Creating 21st Century Digital Collections

Join Kristen Gwinn-Becker, as she discusses strategizing, creating or updating, engaging, and sustaining modern digital collections. She will walk through the six areas outlined below, showing examples for each section. Participants may send an email in advance that contains a link to their digital collections and the top three questions they would like answered about their current situation or a future initiative. Kristen will work with examples from participants as well as draw on real (digital) world examples of digital initiatives from her international technology company HistoryIT. The different challenges these institutions faced and the innovative solutions that were employed to maximize user impact and sustainability will be shared with attendees. This webinar will focus on what users of digital collections demand now, and on sustainable best practices for converting or creating online platforms that not only grow with their users’ interests and expectations but also bring out the hidden stories each collection holds.

  1. Then and now – what’s different about digital collections in the 21st century?
  2. Strategy – what do you have and who do you want to reach?
  3. Managing versus Sharing – what’s the difference and where to place your effort?
  4. Digital Framework – is your digital environment optimized to connect your content with the audiences you seek to engage?
  5. Digital Storytelling – how can you tell engaging stories with your collection or collections once they are digital?
  6. Ongoing considerations – how can you best position your digital collections for sustainability? Most importantly, where is the funding?
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Details:

Date: May 16, 2017

Time: 3pm EST/2pm Central/1pm Mountain/12pm Pacific/10am Hawaii

Cost: $40 members/$65 nonmembers

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About the Instructor:

Kristen Gwinn-Becker, PhD is a successful, dynamic and engaging entrepreneur with a unique background. She was the youngest graduate of the University of Maine, received a Master’s Degree from Trinity College Dublin, studied Museum Studies at Harvard University, and obtained a Doctorate in U.S. History from George Washington University. She is also a skilled computer programmer and database expert. In 2012, Kristen combined her expertise in history and technology to found HistoryIT with a mission to address the need for historical collections to be made accessible to a much broader audience than professional researchers. With the goal of building truly searchable digital heritage collections, HistoryIT combines its software and services solutions to deliver robust digital presentations that are transforming the way the public will access our collective history. As CEO Kristen has grown HistoryIT to an international industry-leading organization that works with cultural institutions, universities, corporations, professional associations, sports teams, and others throughout the world.

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Workshop: Collections Camp: Textiles

Do you have costumes and/or textiles in your museum collection? This two day workshop will focus on the care and conservation of textiles in museum collections.  Spend time working with an expert to learn how to be a better steward of your textile collection.

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Date: April 24-25, 2017

Cost: $300 AASLH members/$425 nonmembers
*Get $40 off registration if you book by March 22, 2017!*

Location: Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, IN

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Who should attend:

This workshop, scheduled for April 24-25, is intended for experienced staff and volunteers with responsibility for costume and textile collections.

As a result of this workshop, participants should:

*Have a general knowledge of the basic types of costumes and textiles common in American museum collections.

* Have a general knowledge of the particular needs of costume and textile collections including proper identification, handling, and basic conservation.

* Be familiar with some of the current issues and trends in the preservation of costume and textile collections.

* Explore the variety of issues related to exhibiting and storing costume and textile collections.

* Be familiar with simple conservation procedures that are safe to perform on their costume and textile collections.

* Be aware of when they should call a professional conservator for problems with their costume and textile collections.

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About the Faculty:

Karen DePauw is the Coordinator with Local History Services at the Indiana Historical Society.

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Online Course: Caring for Museum Collections

This course is full. Please look at our calendar for upcoming online courses.

This eight week course will deal with the physical care and preservation of your museum collections. This practical course will cover how collections age and deteriorate, handling collections, storage requirements, environmental considerations, housekeeping, and risk management.

Details: 

Format: Online Course

Dates: April 3- May 31, 2017

Cost: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

This course is full. Please look at our calendar for upcoming online courses.

Full Online Course Description:

This eight week course will deal with the physical care and preservation of your museum collections. This practical course will cover how collections age and deteriorate, handling collections, storage requirements, environmental considerations, housekeeping, and risk management.

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Know the major causes of deterioration for museum objects and how to use that information to enhance long-term preservation.
  • Know how to handle objects in the safest way.
  • Know how to examine and document the condition of objects in your collections.
  • Know how to display your collections in a way that prolongs their life.
  • Know how to store and house your collections in the way that best preserves them.
  • Understand the importance of environmental control for the preservation of your collections.
  • Know the best ways to clean your museum.
  • Know how to perform a risk assessment of your museum and use it to write a disaster plan.
This course is full. Please look at our calendar for upcoming online courses.

Who should attend:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with conservation of collections. This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern.
Small Museum Pro:
Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro certificate from AASLH.
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Samantha Forsko is a Preservation Specialist at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

This course is full. Please look at our calendar for upcoming online courses.

Online Course: Collections Management

This course is full. Please look at our calendar for upcoming Collections Management courses.

This eight week course will introduce participants to the professional principles and practices in the management of museum collections. Topics will include collections development, registration and record keeping with an emphasis on the development of Collection Policies and Procedures and what it means to be intellectually and physically responsible for museum objects.

Details:

March 20-May 15, 2017

Cost: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

Registration limited to 30 people

Full Online Course Description:
This eight week course will introduce participants to the professional principles and practices in the management of museum collections. Topics will include collections development, registration and record keeping with an emphasis on the development of Collection Policies and Procedures and what it means to be intellectually and physically responsible for museum objects.By the end of the course, participants will:

-Develop a detailed draft of a Collections Policy
-Develop of identify a collection of objects
-Develop a standardized set of registration records and forms including inventory, catalog, accession, and loans
-Learn about various registration numbering systems and how to mark objects appropriately
-Discuss issues related to collections strategies, mission, purpose, and scope of collections
-Develop a broader understanding of legal and ethical concerns of managing collections

Who Should Attend:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with collections management. This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern.
Required text: Daniel B. Reibel. Registration Methods for the Small Museum, Fourth Edition, Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008 (Paperback ISBN 978-0-7591-1131-8) (About $32.00).
 
Optional Resource: John E. Simmons, Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies, Washington, DC: American Alliance of Museums, 2006 (ISBN 10:1-933253-03-07)
Instructor:
dyani-307-159-sDyani Feige, Director of Preservation Services at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), works with libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural organizations to conduct needs assessments and risk assessments, assists in emergency preparedness, and helps develop policy and planning documents and long-term preservation plans. She also helps develop and present preservation-related educational programs, and has taught programs on archival management, policy development, and emergency preparedness. Before joining CCAHA, Feige worked for the Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives, the New York Public Library’s Preservation Division, the Conference Board, New York University’s Bobst Library, and Kent State University’s Special Collections & Archives.  She received her Master of Science in Library and Information Science with an Archives Certificate from Pratt Institute.
Small Museum Pro:
Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro certificate from AASLH.

ASK FSA: Fur and Feathers in Costume Collection

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19th Century Hawaiian Feather Cape, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Collection (Via)

Fur and feathers in museum collections present a special set of circumstances. Besides the obvious taxidermy, natural history and ethnographic collections, many museums house fur and feathers in costume and textile collections.

One major issue is care. Fur and feathers are very fragile and require extra care and handling. Fur prefers colder storage conditions than most museum items (34 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Since most museums are not equipped with the necessary storage for fur, keep current fur collection items as cold as possible and monitor for deterioration.

 

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What The New Hats From Paris Are Like, 1910. Artistry by C.G. Sheldon. Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Another issue is their attractiveness to pests. Not only are fur and feathers easy places to hide in the short term, but also warm, inviting spots to live long-term. Because pests are drawn to these items, house them together in order to monitor for and contain any infestation. Similarly, before bringing a fur or feather item into the museum's permanent storage, isolate it first (even just in a clear tub if it fits safely) and carefully examine it for any evidence of pests hitching a ride.

Fur and feathers in collections also bring along legal issues.* A variety of laws protect and regulate the use of fur and feathers, with many also extending to flora, fauna, and fish. The most common laws with implications to museum collections are the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Each seeks to provide a legal framework in which items made from the fur or feathers of certain animals can be legally procured, sold, and bought. Often it is in the selling and purchasing of historic items that museums run into issues concerning these laws, especially when dealing across state lines or country borders. Some auction houses refuse to sell deaccessioned items containing certain fur or feathers because they cannot guarantee the items were created legally.

 

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Men's Fur Coat, United States, 1901s. Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, New York Public Library.

Many laws contain provisions for historic items (usually more than 100 years of age), but if further information is requested the burden of proof is on the owner to prove that the item was legally hunted and created – a difficult task for many. There are also exceptions for fur and feathers legally obtained prior to the laws' creation even though they are now considered illegal.

Fur and feathers take special care and consideration in costume and textile collections. When choosing whether or not to accept an acquisition containing these items consider if what they add to the collection outweighs the special issues they may bring with them.

*Note: the contents of this article are not legal advice, they are simply meant to make the reader aware of some of the generalities about these laws. Ultimately any question concerning how a specific law affects a museum should be handled by a lawyer and the consultation of the law in its original, legal form as produced by the government.

What is the FSA?

The Field Services Alliance (FSA) is an organized group of individuals, offices, and agencies that provide training opportunities, guidance, technical services, and other forms of assistance to local historical societies, archives, libraries, and museums in their respective states or regions. Learn more and find an FSA member in your area here.

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more about requirements and submit your article here. 

 


How Exhibitions Develop Collections

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It all began with a small ski slope on Long Island. Yes, there was some skiing on Long Island, New York and in particular there was the once beloved but now forgotten Oyster Bay Ski Center. My interest in the history of the Ski Center began when I was sorting through some objects in the Oyster Bay Historical Society’s historic Earle-Wightman house. I found a sign for the Ski Center alongside a pair of children’s skis from the Paris Manufacturing Company (now known as Paricon) dated from the 1920s. Driving through Oyster Bay and her surrounding villages there are some steep hills, but it is hard to believe that there was once a wide open space suitable for skiing.

Based on published entries in the Ski New York State Guide, the Center was in operation from 1949 through 1959. Ultimately there were three lifts and with the help of the tow line, the clearing could manage up to 1500 skiers and hour with as little as three inches of snow. The Society’s winter 2013-2014 exhibit ‘Snow Day in Oyster Bay’ highlighted past winter activities and pleasures found only when the ponds froze over and inactivity yielded to ingenuity and often dare-devilish behavior. The Ski Center sign and relevant objects became one of the more popular talking points of the exhibit. The Center’s existence and eventual closing garnering the interest of reporter Bill Blyer who featured the story in an article in the daily Long Island newspaper Newsday.

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With all the attention something was bound to happen. Ken Summers, the son of Oscar Summers who had managed the Ski Center in the mid-1950s, dropped by about a month after the exhibit closed to offer the Society six wooden signs that his family had kept. Despite the knowledge that it might be some time before the Society exhibits the Ski Center’s relics again, they are a welcome and unexpected addition to our collection.

Collections Development is defined by the Society of American Archivists as “the function within an archives … that establishes policies and procedures used to select materials that the repository will acquire,” or put another way, to determine what subjects of the organization’s mission are under-represented and seek out documentation and/or artifacts to add to the current collection. In this case the Ski Center’s artifacts came back to us. Without any intention of receiving items from Oyster Bay’s colorful past, our exhibit inadvertently garnered publicity, testimony, photographs and objects.

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Considering that no one has a crystal ball or could possibly know what wonderful archives are out there, we sometime have to wait to see what our own membership will uncover and be willing to part with. In the future, the Society and other organizations must remember to include, however briefly, all of the ­subjects contributing to that exhibition when writing press releases or other exhibition publicity. Perhaps prompting an unexpected visitor to offer up what you didn’t even know existed.

Images courtesy of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, taken by Nicole Menchise

Want to write for the AASLH blog? Learn more and submit an article here.


Nomenclature Conundrum: When is a Model Not Really a Model?

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Within Nomenclature 4.0 there are a few variations on the term "Model," which falls under the classification of Documentary Artifacts, sub-class Other Documents. Most of the variation of the terms fall under this same umbrella as a secondary term such as "Model, Patent" or "Model, Topographic." But is there a time when a model is not really a model? Short answer is, it depends. For example a model car or airplane dutifully built by a child or adult might be a toy at the end if it were designed to be that way, at which point the term could be "Toy, Car."

In our collection we have a few different types of models, most of which would fall under the term "Model" and described more specifically as we catalog. A good example of this is a rather large (new) collection of model airplanes built by an alumnus as a way to deal with the after affects of World War II. Over his lifetime he's probably constructed over one-hundred such models; we have approximately 75 of them. All of these will be termed "Model" and cataloged as such as naming them "Airplane, Military" could skew the interpretation of the records down the road and make a future version of myself think the university has 75 actual airplanes hanging around a hangar somewhere.

Our conundrum will be when we eventually receive a model of a ship, which was built for the sole purpose of helping a major model company design and replicate the ship for its retail model kit line. So in essence the ship is a "Model" in the traditional sense AND doubles as a "Model, Product" because of its designed purpose. For our purposes, it will likely be entered as "Model, Product" with copious notes about its purpose, information about the company who commissioned it, etc.


Ask FSA: Reading Insignia on Military Uniforms

 Identification of the military decorations John Glenn earned as a Marine Corps pilot and astronaut, 1943-1964. Photo courtesy of author.

Identification of the military decorations John Glenn earned as a Marine Corps pilot and astronaut, 1943-1965. Photo courtesy of author.

The John and Annie Glenn Museum in New Concord, Ohio has on exhibit one of John Glenn’s Marine Corps uniforms.  Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth (1962) and a U.S senator from Ohio (1974-1999), was a Marine from 1943 until he retired from the Corps in 1965 and is a combat veteran of World War II and Korea.  Next to the uniform is a photograph of his ribbons, decorations, and insignia, each helpfully labeled so that the visitor can follow Glenn’s record of service.

Many local history museums in my state have displays and exhibits of military uniforms, yet very few are described to the level of detail of Col. Glenn’s.  How can you find information about the insignia on your museum’s collections?

This edition of “Ask Field Services Alliance” lists some resources that we’ve used to decipher military insignia—called “heraldry”--found on United States military uniforms in the century since World War I, a time well-represented in local history museum collections.

  • Institute for Heraldry: The Institute is a part of the office of the Secretary of the Army, but its work includes creating heraldry for the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, as well as the Army.  The site your first stop when you want to know the meanings behind U.S military insignia and decorations.  To find answers right away, click on “Heraldry” and then on “Uniformed Services” and “Decorations & Medals."
  • Want to know more? For an explanation of the work of the Institute of Heraldry, see its website or see “Institute Creates, Preserves U.S. Military Heraldry” or see this period piece about the Institute, from 1969, on You Tube.

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The service branches explain the criteria for their decorations and awards.  Examining these will help you piece together the story behind yours, if you don’t already have access to the commendation granting the honor and / or the story first-hand.

Really interested?  See these, too:

This list is not exhaustive, but is a good start.  We hope these resources prompt a closer look at the military uniforms in your collections and inspire new efforts to share the stories of service, bravery, and sacrifice that these artifacts can help you tell.  We welcome your comments!

To learn more about the John and Annie Glenn Museum, which became a member of the Ohio History Connection’s site network in August 2016, visit johnglennhome.org.

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One of John Glenn’s Marine Corps uniforms, displayed at the John and Annie Glenn Museum. A photo identifies each of ribbons over the right breast pocket. Photo courtesy of author.

The Field Services Alliance (FSA) is an organized group of individuals, offices, and agencies that provide training opportunities, guidance, technical services, and other forms of assistance to local historical societies, archives, libraries, and museums in their respective states or regions. Learn more here


Can I Call It A Coozy? Classifying the Iconic Beverage Holder in Collections

Shortly after Nomenclature 4.0 was released, a colleague of mine John Neill, Riley County Historical Museum contacted me through social media asking, “Not sure if I'm surprised or not- or disappointed or not- to not find ‘Koozie’ in Nomenclature 4.”

My first response was to suggest “Holder, Beverage” or “Holder, Insulated Beverage.” As I asked some follow-up questions about the specific item being cataloged, it was included with a free bottle of water. Since it was used to hold a bottle of water, this colleague also considered the option of using the term “Holder, Bottle.”

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This comment prompted some research into some of the other terms associated with the term “koozie.” To my surprise there are several terms that can be used for this object. From “bawdle” to “bottle jacket” to “beer huggie,” regional terms abound! Among my personal new found favorite terms for this object includes “coastie” and “coldy-holdy,” yet I refer to this object and spell it as “coozy.”

So, let’s address the looming question of why “Koozie” is not the ideal term for this object?

Nomenclature provides a very practical framework for a museum’s controlled vocabulary. When considering an object term, it is vitally important that specific words pertaining to an object are excluded from the object term field. For example, if an object was a university purple polyester beverage holder with a zipper and designed for use at the beach; the words “polyester,” “zipper,” “purple” and “beach accessory” are all words that can be added to other fields such as description, materials and subjects. This is also holds true for excluding brand names from object terms. Likewise the specific “university” should be added in another field. Additionally, there is a large variation of the words used to identify this type of beverage holder. This is mainly due to regional language differences. (For more information on cataloging objects with regional names, see the following blog post: Regional Terminology ) By choosing terms such as “Holder, Beverage” or “Holder, Insulated Beverage” data retrieval can be more easily facilitated.

Often, this type of beverage holders is used for advertising purposes. So, don't forget about using the word "Premium." Some collections software, such as Past Perfect allow users to assign more than one term to an object.

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Nomenclature Query: Classifying a "Permanent Machine"

We received a query from Diane Kester at the Wayne County Historical Association & Museum in Goldsboro, North Carolina:

What do you suggest for old permanent machine? Here's what we have.

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Paul Bourcier, editor of Nomenclature 3.0 and Nomenclature 4.0 answered:

That would fall under Machine, Permanent Wave – a primary term under the sub-class, Hair Care Objects (see Nomenclature 4.0, p. 118).