45th Annual Meeting, Pre-Meeting Session, May 29, “CAP, MAP, and StEPS: Collections Care Opportunities for Small Museums.”

To kick off this pre-meeting session, Chris Reich, Chief Administrator, Office of Museum Services, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provided an overview of IMLS, which was founded in 1996, previously called IMS (Institute of Museum Services), which was founded in 1976.

The IMLS is an independent agency, and the Director is appointed by the president. The Board is a congressional appointed board of museum and library professionals. IMLS is funded through annual congressional appropriations; primary source of federal support for the nationals 123K; libraries and 35K museums ; most well-known for grants; also conducts research and produces publications.

Programs that IMLS sponsors: Museums for America (Museums Empowered), Native American/ Native Hawaiian Museum Services, Museum Grants for African-American History and Culture, National Leadership Grants for Museums – fund projects that benefit multiple museums, help to advance the profession, and create models for other museums to use.

IMLS also sponsors the Museum Assessment Program (MAP), Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS), and the Collections Assessment Program (CAP), which are funded through cooperative agreements. Grant funds go directly to the administration that administers the grants (FAIC for CAP, AAM – American Alliance of Museums – for MAP, and AASLH – American Association for State and Local History – for StEPS).

I snapped a picture of this slide that demonstrates the purpose of each program:

Why are assessments important for cultural institutions?

  • Aimed at small and medium sized museums – entry point to become poised to apply for state and federal grants
  • Improve professional practices
  • Awareness of national standards
  • Re-energize boards and staff
  • Working together
  • Establish shared goals
  • Foundation for planning
  • Building community credibility and support
  • Non-judgmental support – these assessments are collegial visits – helping that institution examine its operations and practices to help them become more professional

First, Danyelle Rickard, Museum Assessment Program Officer, American Alliance of Museums, spoke about the MAP program. It’s been around for 36 years, and operates as a self-assessment program, coupled with a site visit and peer review, and then a final report. The process has three different types of assessments available: organizational, collections stewardship, or community engagement. To be eligible for a MAP, you need to have/be the following:

  • One professional staff for FTE
  • Nonprofit – private or public
  • Located in a US state or territory
  • Open at least 90 days/ year – special events and outreach count
  • Cares for/ owns/ uses tangible objects

Costs for the MAP depend on the operating budget of the museum:

For the fee, you get a Self-Study Workbook, focused on the assessment type requested, and a Peer Review Report. The Report provides an honest snapshot at the time of the visit, manageable recommendations and resources, and also highlights good (and not-so-good) processes.

Who are the AAM Peer Reviewers?

  • Volunteers (expenses and honorarium provided)
  • Familiar with MAP and Accreditation
  • Review materials
  • Conduct site visits
  • Write reports
  • 5 years experience in decision-making roles
  • Knowledgeable about standards, ethics, practices, operations
  • Engaged with the museum community
  • Good communicators
  • Critical thinkers
  • Committed to the highest ethical standards and level of professionalism

Benefits to being a peer reviewer: learning experience, networking opportunities, giving back to the profession, and a source of professional development.

Time and Cost: 40-60 hours per assignment; AAM reimburses expenses; $400 honorarium; keep online profile and availability up-to-date; about 1500 volunteers currently

Types of Museums: children’s museums, university museums, specialized museums, zoo and aquariums, science centers, nature centers, botanical gardens, art, and history – MAP is specifically looking for people with expertise in these types of museums as volunteers.

Then, Tiffani Emig, CAP Program Coordinator, talked about the CAP Program, which is a program that provides small to mid-sized museums the opportunity to have a conservator and an architectural conservator come to their museum to perform an assessment of their buildings and operations as well as their collections care methods. The museum receives a report that is a high-level, well-rounded view of collections care for the museum.

How can CAP help museums?

  • Provides a path forward; “here are the things that are the most important things to do to help you best care for your collections.”
  • Shows evidence and support of need for grant funding
  • Outside perspective – improved board and administration support

Conservators and architectural conservators can apply to work on these assessments; there is a rolling application process. Eligibility requirements for assessors:

  • Professional training in conservation, zoology, botany or horticulture, architectural conservation, architecture, landscape, architecture, engineering, or related field
  • At least five years of professional experience in preservation, conservation, or collections care in one of the above fields
  • Experience conducting general conservation assessments
    • Potential workshop being developed for eligible people who do not have experience in conducting assessments

There is an annual call for institutions to apply for the funding for the assessment. Museum eligibility:

  • Small or mid-size – reviewable in 2 days
  • Organized as nonprofits or unit of state, local, or tribal government
  • Located in the United States or territory
  • Organized on a permanent basis for educational or aesthetic purposes
  • Own tangible objects and make them available to the public
  • At least 1 FTE paid or unpaid

Assessor fees are based on the annual operating budget of the museum. If an assessor’s fee is higher, the museum must make up the cost difference. They also pay for transportation, lodging, and meals.

CAP Program Cycle 2018

  • Museum Applications 11/15/17
  • Assessor Applications: Rolling
  • Museum Applications Close: 2/1/18
  • Availability for a new more museums for this fiscal year (before the end of 2017)

Laura Hortz Stanton, Executive Director, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, presented on StEPS, which has been funded by IMLS since 2005 to assist in creating incremental standards for the History Museum field.

Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS)  is open to any museum. It’s a great entry-level program for institutions that don’t feel ready for another assessment program, or can’t use an outside assessor. It is a self-study tool that is used by 850 organizations nationwide (current enrollment numbers).

The self study tool is a notebook, made up of check boxes. If one can’t check off a box, that means it is an opportunity for improvement for the institution. Here’s a sample picture of a page in the notebook:

As shown in the image above, each section has three levels – not a “one size fits all” and not intended to meet best practices if you can’t do it on your first shot. it creates a way to have meaningful progress without having to spend lots of money. The institution spends more time than money on this process. The notebook also includes:

  • Board orientation manual
  • Job descriptions for board officers and paid/ unpaid staff
  • Ethics code
  • Facilities Rental Policy
  • Emergency Plan
  • Maintenance Plan
  • Collections Policy

How to enroll:

  • One-time fee of $175 for AASLH members; $290 for non-AASLH members
    • No application to fill out and no deadline to complete the program

Benefits of StEPS:

  • Focus direction
  • Increase credibility
  • Justify funding requests and decisions
  • Plan for the future
  • Learn about standards
  • Track progress
  • Articulate accomplishments – StEPS benchmarks
  • Receive recognition (certificates when you reach certain goals)
  • Prepare for other assessment programs

After the presentations, the group broke up into groups for people to ask one-on-one questions to the presenters about their program.

Power to Preserve: Creating a Collection Care Culture: AIC’s Collection Care Network Hosts a Session at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting

–By Marianne Weldon, Objects Conservator and Collections Manager of the Art and Artifacts Collection, Bryn Mawr College
On Sunday, May 29, I attended the panel entitled Power to Preserve: Creating a Collection Care Culture moderated by Rebecca Fifield.  This session was developed by AIC’s Collection Care Network (CCN) for the Collection Management track at the Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C.  The AAM Annual Meeting Theme for 2016 was Power, Influence, and Responsibility, encouraging exploration of “how the themes of power, influence and responsibility shape the work of museums in the U.S. and around the world”.
A goal of the presentation was to share influencing strategies to support development of collection care, as well as to highlight resources and partnerships available through AIC. The three presenters spoke of ways that they have been working at their institutions to foster relationships with partners within and outside their institution to better enable them to care for their collections.
 Maryanne McCubbin spoke to fostering aligned goals across an institution.  She emphasized the importance in finding common ground among museum staff and that most people working in the museum are collections stewards in some way whether directly or indirectly.  She outlined the importance of fostering that relationship with others that work in the museum in a variety of ways including:

  • Avoiding rhetoric and demystifying what collections staff are doing. Avoid terms that people won’t understand, such as agents of deterioration.
  • Being proactive and available so people don’t feel like they are bothering you or that you are too busy for them.
  • Provide frequent, regular, repeated communications on many levels and in many directions up and down the chain.
  • Make sure to demonstrate that you have the “big picture” in mind and that you understand and present things in an inter-disciplinary way.

Kathy Garrett-Cox spoke to the importance of working with community partners to enable smaller institutions to create a collection care culture beyond their institutions.  At Maymont, an American estate in Richmond Virginia, the staff numbers 3 full-time and 3 part-time, which is small when considering the needs of institutions during emergency response.  Garrett-Cox spoke about the formation of The Museum Emergency Support Team (MEST), which was formed by a group of small local organization in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina as an alliance for response to help to share resources, planning and training.  She additionally outlined many specific examples of the way the group grew and changed over the years, introducing challenges associated with volunteer group continuity, what worked, and what didn’t.
Patricia Silence works at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation where she manages the preventive conservation team of 20 members.  She gave numerous examples of ways that demonstrated the power of communication strategies to strengthen staff partnerships in supporting collection care. Overall, these ideas helped create relationships where colleagues in other departments wanted to help further collection care. These strategies included:

  • Meeting with over 150 site interpreters and supervisors in small groups and explaining the reasons for temperature set points. This included a briefing on dew point and how they use temperature to reduce the possibility of having water in the walls. This has helped their facilities department get fewer calls regarding comfort issues.
  • Tracking the number of hours spent cleaning gum off of items and cleaning up soda spills in order to explain why these items should not be allowed in historic buildings with collections.
  • She emphasized the importance of expressing professional “needs and desires” in terms of value. Giving reasons beyond collections value when necessary and aligning the rationale with the goals of colleagues in other departments.

Additionally Patricia spoke of areas for improvement, where things haven’t gone as well as she would like.  One specific example was in the area of excessive lighting, where additional buy-in by leadership and security staff is still needed.
As a result of all the panelists discussing both things that worked well and areas that needed improvement, discussion with the audience then centered around how we respond to hearing “NO” at our institutions and what are the most compelling arguments to win institutional support for preservation programs.  Several  members of the audience responded with ways that they build partnerships with allies within their institution or develop data to support their argument before again attempting to implement change.
The panelists presented a variety of examples, both successful and unsuccessful, to promote collection care cultures at their institutions. It contributed renewed energy to go back to our institutions to continue to forge stronger relationships to support collections care in a variety of creative ways.
Find out more information about the activities of AIC’s Collection Care Network.
Rebecca Fifield is Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections at the New York Public Library. She is a graduate of the George Washington University Museum Studies program and a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation. A 25-year veteran of large and small art and history institutions, she is Chair of AIC’s Collection Care Network and an Advisory Council Member of the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists.
Maryanne McCubbin is Head, Strategic Collection Management at Museum Victoria. Maryanne has worked in archives and museums for close to thirty years. An expert in history and care of heritage collections, her work has centered on the development, care and preservation, use and interpretation of collections. Her current position involves addressing the big, tough issues around managing a major, complex state collection.
Patty Silence is Director of Preventive Conservation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, responsible for preservation in the historic area, museums, storage, and loans. Her focus is on site maintenance, environmental management, emergency preparedness, exhibit preparation, pest control, and safe transport of collections. Patty has over 30 years of experience in encouraging colleagues to gain and use expertise in collections care.Kathy Garrett-Cox is Collection Manager of the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island and formerly Manager of Historic Collections at Maymont in Richmond, Virginia, where she worked for 11 years. She currently serves as President of the Virginia Conservation Association and as Chair of the Richmond Area Museum Emergency Support Team. Kathy speaks frequently on coordination of conservation projects and writing disaster plans. She recently coordinated the Central Virginia Alliance for Response program.

Help make Museums Advocacy Day a Success

Although registration for participating in Museums Advocacy Day 2015 here in Washington, D.C., is now closed, there is still much you can do from home. Advocates will be personally visiting Congressional offices in all 50 states on February 24 and 25 “to send a unified message to Congress about the value of museums and how federal policy affects their ability to serve the public.” The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is coordinating this effort, and you can help by writing letters to Congress, sharing AAM’s postings on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #museumsadvocacy), and using AAM’s advocacy tools.
Last year, more than 300 advocates visited Washington, D.C., for Museums Advocacy Day. If you are interested in joining them next year, be sure to check the AAM website to learn about registration this fall.
AAM’s resources:

Museums Advocacy Day 2014 By the Numbers:

  • More than 300 advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 24–25
  • Advocates visited 335 Congressional offices in all 50 states
  • Over 1,100 #museumsadvocacy tweets
  • Two Great American Museum Advocates
  • Hundreds of letters sent to Congress
  • Six congressional champions

Information for this post was taken from the AAM website, http://www.aam-us.org/advocacy/museums-advocacy-day. Visit their website to learn more, and reach out to your Congressperson to let your voice be heard.

Collective energy: harnessing the power of community

If you ask me if I’m connected, I might at first think, well, I have a smartphone where I can access my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, my family and I share a Google calendar, so sure, I guess I’m connected. But what does it really mean to be connected? With all of these devices, apps, and programs, I find that it is becoming increasingly easier to never leave the comfort of my home or desk in order to feel like I’m an active part of a community – whether it be my neighborhood, my family, or the conservation field.
But nothing replaces the experience of connecting with other people face-to-face. Our field is experiencing some big changes, and making the effort to go to conferences each year, and even venturing a bit outside of our close-knit community, may be more valuable than ever before. By attending allied professionals meetings, I believe that we will find that this not only benefits us as individuals, but our field as a whole.
Last week I spent 2 very full days at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) annual meeting in Baltimore and I returned feeling inspired and energized with new ideas.

AAM attendees filing into the general session in the ballroom at the Baltimore Convention Center
AAM attendees filing into the general session in the ballroom at the Baltimore Convention Center

This was my first time attending this meeting, and as Chair of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN), I went on behalf of our group in an attempt to promote ECPN to the wider museum community, to connect with the AAM Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) network, and to seek ideas and ways for ECPN to collaborate with other emerging museum professionals. In the interest of supporting the significant work of ECPN, The University of Delaware generously supported my participation.
A shot from the AAM opening reception at the American Visionary Art Museum
A shot from the AAM opening reception at the American Visionary Art Museum

I was fortunate to have a meeting buddy – ECPN Vice Chair Eliza Spaulding also attended the conference, and between the two of us, we sought out as many opportunities to take in all AAM had to offer. Some of the highlights included:

  • A first-time attendees orientation meeting
  • A one hour speed-networking event
  • The Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) reception
  • One-on-one career coaching
  • One-on-one resume review
  • The Alliance opening party at the American Visionary Art Museum
  • Keynote talk by Freeman Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) about the role of museums in inspiring future generations

And of course we attended several interesting sessions, met many new people, and had a chance to visit the booths at the MuseumExpo.
Eliza and I are excited to share some of our experiences at AAM, and how these have given us ideas for future projects, at the ECPN informational meeting during the AIC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis this week. The ECPN meeting will take place on Friday, May 31 from 5:30-6:30 pm in the JW Marriott Meeting Rooms 201-203.
We hope to see you there!