Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Museum database to get updated

Accessing information at the Fort Frances Museum will become a whole lot easier in the future.
Thanks to a Museum and Technology Fund grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the museum will hire a co-ordinator to transfer its old database to new software, as well as digitize its 100-year-old newspaper collection.

Museum curator Sherry George said the project will be of great value to the museum and the public who utilize its services.
“It’s huge for the museum,” she enthused.
“The database we have now cannot be searched so everything in this museum, if I want to look for it, I have to manually go look for it,” she noted.
George explained the database has a description of each item in the museum’s collection, along with information such as when it was made, who donated it, and (if possible) any history that goes along with it.
“Those are things that are important,” she stressed. “Everything in the museum, whether it’s photographs, documents, textiles, tools—everything should have that little bit of information about it.
“So when you are looking for World War I items, you should be able to plug in ‘World War I’ items and have medals come up, the uniforms come up, the letters home from soldiers, all that.
“So, when you are doing an exhibit, you know what you are looking for and where it’s going to be stored,” George added.
George noted former curator Pam Hawley worked at the museum for 27 years and knew where everything was, but she does not.
Quite often, researchers will come into the museum, ask if they have a document or artifact, and it’s all but impossible to find it.
“It will increase our efficiencies a huge amount,” George said.
She also noted a new computer at the museum will be dedicated to research purposes after the project is done, meaning anyone could come into the museum, inquire about a subject, and use the computer to find out the answer to their question.
This will free up staff time.
In addition to transferring and updating the museum’s database, the project will include digitizing the museum’s newspaper archives.
The museum has more than a century’s worth of newspapers and the older ones are very brittle, noted George.
Not only is it potentially harmful to the aged publications to have people flip through them, but searching through the newspaper collection right now can be an arduous task.
These won’t be issues once all the newspapers are photographed and archived electronically, making them easy to search on a computer at the museum.
The position of project co-ordinator will be advertised immediately, with the hopes of having a person on the job for March 1.
This will be a temporary position (10-month).
This individual also will receive assistance from student staff during the summer.
“This is something the students kind of started with last year, and they want to be involved,” said George.
“They’re very excited about this, as well,” she added. “It’s just a great thing for the museum and for the town.”
The project will be funded through a $39,880 grant from the Museum and Technology Fund, which council formally accepted at Monday night’s meeting and then passed a bylaw to approve an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
The town will make its required 20 percent contribution, equal to $9,970, which almost entirely will come from federal student grants the museum receives.
The grants cover the salaries of the co-ordinator and student employees, as well as program expenses such as a computer ($1,139), scanner ($1,050), and photo studio lighting ($450).

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