Halifax: Chapter 1

Georges Island in the south end of the harbour was a Halifax defence post from the mid 18th-century until the mid-20th.

I’m a big fan of Halifax. And I was secretly hoping I’d get chosen to help represent the Bank of Canada Museum at the CMA conference this April in that fine city. Thing was, I couldn’t think how to justify it until my manager pointed out that she couldn’t go and that we needed another person there to audit some sessions and shake a few hands. So boo-hoo, I had to go to Halifax.

The Westin Nova Scotian was a railway hotel built in 1930 and only just dodged the wrecking ball in the ‘90s.

The whole event took place at the Westin Nova Scotian on Hollis Street, near the waterfront. It is a great location for seeing Halifax and within walking distance of most of the best restaurants as well as the harbour, the citadel and five major museums.

And I wasn’t alone. We now have 3 travelling exhibitions to hawk so one of our project managers and our marketing manager also attended, spending the entire conference on their feet working our table in the exhibitors’ hall. Our Director Ken Ross also attended and he is also on the committee for next year’s conference, to be held here in Ottawa.

Just in time for the conference, we had a brand‑new travelling exhibition available for hire: Decoding E-money. Many smaller museums were shopping for travelling exhibitions to fill their upcoming schedules and Decoding E-money, along with our two other available exhibitions, Voices from the Engraver and In the Money, garnered a lot of interest.

The Bank of Canada Museum is travelling three exhibitions right now and a fourth for 2017.

The first day of the conference was for full and half-day workshops. I was up dull and early that rainy morning, swallowed a breakfast sandwich at Timmie’s, consulted my program guide and headed to my first seminar. Mark-Park-Spark was a three‑hour session outlining the reasons for and problems associated with keeping proper records of museum artifacts. The presenters went so far as to call poor records-keeping a form of artifact deterioration; an interesting philosophy. They offered a number of useful solutions, most notably off-site accessioning. By providing a web portal to a collection database, contractors are able to do simple but very important tasks to artifact records from anywhere with an internet connection. Correcting minor errors, making sure all the right information is in the right fields and other “cleaning tasks” can be accomplished without having to provide a workstation or transportation for the contributor. A simple solution that heritage conservation students of Fleming College, Peterborough have been actively participating in.

We were asked to write down the most difficult barriers to good artifact documentation and stick them on the wall in the Mark-Park-Spark seminar.

I spent the afternoon participating in an education seminar at the Museum of Natural History, sitting on a tiny chair and pretending to be 11 years old. Not a stretch, I admit. Co‑presenting this seminar was The Nova Scotia Museum, a collective of 28 small museums scattered across the province from Yarmouth to Iona; museums as diverse as their locations. The Nova Scotia Museum developed a wonderful educational tool both for their network and any other museum who wishes to download it. Called the Toolbox for Museum School Programs, it is a comprehensive collection of methods, practices and guides to help small museums reach their education goals. The most outstanding aspect, apart from the free download, is the generic approach to the program samples provided in the kit. One program, demonstrated to us in a research station display, concerned developing observational skills and curiosity in children. It is a program that any museum can use, no matter the collection, broadly enriching children’s experiences at all museums. A great product.

The Natural History Museum demonstrated a program where kids participate in a virtual “dig,” recording depth, placement and descriptions of all the artifacts they find in their boxes.

By the end of the afternoon, I was an official “History Detective in Training!”

A research station display with dozens of fascinating little items for kids to discover and learn about.

Too much took place at the conference for one blog, so join me in a couple of weeks for chapter two of the CMA conference blog: the keynotes, the educational sessions and the bizarre Halifax weather.