Suggestions for improving access to your collections with limited funds
As Archives and Museums have had to close due to COVID 19 or are operating with reduced hours and access, it has become more important than ever to maintain visibility and value by providing more resources and information online.
There are still some grants available to help with the cost, and reassuringly the LAC DHCP program funding for 2020-21 has gone through and we are working with recipients on their projects. There is also a new initiative, the Canada Emergency Support Fund for Heritage Organizations from Heritage Canada which has a submission deadline of September 1, 2020. The BC Museums Association and similar organizations in other provinces, provide listings of grants that are available. We can provide assistance with writing proposals to take advantage of these funding opportunities and always have suggestions for projects that might fit into a grant application, or be feasible if you have any budget available.
Many of the grants are for digitization initiatives as these are one of the best ways of ensuring better access to items in your collections. As part of the digitization program there is often the option to enhance your web search interface, which is where we can help. We can work with all sorts of data without necessarily changing your underlying workflow and have you up and running with a modern, very functional site very quickly. For clients who already have at least part of their collections online using our systems, we are suggesting some relatively simple enhancements such as adding commenting to digitized photos to allow more community involvement. Take a look at a typical record with comment from Bulkley Valley Museum or from La Société historique de Saint-Boniface. All comments are moderated before they are displayed which does take some work, but it is also a good opportunity to connect directly with your users.
Another option that is popular with people stuck at home and looking for something useful and interesting to occupy them, is crowdsourcing the transcription of various historical documents. We recommend these be based around a theme such as World War I diaries, or letters from a particular fond or on a selected topic. We can set up a site using From the Page software (https://fromthepage.com/) where clients can upload handwritten digital documents for transcribing. Apparently there is a surge in interest in this type of project - see this recent article How to Help Librarians and Archivists From Your Living Room. If you’re cooped-up and curious, use your free time to decipher handwriting, tag images, and more.
If you already have digitized content which is not yet available online, we have various options that might not be as costly or as time consuming as you might think! We can extract metadata from a file structure or we can index the full text of documents to provide search capabilities immediately. Maybe items have already been digitized by someone else? Have you looked in the Internet Archive for items relevant to your collection? Many of these are available for non commercial use and can be incorporated into your own systems quickly and easily. Or do you have data in other repositories or software that we can integrate to add value?
Please let us know if you might be interested in learning more, or have any other good ideas that we can help you with!