Archives for January 2021

What’s a CD? (And other hard questions at home)

And other hard questions at home

Here we are again, at home, wondering how we all ended up in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. If you missed JoAnne’s blog about her experience working from home, make sure to check it out. Below is a picture of my workstation at home. Between JoAnne and I, our home offices are very different.

Yes, I am using a folding card table tucked into the corner of my bedroom where I hide from my young children lest they figure out I’m in the house working away on the digital side of my job as archivist. The table has a soft top forcing my choice in coffee mugs to be a very important one (strong base needed).

A huge part of the digital side of what we do is uploading records for our collection into the online database. Michelle Barclay, our archival intern, and I are working on getting as many photographs online as possible. I won’t go into too much detail here but we’re adding records every week to the database,so keep watching.

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Where the magic happens at home and an example of what can be discovered in our online database.



This time tucked away with my card table has also given me an opportunity to delve into how the archives moves forward with a digital preservation plan. Before I lose you, let me explain. We want our digital records to be accessible long after the technology required to access them is obsolete. Think VHS players. What do you do with a VHS tape without a VHS player? Unless you’re lucky enough to have the technology to convert a VHS tape to a digital file, you pay an expert to do it. What happens when the digital technology becomes obsolete to play those converted VHS files, and so on, and so on, you get the point. A preservation plan ensures that the digital files are always accessible to you, the people for which we collect and preserve the stories of Lennox and Addington.

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The chest at the end of my bed holding decades worth of records in varying formats.



This project got me thinking about my own records. From the card table, I stare at the chest that holds my personal and family archive every day. One evening I opened the chest and pulled out CDs that contain digital photographs from my travels between 2004 and 2008. I lived in South Korea at that time, and travelled much of Southeast Asia. You can imagine the immense loss I would feel if the technology to view those went obsolete. We do strange things in the moment sometimes, like printing out hundreds of photographs because we don’t have a digital preservation plan (in my defense, I was a year away from starting my archival education when I did this).

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When I pulled the CDs out of the box, I exclaimed, “oh, the photograph CDs” to which my daughter asked, “What’s a CD?” 



Tough question. I lazily made up some jargon about how it holds information, could be music, could be photographs but she’s five. I could’ve told her it was a portal to Disney World and got the same response: glazed eyes and skipping feet right out of the room. Luckily, about four years ago, when my laptop at the time had a CD port, I transferred these photographs to an external hard drive (no more printing!). And guess what the experts say about the lifespan of an external hard drive? Five years. FIVE YEARS! 

What do we do with this stuff when CD and DVD ports don’t come standard on laptops anymore and external hard drives have a short lifespan? The best we can, that’s what. You make bad decisions like printing photographs as a means of preservation and evaluate that plan a decade later. Right now, for me, it’s hoping the five year lifespan on an external hard drive is a worst case scenario with a transfer of files to a new hard drive in a few years. For the Lennox and Addington County collection, we ensure its longevity with the right technology that can bring it into the future. We will find a way to catapult the two hundred plus year old collection into the future two hundred years from now.

Why do I still have CDs and printed photos plus digital copies on a hard drive? Hard to let the backups go, I guess. I’ll keep plugging away at the L&A Archives digital preservation plan while keeping notes for future work on my own.

Homework 2.0

Confessions of a Curator

Well hello again, you caught me…I am wearing my leggings again and passing them off as pants for the third week in a row, at various times in those weeks, I have quite honestly have lost what day it is, and have had to seek those answers from my new co-workers, Molly (my terrier mix) and Rory (my cat), they don’t usually answer me back and they also don’t know much about collections management or exhibit design…so some days my struggle for real feedback is real! 

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I came home the last week of December to prepare for this second lockdown by shoving my daughter’s art supplies to one side of her art table in the kid’s playroom, and carved out a 3 x 4 space to call my office for the next little while. Yes, I work among American Girl dolls, toy food, art books, bottle and bottles of paint and glue. However, while I work among Anna’s colourful art, I find I can lost in my work day, so I sigh a bit of relief.

Thankful to our I.T. Department and my VPN connection that allows me continued access to our museum database. Working from home means – cleaning up collection entries and prepping them for their online launch, or I could be seen on another Zoom call to meet with the museum team, organize incoming exhibit installations, or participating in educational webinars and training sessions. In the last week, I have even delved into a new software to help me work on some interpretative labels for museum exhibits. I am not a graphic designer, but I dabble, and it gives me a break from collections management. 

So while I juggle my work day, I have two school aged children who also need my support, they need help – logging into their virtual classrooms, uploading assignments, checking math work, advising subject matters, finding online resources, and they also need lunch!  Believe me these kids want to eat all the time, I have devised some buffet style eating in my kitchen that has been a life saver!  If food is out, I will be left alone. Note to parents: now is a good time to teach your child how to start a load of laundry and cook a simple meal! 

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In the past few weeks, Alannah and I have managed to get 60 more objects online for you to enjoy. As you know, this past Fall, we have been working on the inventory of the furniture collection. While we are working from home, we have managed to continue to do our review of these records and get some of their stories out there.  The lockdown has afforded us the gift of time to tidy the database. What does this mean to you?  It means updated search terms, correct spellings, photographs (we have over 2500 object images online), and the inclusion of a relevant object story (aka why do we have this). This editing takes time. Each object can take 3-4 days to complete. Which is why there aren’t 1000s of our museum records out there yet…quality takes time. Take a look at this one in PastPerfect.

Stages of an Object1.jpgWorking from home is just that – work. I continue to work away at Past Perfect, sort out the museum exhibit schedule that has been continuously bumped around by COVID, revamp design labels for our existing exhibits, and support the museum team through written blogs, social media posts, webinar courses, and grant writing.  While closed, the museum remains quite active behind the scenes. We continue to plan for when the doors re-open and onsite everything returns.  

Things I miss – TRAVEL and SUMMER! I was an avid traveller and fully intend to be again. I miss the excitement of discovering new things and while I love my backyard, some days it just doesn’t cut it. So I have discovered the joy of virtual vacationing, which has only added to my bucket list of things to visit.  Here is a great article that will perhaps lead you down a few rabbit holes of enjoyment – The 12 Best Virtual Vacations You Can Take From Your Home (tripsavvy.com) 

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Health Tips from your trusty Curator – go for a walk, step away from your screens, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, try a virtual yoga class, call a friend, and yes it’s okay to sometimes scream into your pillow!  

So for the time being , check out our website www.countymuseum.ca for online research resources, contact us if you need help. Amber has some online programming up her sleeve to keep you entertained at home too. I will “see” you one way or the other very soon, take good care and stay safe! 

Starting the New Year (not quite at the museum)

As we all look toward what 2021 will bring, I am reminded of a new year’s eve toast made by one of my favorite TV characters; Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H*. While the quote has nothing to do with museums I thought I’d share it none the less; “Here’s to the New Year. May she be a [darn] sight better than the old one” I think the sentiment of this quote is on everyone’s mind as we celebrate this year in lockdown. However, as a very hard headed believer that the glass is half full if you only look at it from the right angle, I am determined to believe that 2021 will end in higher spirits than 2020.

Now while Covid-fatigue has returned right in time for the holidays, I am still jazzed to get to continue working for the museum over the winter. For the time being by work station is being moved from the museum to my home, where my new co-workers are a goofy 2 year old pup named Maggie who does not necessarily respect personal space in the office, and a ridiculously photogenic little gecko name Cheeko. Having never worked from home, I am going to be frantically Googling tips for remaining focused, but I am looking forward to giving it a go. 

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However, bringing it back to the museum I am excited to say I am coming down to the last dozen or so artifacts in the furniture inventory, and because I’m a little astounded by the number I’m going to put it here: as of late December, 188 artifacts have been identified, located, photographed, and their condition’s assessed. This collection has included a diversity of artifacts from settees, to washing machines, to tea trolleys, and as of right now has included a whopping 49 chairs, and 13 desks. I have learned what melodeons, dough troughs, and mortisers look like, as well as a variety of other pieces of furniture. This project has included getting to learn not only a significant amount about the community but also about the museum itself. I found a group of chairs that were used in the reading room when the it was located in the upstairs, now office portion of the museum. I hadn’t visited the museum and archives before it was renovated and the new section built, so this was a really interesting glimpse into what the building used to look like.

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This project has not been without its frustrations though. I remember I came across about 10 artifacts in a row, one week, which had no numbers on them, possibly because they were once on exhibit or for other reasons. When I come across an artifact without an associated number it’s time to don my detective cap and go to work; meaning it’s time to search the database for a description that would fit the artifact. Sometimes this only requires me to search a very specific key word and read through maybe a dozen records, however sometimes there are no specific features to search so I need to read through every, record that is associated with the term chair, for example, and believe me there are a lot. All frustrations in mind, I couldn’t think of a job I’d rather be doing! It has been a fantastic experience to get to know a collections so closely, and boy have I gotten good at identifying esoteric pieces of furniture, a skill I am certain will serve me well as my career moves forward.

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To everyone, may 2021 bring you a glass that is more than half full.

Museum hours

Monday – Saturday: 10am–5pm

Macpherson House & Park hours

Open for tours in the summer

Archives Hours

Monday – Friday: 10am–5pm

Museum and Archives daily rate

Adults: $3
Children under 12: free

All service fees are based on a cost recovery model. Factors such as the physical condition of the records and copyright restrictions may prevent some or all of the reproduction processes from being offered.

Museum & Archives location

97 Thomas St E, Napanee, ON K7R 4B9

Macpherson House & Park location

180 Elizabeth Street, Napanee, ON K7R 1B5