth.

In other news 804 records and 1,075 images were added this month, so we now have 191,890 artifacts and 73,627 images in the databases:

Southwest - 99,458 artifacts, 33,206 images
Central - 37,168 artifacts, 14,686 images
Northeast - 29,200 artifacts, 16,676 images
Cape Breton - 26,064 artifacts, 9,059 images

Congrats to the Southwest region for adding the most records and images this month!


American Invasion
Karin & Seth, always photogenic
We also had some company this month. Our illustrious CollectiveAccess guru came to visit for a "vacation", which of course means we spent an insane amount of time in meetings and talking shop. We had a seafood barbeque, ate cake, did some disaster planning, made a few subtle changes to NovaMuse, and had a fun sit-down with some Dept of CCH staffers. We of course had to take the opportunity to show Seth our new award, which is just as much his as it is ours. So once again, congrats to my New York penpal, the guy who was up sending emails back and forth with me at 4am, who flipped the switch for our website launch, who bullied his co-workers to make sure that all of our deadlines were met, and who continues to go above and beyond the call of duty. This is why we send him care packages of chocolate and tea, and this is why ANSM loves Whirl-i-gig...even if they are yankees.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May 2013 Update

Disaster Recovery Plan
As I mentioned last month, one of the things we're working on this year is a comprehensive plan to address any sort of database emergency or disaster. This consists of sitting down and talking about all sorts of hypothetical scenarios - what could go wrong and how would we fix the problem? We have some unwritten plans about how to address some of these issues, but we figured it would be great to have something comprehensive in the event that key people aren't around to troubleshoot or implement the plans. To date we have identified the threats and  figured out prevention, response and recovery strategies. Next up is to determine the very specific action recovery steps. We are doing this not only for ANSM's responsibilities but also from the museum's perspective, so we're pretty happy with how the document is shaping up.

CNSA Conference
I think I've mentioned before that we've been getting calls from various groups across North America who want to learn more about how we've made NovaMuse a reality. We love to share our story, and this month we got to share it close to home with our sister organization the Council of Nova Scotia Archives. Their annual conference was on the 3 P's of Digital Archives: Possibilities, Practicalities, & Partnerships. This was the perfect opportunity to share NovaMuse and our collaborative approach to the work.

NovaMuse Statistics 
Social Network Referrals
So we've talked about how many countries are visiting NovaMuse, and also how people people are finding the site and the importance of putting the logo on your website to promote this new museum service. I would love to see everyone's website have the link by the end of the summer. I think that's a reasonable goal.
Anyway, back to stats. This month I thought I'd talk about social networks as a way to promote the collections and NovaMuse. Most of the contributing museums are on Facebook and use it to share information about their collections and events with the public. This lovely and colourful pie chart shows us the breakdown of traffic from social networking sites. The blue is Facebook, green is Blogger, yellow is Pinterest and red is Twitter. Clearly there's a lot of chatter about us on Facebook, and that this translates into people visiting NovaMuse. So if you use social networking sites and want to share information about your museum's collection, link away! It works!

Database Info
I've had a few messages from people asking about the database being glitchy in Internet Explorer. Here's what we know - Internet Explorer 8 is old enough now that it is glitchy on its own. In general you want to make sure that your computer is up to date. Security updates, bug fixes...these are important. So step one is to go and get all those relevant updates to your system. If you don't know how to do this, I can help you during my site visit or you can ask your summer staff to help. If you still have trouble, switch over to Firefox or Chrome and you won't have any trouble using the database. And finally, if you ever have a glitch to report, you need to give me an example of where this is happening, not just tell me the problem. So let me know which accession number or record you were looking at when things weren't working. Without this info, we can't duplicate the problem and find a solution.

Chris and I have been continuing on with our database work. We've been working on two of the largest databases so it's been feeling like we aren't making very fast progress, but we've reviewed over 36,000 records and are on target with the year's goals. More 17,000 records have been mapped, which represents 43% of that deliverable.
Unfortunately we said goodbye to one of our members this month, which means we had to remove their records from NovaMuse and as a result our overall stats are down. So as we wish them the best in their future endeavours, we know that we'll soon be back up to our previous numbers as the summer staff begin working in the databases. Overall, we now have 191,084 artifacts and 72,552 images in the databases.
Southwest - 99,022 artifacts, 32,710 images
Central - 36,904 artifacts, 14,271 images
Northeast - 29,098 artifacts, 16,516 images
Cape Breton - 26,060 artifacts, 9,055 images

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

CMA Conference
And last but not least, another place that we shared our database and website work with colleagues was at the annual CMA conference in Whitehorse, Yukon. Not only did this give us the opportunity to talk shop with the other provincial associations, but NovaMuse received the Award of Outstanding Achievement for Museum Management. This is very exciting for us; it's great to have your professional peers recognize all the hard work that went into NovaMuse's development. I had a great conversation with a member of the awards adjudication team and was probably blushing over all the nice things he had to say about our work. It's important to note that we share this award with a lot of people - in particular the museums who excitedly opened their collections for the world to see, and the amazing team at Whirl-i-gig who worked day and night to make this vision a reality. Thanks all!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 Update

IMAC Meeting
Your intrepid peers met last week to talk about all things collections management and information access. We talked about the current year's work plan, our developing disaster recovery plan for the database and website (strictly a precautionary measure - everything is a-ok), and other strategic planning initiatives. We also enjoyed some tasty food with a little celebratory cake. No meeting is complete without cake.
Gary reported that he got us a bit of press last month through the Trident, the newspaper for Canadian Forces Base Halifax. He also informed us that the story is being picked up at the national level, which is super exciting! So if you have any local coverage of museum work, especially related to NovaMuse, we would love to hear about it and get a copy of the article. Thanks so much to Gary for promoting!

In depressing news, our chairperson Aidan has moved off to Ontario which means we now have big shoes to fill, as does the Colchester Historeum. HUGE thanks to Aidan for all of his help over the past 4 years. The time and energy that he devoted to the database review, migration, and NovaMuse development work was invaluable. Best of luck to Aidan as he moves on to other grand adventures!
Class Dismissed

New/Old Face in the Office
It is with great pleasure that I announce the return of Mr. Selman, aka Chris, aka the Selmanator, aka Ginger. You might remember that he was here awhile back as an intern. Well, he has rejoined us to help with  our current database work of upgrading to Nomenclature 3.0, dating artifacts and mapping records. He just started yesterday but is already hard at work on behalf of ANSM members across the province. To sum up our feelings on the subject, you can insert the cavalry music here. It's very nice to have some extra help in the office :)

Quality Control Widget
I've had a couple questions from people about the quality control filter and how they can see what's stuck and requires fixing. To add the widget to your dashboard, log in to your database account. Click on Edit Dashboard (a little button off to the right), and then click add widget. Go through the list and click on Quality Alerts. Click done. The list is now ready and waiting for your review. Keep in mind that when you're working on fixing these records, they won't disappear from the widget list until the next day since this is connected to the daily synchronization of NovaMuse.

NovaMuse Statistics
Last month I shared that we have a whole lot of different countries, and a crazy number of cities, visiting NovaMuse to check out our collections and how we're sharing information online. At the risk of sounding like a broken, record, it's really important to link to NovaMuse from your museum website so that your visitors can see this great service that you are offering. To reinforce this point, this month I thought I'd look at how people are finding NovaMuse. Our traffic is fairly evenly split right now between people who find us through random search engine results, people who go directly to the site, and those who are referred to the site. However, the referral traffic (the green portion of the pie) is clearly ahead. 9 of the top 15 referring sites are contributing museums - the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, Colchester Historeum, MacPhee House Community Museum via the Sheet Harbour Chamber of Commerce, Kings County Museum, Randall House Museum, West Hants Historical Museum, McCulloch Heritage Centre, and Old Court House Museum, and Fort Point Museum. We're also seeing traffic from the Cole Harbour Farm Museum, Apple Capital Museum, Parkdale Maplewood Community Museum, and James House Museum. This is fantastic, and as you might notice, these museums aren't the biggest sites in the province. So congrats to these organizations on a job well done, and I hope to see everyone else following their lead.

Database InfoI mentioned last month that we're going to start including our mapping goals in the monthly updates. Remember that our goal is 40,000 records mapped by the end of the year and this means we need everybody to get on board with this work. Chris and I are actively working on this in the office, and we need everyone to be working on it on-site. So, remember how we had 9,151 records mapped at the end of April? I'm very pleased to say that we now have a grand total of 10,738 mapped. Hooray! We're 27% of the way there!

As for our overall numbers, We had another fairly quiet month as people are starting to prepare for the tourist season. 195 new records appeared in the system, along with 325 new images, giving us new totals of 192,286 records and 73,644 images. I'm willing to bet we'll hit the 200,000 mark some time this summer.
By region:
Southwest - 98,854 artifacts, 32,637 images
Central - 36,718 artifacts, 14,058 images
Northeast - 30,693 artifacts, 17,932 images
Cape Breton - 26,021 artifacts, 9,017 images

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

This is getting pretty long so I'm going to skip your image tip of the month. I'll do my best to dig up something extra special for next month.

Cemetery & Volunteer/Membership Databases
As you might remember, when we were preparing for the great database migration of 2011, I told people that we'd be looking at the other two databases at a later date. Now that the dust has settled, we're officially starting this work. If you never used these other systems, then you have nothing to worry about. If you do use either of these systems, then stay tuned as we'll be coming up with some recommendations on how to move forward. As with the collections database, this is going to be a process, and the first step is to investigate our options. We are feeling good about the volunteer/membership database work and think we have found a solid solution. The cemetery database review has only just begun, but I'm optimistic that we'll have something figured out by the end of the year.

All for now folks! Enjoy that sunshine and I'll talk to you soon :)