Tag Archives: collections management

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Lily J.

11 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


 Lily J.


Lily Jackson joined the MIA collection management team following her move to Toronto and acceptance into the University of Toronto’s Masters of Museum Studies program (MMSt). Since her first day at MIA she has become an invaluable addition and helped MIA staff tackle a large and significant collections audit. From works on paper, stone, antler, hide, metal, ivory – Lily has worked with it all, and shown remarkable care and attention to all of her condition reports and exhibition preparation. And she’s had some pretty fantastic #museumselfie moments along the way. MIA could not be more proud to have such a dedicated volunteer.

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

I had moved to Toronto to pursue a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto, and wanted to ground my classroom-based learning in real-world museum experience. Some of the MIA staff members are graduates of the same degree program, which presented an opportunity to learn from emerging museum professionals who understood what I was learning. Plus, I have always loved Inuit art, and I enjoy working in smaller-sized museums. For all these reasons, MIA seemed like a great fit.

Describe your experience so far with MIA

My experience at MIA has centered on all aspects of collections management work. I have spent much of my time accessioning and cataloguing a large collection of drawings from Pangnirtung, Nunavut. I also worked alongside a team of MIA staff and volunteers to ensure that all of the objects on display in the museum’s galleries were unaffected by an unexpected water leak. Recently, I’ve been familiarizing myself with MIA’s online database, and have begun making electronic records for the Pangnirtung drawings. Finally, I assist with extra projects as needed, such as unpacking boxes of objects on loan for the upcoming SKQ exhibition.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

One of the most memorable and rewarding experiences I have had at the museum was participating in the installation of Abraham Ruben’s “Ancient Memories” and Bart Hanna’s “Migration”. These two large and complex sculptures were installed in MIA’s pedestal gallery in one day, which required the patience and collaboration of several staff members, professional art movers, and myself. I find it very rewarding to help objects move from being tightly secured inside large boxes with reams of acid-free packaging to being on display in the light of the gallery for people to see. This process was made all the more rewarding by the whole team’s cooperation, which ultimately meant that the pieces were unpacked and put on display safely.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

I could write a small encyclopedic series of what I have learned at MIA. But, to keep it brief: working with all manner of Inuit art – particularly the Pangnirtung drawings – has broadened my conception of Inuit art, and has enhanced my love of it. I have also learned about many challenges and opportunities of collections management, including issues surrounding collections software, storage, and conservation. Finally, my time at MIA has increased my awareness of how everything – and everyone – in museums is interconnected; teamwork and communication skills are vital!

What are you doing now?

I continue to volunteer at MIA once per week. I am nearly finished the first year of my Museum Studies program, and am about to start a summer internship in fundraising and development at a national arts organization based in Toronto.


If you are interested in learning more about our collections management volunteer opportunity at the museum, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

Nancy Drew and the Case of New Collections Management

5 Sep
Unknown artist, "Untitled" (Janus Head), whalebone is a recently donated piece into the permanent collection was photographed as part of the accessioning process during the collections audit.

Artist Unknown, “Untitled” (Janus Head), (1974), whalebone is a recently donated piece that is being entered into the permanent collection during the collections audit.

For the past few months visitors to the Harbourfront have had to tackle a lot of construction taking place on Queens Quay as part of the Waterfront revitalization project. Additionally, the museum has been undergoing some pretty major changes of our own. In previous posts we introduced new layouts for our permanent collection, asked for your input for what sorts of information should be included in our next batch of interpretive texts and installed a new exhibition. While we have been a little quiet on the blog side of things, we have been typing up a storm inputting all your feedback into our panels (which are being printed at this very moment!).

Alongside these new panels we are also creating a brand new labeling system for the individual objects you can see in both our special exhibitions and permanent collections. We’re going to dedicate a separate blog to introduce our new designs and how we have been playing with lots of different looks, but you can take a quick peek here for a sense of how your questions inspired our new look.

Design sample of future new MIA museum object labels

Design sample of future new MIA museum object labels.

You might have noticed that in the above design sample, the accession number has been left unfilled. Part of the process of creating new labels has come out of another important project we have initiated: completing a full collections audit.

And what is a collections audit you ask?
Under the SPECTRUM definition, a collections audit is:

The examination of objects or object information, in order to verify their location, authenticity, accuracy and relationships… The organisation must have a policy covering the auditing of the collections and related information. Refer to Policies and Legal Context chapter for general guidance on collections management policies.

The procedure for managing and documenting audits must:

  • Ensure that the organisation maintains, manages and documents a regular review of the objects in its collections and the information relating to them;

  • Ensure that the audit of objects is based on the physical presence of the objects;

  • Ensure that all relevant object-related documentation is updated as required in a timely manner;

  • Ensure that remedial action is taken as required, following discovery of missing objects, wrongly or inadequately documented objects, or undocumented objects;

  • Ensure that, wherever possible, inventory checks are conducted or witnessed by a person not responsible for their custody or record-keeping

As part of best practices, it can refer to a small section of the collection, or if you’re keeners like we are, the ENTIRE collection!

As we went through the permanent collections cases we noticed that there were some inconsistencies, such as files that weren’t in the proper locations or objects that did not have multiple photographs to show the piece at different angles. These types of errors come pretty standard across museums, and despite the fields limited resources you will always be able to find that one passionate detective who pulls a Nancy Drew in search of runaway documentation. This kind of project has been the source of  many a internship and looking at past presentations from networking events like Museums Showoff TO you can learn more about how other institutions solved their mini museum mysteries.

This fall we will also be putting together a team of  collections interns, who will be documenting what types of pieces they will be working with, how they are investigating the collections, and what kinds of documents they are looking for. So stay tuned to meet the team and learn more about some of the behind the scenes moments that make up a part of an objects life inside the museum!

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Asset Coordinator


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