January 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter


In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
So why can't I call a spatula a pancake flipper?
Nomenclature 4.0 Update
Small Museum Pro!
February 2015 Courses
Upcoming Classes
Rescheduled to February 2, 2015

MS 107: Introduction to Museum Security 


January 18, 2015

MS 010: Condition Assessments 


February 2, 2015

MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects 


MS 214: Collections Management Databases


MS 236: Education in Museums


MS 254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums


MS 302: Fundraising and Grant Writing


MS 227: Care of Paintings


MS 238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts


February 16, 2015

MS 002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared?   


March 2, 2015

MS 108: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs  


MS 205/206 Disaster Plan Research and Writing  


MS 215: Care of Archaeological Artifacts from the Field to the Lab  


MS 243: Making Museum Quality Mannequins  


MS 303: Found in the Collection: Orphans, Old Loans and Abandoned Property  


March 16, 2015

MS 008: Buy In: Getting All of Staff to Support Preservation

Preservation Guide 3: Paintings
Preservation Guide 3: Paintings
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 3: Paintings
Retail Store Management for Small Museums
Retail stores play central roles in museum operations. Most museum managers and their boards or tribal councils recognize stores' revenue potential. But stores can also help serve the museum's educational mission, support perpetuation and revitalization of traditional arts, and impact audiences beyond the museum's doors. Utilizing expert perspectives and examples from diverse museum stores this course will explain why a museum store should not be just a "gift shop" and will present guidance on inventory management, buying and pricing, retail display, staff training and other administrative issues faced by museum store managers.

Join Karl Hoerig for an in depth look at Managing a Museum store in MS254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums, February 2 to 27, 2015
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Gawain Weaver
  • Care and Identification of Photographs, Amherst, MA, February 16-19, 2015

Helen Alten
  • AASLH Collections Management and Practices, Haines, AK, May 14-15, 2015

Stevan P. Layne

  • CIPS Regional Security Officer Certification Class, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, March 16 or 17, 2015   
  • CISS Regional Security Supervisor Certification Class, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, MA, April 6-8, 2015  

For more information: http://ifcpp.org/training-calendar  


American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting 

  • CIPM Regional Security Management Certification Class, Atlanta, GA, April 29, 2015
  • Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) Introductory Class, Atlanta, GA, April 29, 2015

Conferences and Meetings


California Museums Association

San Diego, CA

February 18-20, 2015


Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Building Museums Symposium

Boston, MA

March 22-24, 2015


The Smithsonian Institution and Office of Protection Services

National Conference On Cultural Property Protection

Washington, D.C.

March 26-27, 2015

Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums

Craig, CO

April 16-18, 2015


Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

Atlanta, GA
April 24-26, 2015


American Alliance of Museums

Atlanta, GA

April 26-29, 2015


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.


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 peggy@collectioncare.org.  


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 peggy@collectioncare.org

Join Our Mailing List
Quick Links

Northern States Conservation Center

Online courses in museum studies

About Us

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.
2015 Online Course Schedule Now Available 
The 2015 museumclasses.org 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. 

So why can't I call a spatula a pancake flipper? The importance of using standardized nomenclatures.

By Peggy Schaller


Why is it so important to have a standardized list of terms to identify the objects housed in a museum's collection? Can't we just call these items what we have always called them since we were small? With regional and cultural differences in the United States and around the globe we run the risk that others will not understand to what we are referring when we use a colloquial term to identify one of our objects. How many people know what a gem pan is? A few probably. How many people know what a muffin pan is? Many more. How many people know that these two terms refer to the same thing? Do you know the difference between a spatula, a pancake flipper and a cake turner? Or between a spatula and a scraper? Or is there a difference at all?

Spatula, Scraper, Cake Turner or Pancake Flipper  Which is which? 

Since museums began they have been categorizing, sorting and describing their collections so that they can easily find individual objects and/or their records. They have been subdividing their catalog cards into household goods, personal items, clothing, furniture and other such categories. They have given objects names like shoe, hat, dresser, table, stapler, or cup and they have assumed that when they want to find all the cups in the collection that they have been placed in the 'cup' section of the catalog. This assumption is not always correct. What one person may call a cup, another may call a glass, and yet another may call something else.


The onset of the computer age, and more recently the age of the global Internet, has made the issue of standardization one of major importance to all museums. If museums continue to aspire to having their collections online, and regional coalitions continue to be formed to combine resources to place their collective collections online, standardized terminology is essential.


In a manual catalog system of cards, the human brain can overcome inconsistencies in terminology by checking an entire section of related cards and scanning for the proper type of artifact. Not a very efficient method, but it works. In a computer system, standardization in terminology is crucial to finding all the objects for which one is searching. The computer 'brain' is literal. It will find only those items it has been asked to find. It cannot make assumptions or 'leaps of faith' when being asked to make a search. If asked to find all the cups, it will only find those items actually identified as 'cup' and nothing more.


So how does one go about creating a standardized list of terms? Fortunately, there are a couple of groups who have already done the work for us. The two most common nomenclatures available to museums are Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging (from The Revised Nomenclature to Nomenclature 3.0 and the new version Nomenclature 4.0 coming soon) and The Art and Architecture Thesaurus. The various Nomenclature editions are based on an earlier version by Robert G. Chenhall which was created as a system for describing man-made objects. The Art and Architecture Thesaurus was created as a system for describing works of art and architectural components, but has been expanded to include terms for describing historical artifacts as well. Both lists are hierarchical in nature, originally beginning with broad categories (such as Structures), sub categories (such as Building Component) and finally the individual terms themselves (such as Brick)(see Nomenclature 4.0 Update for more information on the new Nomenclature). The Nomenclatures for Museum Cataloging (all versions) are published in book form and has also built into the computer software PastPerfect. The Art and Architecture Thesaurus is compiled by The Getty Institute and is available online at http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/aat/


As museums become more computer dependent, a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet anymore! If your computer is going to effectively catalog your collection, you must standardize the terms you use to describe it.


Peggy Schaller, founded Collections Research for Museums in 1991 to provide cataloging, collection-management training and services. She has worked with a large variety of museums and collections for more than 22 years. Peggy, who lives in Denver, Colorado, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology with minors in art history and geology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has a master's degree in anthropology with a minor in museum studies from the University of Colorado in Boulder and is a Certified Institutional Protection Manager II. She provides workshops and project services to museums and historical societies all across the country. The mission of Collections Research for Museums is to inspire museums to improve their professional standards, collections stewardship and service to their constituency through training in, and assistance with, documenting, preserving, protecting and managing their collections. For more information visit her web site Collections Research for Museums. Peggy is also the Publications Manager and Certificate Program Coordinator for Northern States Conservation Center and museumclasses.org.

Nomenclature 4.0 Update

Sarah Kapellusch, Nomenclature Task Force Member  


2015 will be an exciting year for Nomenclature as the American Association for State and Local History and the Nomenclature Task Force prepare to release the 4th edition of Robert G. Chenhall's System for Classifying Man-Made Objects. Since the first edition was published in 1978, Nomenclature has been an important tool for museum catalogers' that addresses the need for consistency in naming and classifying objects.


Nomenclature 4.0 will include a new introduction, over 1400 new or updated terms including preferred and non-preferred terms, a much expanded section for water transportation tools and equipment, and new terms to aid in the cataloging of digital collections and modern technology such as smart phones and tablets. The task force is also working with the publisher, Roman & Littlefield, on an updated book design that will improve searching for users. The publisher is planning to make Nomenclature 4.0 available in book format by mid-2015. An electronic file for use in collections management systems will be made available so that software companies can update their lexicons. Work is also currently in progress to create a free, online version that would be available sometime after the book is released.

For updates on Nomenclature or to submit a change for a future edition, check out the Nomenclature Task Force website at  http://community.aaslh.org/nomenclature/ and for great articles and cataloging tips, select the blog "The Way We Word".    


Sarah Kapellusch is the Registrar at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin. She has a MA in Public History and Museum Studies and a BA in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She serves as the Vice President of the Wisconsin Federation of Museums and is a task force member for the American Association for State and Local History's Nomenclature Committee. Sarah's experiences include museum collection administration and management, metadata, PastPerfect and database management, Nomenclature 3.0, collection moves and museum start-up projects.  


Sarah also teaches our MS214 Collections Management Databases course. 

Small Museum Pro!

Leadership and Administration in History Organizations - Online Course

January 26 - March 20, 2015


This course proposes that museum administration and leadership matter, regardless the size or focus of your organization. Topics include governance and administrative structure, nonprofit status, mission and vision, board and staff responsibilities, the relationship between board and staff, strategic planning, human resource management, and leadership. In addition to weekly reading and assignments, participants will have the opportunity to create a Board Member Orientation Packet/Handbook for board member training at your organization or prepare a written reflection on what constitutes effective museum leadership.    

For more information go to http://resource.aaslh.org/view/leadershiponlinecourse/ 

February 2015 Courses


MS 107: Introduction to Museum Security

Rescheduled to February 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor:  Stevan Layne


World events continually remind us just how important security is. The FBI and Interpol databases record thefts from small rural museums and world renowned art collections. The prevalence of collections lost to theft is brought home to us with regular sensational newspaper stories. And then there are the internal thefts, fires, and collection vandalism that also result in loss. Security must be a priority for every museum, regardless of size. Introduction to Security teaches basic, practical approaches to protecting against threats such as theft, vandalism, violent acts, natural disasters, fire and environmental hazards. Topics include selecting security systems, determining security needs and how to build affordable security systems. Screening, hiring, firing, workplace violence, policies and procedures and emergency management planning are covered as well.


MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects

February 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor:  Helen Alten


Applying Numbers to Collection Objects covers the materials and methods of object numbering: registration, handling, labeling and marking, number placement, documentation, health and safety, transponders and barcodes, surface marks, inks, paints and barrier coats. Each participant receives a Northern States Conservation Center collections labeling kit and performs experiments using its contents. Participants learn to determine what pen, ink, barrier coat or tag is appropriate for each object and storage or display situation.


MS 214: Collections Management Databases

February 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor: Sarah Kapellusch


A collection database is a necessary tool for accurate and efficient collections management. In Collection Management Databases you will learn what characteristics distinguish one database system from another; how a database can be used to manage inventory, conservation, pest management, and other aspects of collections management; as well as how to prepare your collection and documentation for entry into a database.


MS 227: Care of Paintings

February 2 to March 13, 2015

Instructor: Victoria Montana Ryan


Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.


MS 236: Education in Museums

February 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor:  Karin Hostetter


The world of museum education is as varied as the imagination. From school field trips to online blogs, from 2-year-olds to senior citizens, and from formal programs to volunteering, it is all part of the educational delivery system of a museum. In Education in Museums, survey the education programs offered at your site. Determine what exhibits and collections need better representation through education. Develop a long term plan of education program development for your site that you can use to improve services to your community.


MS 238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts

February 2 to March 13, 2015

Instructor: Tom Bennett


Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mountmaking for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.


MS 254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums

February 2 to 27, 2015  

Instructor: Karl Hoerig


Retail stores play central roles in museum operations. Most museum managers and their boards or tribal councils recognize stores' revenue potential. But stores can also help serve the museum's educational mission, support perpetuation and revitalization of traditional arts, and impact audiences beyond the museum's doors. Utilizing expert perspectives and examples from diverse museum stores this course will explain why a museum store should not be just a "gift shop" and will present guidance on inventory management, buying and pricing, retail display, staff training and other administrative issues faced by museum store managers.


MS 302: Fundraising and Grant Writing

February 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor: Helen Alten


Strapped for cash? Can't see how you can implement collections preservation ideas when you can't pay the light bill? This workshop introduces funding options for a range of collections care needs. The class combines lecture and practicum sessions. Students will learn about different forms of fund raising, how to find funding sources for their institution, how to write successful proposals and how to build on success. Each student will complete a draft grant request before the end of the class.


MS 002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared?

February 16 to 20, 2015         

Instructor: Terri Schindel


Disaster planning is overwhelming. Where do you start? Talk to Terri about how to get going. Use her checklist to determine your level of preparedness. What do you already have in place? Are you somewhat prepared? What can you do next? Help clarify your current state of readiness and develop future steps to improve it.

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


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager