May 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation Center Northern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Distance Learning Makes a Difference   

In This Issue
How Northern States Conservation Center Has Helped Me
Coaching Change Management
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
My Journey to a General Museums Studies Certificate
June and July Courses
2015 Online Course Schedule Now Available 
The 2015 course schedule is now available at
We are working on adding courses to the schedule over the next couple of months, so come back and check for new additions. 
Upcoming Classes
Scripting the Exhibition : Labels and Interpretive Panels
Julia Robinson's Final Project Exhibition

So much to say and so little space in which to say it. That is the dilemma when scripting an exhibition. How do you say what needs to be said in the space available? How do you even figure out how to limit the information in the first place? Discover the value of themes, tangibles, intangibles, and universals in writing exhibit text that visitors really want to read -- and remember. Additional resources provided on font size and colors as well as label layout.

Join Instructor Karin Hostetter for her course:  Scripting the Exhibition: Labels and Interpretive Panels beginning July6, 2015

How Northern States Conservation Center Has Helped Me

By Desiree Elise Genthner


I currently live in Maine and volunteer for the Thomaston Historical Society. We're a small museum that takes a lot of pride in our community's past and preservation. I haven't been with Northern States long, but started the journey as a means to gain knowledge, get a certificate, and work with the curator at the museum in a mutual mentoring program. The information I have taken away from my courses, I have shared and worked towards utilizing at the museum. The curator surprised me when she said that she had nominated me for the historical society's board in the capacity of Assistant Curator/Volunteer Coordinator. She informed me that the board was delighted with the drive I possessed as I work toward a certificate and acquire beneficial skills. Northern States is great for people like myself, who live in small communities and wouldn't have access to attending large scale museums, or meeting with professionals. I am learning real life scenarios and applying them in the work I perform, as well as receiving training from professionals in the field. What more could I want? Thank you Northern States and its instructors, you're wonderful!


Desiree Genthner is a current Level I: General Museum Certificate Student with the Northern States Conservation Center's Museum Certificate Program.

COACHING CHANGE MANAGEMENT: "From here to where we want to be"  

By Sherene Suchy


Dr. Sherene Suchy is an Australian based Social Worker and advocate for museums as sites for collective memory, cultural identity, and community development. She is the author of Leading With Passion: Change Management in the 21st Century Museum and a contributor to: Museum Philosophy in the 21st Century edited by Hugh Genoways; Museum Management and Marketing edited by Richard Sandell and Robert James; and Reinventing the Museum edited by Gail Anderson.


During April 2015, Sherene was asked to coach a student doing a Masters Thesis at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. The student was interested in motivation and buy-in, more specifically how to engage colleagues in an important project (getting rid of pests in a museum). Several resources were recommended to the student including The Collections Caretaker E-Newsletter from the Northern States Conservation Center in the USA.


Dr. Suchy would like to share her notes for the student with the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter.


Here is the framework Sherene uses to coach individual and organisational change:  

  • Identify the gaps in the current situation through research: Find evidence for what is happening now and what an agreed shared future should look like. What do we want to be different?
  • Plan an intervention: Step by step toward the shared future. What are we prepared to do? Who does what? What tools will we use?
  • Engage and motivate staff: People only change when hearts and values are touched.  Am I committed to this change? Is my heart in this? My role is...? 
  • Track small steps: Progress needs to be monitored. Are we succeeding or not? Do we need to make small corrections? Are we making a difference?
  • Celebrate the milestones: It takes 21 days of DAILY focus to create a personal shift in habits such as getting up every day to take a 20 minute walk for wellbeing. It can take 18 months with organisations.

Recommended References:


Dr. Suchy taught Organisation Change and Adaptation for 10 years in the School of Management at the University of Technology Sydney and recommends the following 'classics' for 'change agents': 


Organisation Development & Change by Dianne Waddell, Thomas Cummings, and Christopher Worley.


Management of Organizational Behaviour: Utilizing Human Resources by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard.


Diagnosis for Organizational Change: Methods and Models by Ann Howard.



The Social Work of Museums by Lois Silverman.


Personal change and leadership development: a process of ' What we do ' Resources ' Publications Database. Monograph title, ICOM International Committee for the Training of Personnel. Notes, Incl. bibl. Primary descriptors, learning. Author(s), Suchy, Sherene.


Sherene Suchy,


Related articles addressing the theme of museums, change management, and emotional engagement. 

Preservation Guide 2: Photographs
Preservation Guide 2: Photographs

Author: the Historic New Orleans Collection. Preservation Guides by the Historic New Orleans Collection provide clear, in-depth collection care advice. Each guide has illustrative photographs and drawings.

Preservation Guide 2: Photographs
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Stevan P. Layne


Association of Midwest Museums  

  • CIPM Regional Security Management Certification Class, Cincinnati, OH, July 18, 2015

Western Museums Association  

  • Disaster Preparedness for Cultural Institutions, San Jose, CA, October 24, 2015  

Gawain Weaver


The Care and Identification of Photographs

Conferences and Meetings


Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Gainesville, FL

May 17-23, 2015


Association of Midwest Museums Conference

Cincinnati, OH

July 19-22, 2015


Society of American Archivists

Cleveland, OH

August 16-22, 2015.


American Association for State and Local History

Louisville, KY
September 16-19, 2015


Mountain-Plains Museums Association

Wichita, KS

September 27 - October 1, 2015


Southeastern Museums Conference

Jacksonville, FL

October 12 - 14, 2015


Western Museums Association

San Jose, CA

October 24-27, 2015


International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection

Hosted by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville AR and the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK   

October 27-31, 2015

New England Museum Association

Portland, ME

November 4-6, 2015


NAI National Workshop

Virginia Beach, VA
November 10-14, 2015 

Submissions and Comments


How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  

If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to  


We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 


Have a comment or suggestion?   


Send it to

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Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.

My Journey to a General Museum Studies Certificate

By Julia Robinson


"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go."   Dr. Seuss     


I remember sitting in one of my undergraduate classes as a senior-wide-eyed, ambitious, and ready to take on the world as an elementary school teacher. For one of our exit courses, we had to take a class that covered many topics, from ethical behavior to acing an interview, to what else one can do with a teaching degree. In retrospect, the premise of the class was outstanding, and I am glad that I took it. It was the last topic covered in the class, What Else Can You Do with Your Degree?,that made me realize that, somewhere down the line, I might not remain in classroom teaching as I had planned. From that moment on, I decided to recognize the talents that I had and to keep an open mind to new opportunities. That attitude served me well over the years. We moved several times across various states, and with every move, I needed to reapply for a different teaching license. I navigated the waters of education as a classroom teacher, a school-wide Title 1 reading teacher, and a preschool director. With every new position, I had to acclimate myself to a new culture and a new mindset. I came to realize that the trait that served me best during those years was flexibility.


Interestingly, every position I accepted involved planning grade-level field trips. I had a knack for organizing the pre-trip preparations and studies, the events, and the wrap-ups. I don't think I had a favorite field trip-they were all my favorites, including the last one that I took my preschoolers to-the Hefner Museum of Natural History at Miami University. Honestly, from the moment I first stepped into that museum, something about it was different. With its wood tones, sculpted sky facades and the close proximity the visitor had to all of the animal mounts, the museum seemed to exclaim NATURE! I felt as though I was outside, and I could hardly contain myself as I walked through the Main Gallery. Each year, I returned with a new group of preschoolers. During one of my last visits, I remember mentioning to the museum director that I would love to be considered for a position, should anything become available in the future.


What was I saying? Work in a museum? Up to that point, all of my jobs had been somewhat connected. Where was the connection here? But I was drawn to this place.


One summer day, much to my surprise, I got a call from the director, asking if I remembered the conversation we had had about being considered for a position. Of course, I'd remembered it well. We talked, and a couple of months later, I started working at the Hefner Museum of Natural History. One of my first assignments was to find a museum studies program that would fit my schedule (mom of four) and broaden my perspective of the purpose and practices of museums. He wanted me to find something that was professional, yet practical and hands-on, and that led, ultimately, to a certification in museum studies. With my family's location and my very busy home life, I knew that my best option was online courses. I perused many online opportunities for museum programs, but one,, stood out. Offered through the Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC), was the only program that enabled me to contact an actual person. That was important, because I had many questions about the set-up of the program, ease of scheduling classes, the most helpful classes to improve our museum, and the likelihood of finishing a certification program. I found a contact number on the website for the director of the classes, Helen Alten. I left a message and she called me that very day. After that one phone call, I felt both calm and excited-all at once-about the prospect of taking online classes toward a certification.


Peggy Schaller, Certificate Program Coordinator (left); Julia Robinson(center); Don Kaufman, Director of the Hefner Museum (right) 


Within a few months of employment at the museum, I started my first online class. In my master plan, I would tackle a series of 11 classes, each of which delved into a different aspect of museums, over the next three years. If I successfully completed all 11 classes, I would earn Level 1 General Museum Studies certification from the Northern States Conservation Center. How exciting! I felt like a kid again. It's true: When you keep learning, you feel younger.


I can't begin to discuss all the different topics that we covered in the online classes. However, all of the classes shared five characteristics that I grew to truly and deeply appreciate.  


Class Structure: All classes follow a similar flow chart, using current readings in the field, lecture notes, weekly chats, forums or responses, journal, and assignments or quizzes. A standard structure creates continuity between classes, making the technology and new material easier to learn. Each class offers a review of technology in the form of a technology manual. While this instructional file offered self-help, an actual person was always available to help students in the event that something didn't work as it should.


Expertise of Instructors: The instructors have diverse museum backgrounds, but they all use their core talents to construct an online course that offers practical solutions to daily concerns in museums. Instructors also provide information on current trends and they lend professional advice. I rarely had trouble contacting an instructor for a question. My instructors were eager to share their expertise in a nonjudgmental manner.


Online classes are not without their challenges. Instructors and participants lead day jobs and have busy lives that can change some aspects, but not the actual direction, of the course. The instructors were good communicators, keeping participants abreast of unforeseen changes. I also found them to be flexible, accommodating participants' varied backgrounds and different time zones.


Class Participants: Not all participants worked at natural history museums-or even at any kind of museum-or had similar backgrounds. Some worked in finance, others in management, and still others were simply searching for a career change. In addition, participants hailed from all over the world. Initially, I worried that the more participants in a class, the less direct instruction we would receive. I quickly discovered that I was wrong. In fact, participants greatly enhanced the instruction-they offered additions to readings, posted excellent questions and relevant concerns, and supplied practical, effective solutions from their own institutions or workplaces.


Chats and Forums: I found the chats and forums to be extremely important. It was through those avenues that I could learn from other class participants. Some had been immersed in the museum profession for several years and were simply taking an online class to brush up or learn newer techniques, while others were just as new to the profession as I was. The level of expertise didn't matter. All class participants are welcomed, accepted, and recognized for their input. All chats are archived for easy retrieval. Lots of information is shared during the chats and the ease of retrieving that information is a huge plus.


I was hesitant about the Final Chat, a requirement for those seeking to earn certification. However, after taking the classes and putting all procedures and techniques into practice, I realized that the Final Chat was more of a time to celebrate all that I had learned...which was staggering. After the first few minutes of my Final Chat, my anxiety vanished, and I found myself truly enjoying the process. When it was over, I was relieved, but I also was in awe of the instructors who had participated. They had prepared thought-provoking questions, offered meaningful comments and thoughtful responses, and carefully drew out the knowledge I'd accumulated over the previous three years. In doing so, they were able to assess all that I had learned.


Conferences and Final Projects: From the conferences, I learned the importance of networking and forming collaborations through our outreach efforts. We implemented many changes in our social media with new techniques that I learned from attending a statewide conference. My final project, an exhibit, led me to develop relationships across our campus and with different entities outside our museum.


Final Project Exhibition 


Learning never really ends. As I went through my series of online courses, I continually put into practice something that I'd just learned. Cleaning old mounts, applying numbers to newly accessioned objects, working out the details to create an exhibit, organizing our volunteer program, rewriting our Collections Management Policy-I implemented everything I learned in a practical manner. The wide range of NSCC classes makes it easy to continue being a lifelong learner without a great deal of repetition in subject matter.

Blanchard's Cricket Fro by Miami Student Carly Hamilton (2016)
Student Project Exhibition at the Hefner Museum  


Over the span of three years, as I continued my classes and my skills grew, I grew increasingly confident and took on more responsibilities at our museum. I began to tackle new areas both outside of, and within, the realm of teaching. I now oversee undergraduate volunteers and their diverse projects, from mastering correct cleaning practices to creating exhibits to using social media to broaden and inform the museum's diverse audiences. In addition, I manage the museum's database and website, and I create new programs and conduct inquiry activities for tour groups. I secured external funding to develop a new university course for early childhood education majors seeking to earn an Early Childhood Environmental Education Certification; currently, I am completing my second year of teaching that course. To strengthen our outreach programs, I am forming outside collaborations. Finally, I joined the museum studies planning team at our university and helped plan one of the core courses (museum practices and procedures) for the new Museum Studies minor, starting this Fall 2015.


Cabinet of Curiosities by Miami Student Marsha Carney (2015)
Student Project Exhibition at the Hefner Museum 


Recently, to celebrate my completion of the certification process for my General Museum Studies Certificate our museum hosted a reception. We invited certificate coordinator and instructor for Northern States Conservation Center, Peggy Schaller, to present the certificate to me. Our biology department, museum affiliates, and dear friends and family came to the reception and presentation. I was thrilled to take Peggy through the museum, showing her firsthand the different things I had written about in my chats, forums, and assignments. I had the opportunity to meet in person someone whom I really enjoyed as an instructor. In fact, it wasn't like meeting someone new for the first time. We already knew each other by keypad, and the reception allowed us to meet in person. What a wonderful celebration!


What happened to my teaching? I really haven't left teaching at all-I just took a side step. I realized that I had a yearning to convey the message of our museum, environmental education, that I wanted to preserve our collections for generations to come, and that I longed to ignite a love of learning about nature in all our visitors, whether they are nine months, nine years old, or 99 years young. I am simply tapping into my formal teaching background to enhance our informal teaching at the museum. The NSCC certification I earned lends legitimacy to my cause.


I want to take this opportunity to thank all the instructors and class participants from my Level 1 General Museum Studies certification classes for their hard work and patience in teaching a novice like me. Thank you, Helen Alten, for providing the personal touch that started this process in the beginning, and Peggy Schaller, for offering constant, patient guidance throughout the entire process.


"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall."   Ray Bradbury


Julie Robinson is employed at the Robert A. Hefner Museum of Natural History, Miami University, Oxford, OH as an Environmental Educator and Early Childhood Specialist. She teaches the course, Early Childhood Environmental Educator, and oversees many aspects of the museum, including volunteer programs and practices, and group activities. She recently completed the Level 1 General Museum Certificate through, a subsidiary of Northern States Conservation Center.  

June Courses


MS 222: Care of Photographs

June 22 to August 14, 2015

Instructor:  Gawain Weaver


Photographic materials cover a diverse range, everything from the daguerreotypes and wet plate negatives of the 19th century to the gelatin silver, chromogenic and inkjet prints of the 20th and now 21st century. Care of Photographs offers a broad introduction to the history, technology, identification, and care of these and other photographic materials. Topics include environmental monitoring, the effects of temperature and relative humidity, and the importance of cold storage for certain photographic materials. It is intended to help those caring for photographic materials to gain a better understanding of their collections and how to care for them.


July Courses


MS 205/206 Disaster Plan Research and Writing

July 6 to August 28, 2015

Instructor: Terri Schindel


Every museum needs to be prepared for fires, floods, chemical spills, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. But surveys show 80 percent lack trained staff, emergency-preparedness plans for their collections, or both. Disaster Plan Research and Writing begins with the creation of disaster-preparedness teams, the importance of ongoing planning, employee safety, board participation and insurance. Participants will learn everything they need to draft their own disaster-preparedness plans. They also will be required to incorporate colleagues in team-building exercises. A written disaster-preparedness plan is not only a good idea, it's also a requirement for accreditation. In the second half of the course, instructor Terri Schindel reviews and provides input as participants write plans that outline the procedures to follow in various emergencies. The completed plan prepares museums physically and mentally to handle emergencies that can harm vulnerable and irreplaceable collections. You will have a completed institutional disaster-preparedness and response plan at the end of the course. Once completed with this course, we recommend the Disaster Preparation and Recovery course taught by Helen Alten to provide more information about staff organization and management during and after a disaster.


MS 207: Collections Management: Cataloging Your Collection

July 6 to 31, 2015

Instructor: Peggy Schaller


Cataloging may not be the most exciting museum task, but it is among the most important. Without a clear knowledge of your holdings, you can't protect, care for, research or exhibit them. Without knowledge of an item's history, you can't properly appreciate its value to your museum. Cataloging Your Collection covers all details needed to catalog a collection. Procedures for handling, measuring and describing all types of objects and materials are discussed in detail. Participants receive sample forms and learn the best practices for numbering artifacts, performing inventory and assessing the condition of objects. Participants practice describing everyday objects and cataloging items from their own collections or households.


MS210: Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives

July 6 to August 14, 2015

Instructor:  Christina Cain


The only thing worse than mice or cockroaches in your kitchen, is finding them in your museum collection. Participants in Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives learn low-toxicity methods of controlling infestations. IPM is the standard method for treating incoming items and monitoring holdings. Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives discusses how infestations occur, helps identify risks, provides feasible mitigation strategies, discusses the different techniques of treating infested materials, and helps you complete an IPM plan and monitoring schedule for your institution. The course covers pest identification, insects, rodent, birds, bats, other mammals and mold infestations, as well as other problems raised by participants.


July 6 to 31, 2015

Instructor:  Karin Hostetter


So much to say and so little space in which to say it. That is the dilemma when scripting an exhibition. How do you say what needs to be said in the space available? How do you even figure out how to limit the information in the first place? Discover the value of themes, tangibles, intangibles, and universals in writing exhibit text that visitors really want to read -- and remember. Additional resources provided on font size and colors as well as label layout.


MS262: Moving Collections

July 6 to 31, 2015

Instructor:  Helen Alten


Moving collections is a daunting task. Fragile items need special packing and care to be safely transported. Large, heavy or awkward items like dinosaurs and oversized sculptures require special equipment and support from local authorities. How do you design your project to meet the budget and timing demands of your administration? Are your collections over-packed in acidic boxes and does your move includes improving their storage and care? Collections often take up more room when they are stored properly. How do you determine your needed storage space when the collection is decompressed? Moving Collections provides an overview of how to plan and manage a move to avoid the many pitfalls. The course includes: defining your project, developing a Request for Proposal (RFP), developing a work plan, staffing, and packing protocols. Whether you are moving part of the collection within your building or moving the entire collection to another facility, Moving Collections provides a blueprint for you to follow.


MS 267: Museum Ethics

July 6 to 31, 2015

Instructor:  Peggy Schaller


This course will examine the role of ethics in museums and related institutions. Topics addressed will include the differences in ethics, laws, and morals; what ethics are and where they come from; the ethical codes that museum professionals follow; how ethics affect professional practices; why ethics are important; and how ethical standards can help museums and related institutions better serve society. Participants in the course will gain an understanding of the importance of ethics in professional museum practice, how codes of ethics are written and why they are important, and will develop an understanding of the most significant codes of ethics subscribed to by museum professionals.

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager