The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.
Things are changing fast. Last week, we published a blog post on the state’s three-step process to wind down many of the public health measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Within a matter of hours, the state announced major changes regarding the uses of face-coverings that made some of that information out-of-date.
The big change happened with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announcement. They adjusted their recommendations to advise that fully-vaccinated people do not need to wear face-coverings in many situations.
So what are the changes and how do they affect historic sites and museums? The three-step process is largely intact with the obvious exception of what it had said about the mask mandate expiring when the vaccination rate reached 70% or on July 1, regardless of the vaccination rate.
According to Executive Order 21-23, face-covering requirements in most situations have been lifted. People who are not vaccinated are “strongly encouraged” to wear a face-covering until they are fully vaccinated.
It’s important to know that the executive order does not prevent political subdivisions (like cities and counties) from placing restrictions within their jurisdictions that are more strict than the executive order. It also states that nothing prevents “businesses and other private entities… from implementing otherwise lawful policies or rules related to the conduct of their employees… or customers— including lawful face-covering requirements.”
In other words, be aware of what your local orders are and a museum can require face-coverings with its own policies.
EDIT: Shortly after this post was publsihed the State of Minnesota issued updated guidelines and a new Executive Order. Check out the new blog post with updated information here.
It’s been quite an experience for Minnesota’s local history community as executive orders have placed significant restrictions on businesses and nonprofits in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first week of May, Governor Tim Walz announced more dialing back of the restrictions with a path towards the end of many requirements.
Stay Safe MN announced a three-step plan to wind down the restrictions for indoor events and entertainment, which is how museums are classified in the state’s recommendations.
Step One (Began on May 7)
- Museums are required to have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
- Venues may open at 50% capacity, but must limit space between individual parties to six feet or more.
- Limits on outdoor activities with less than 500 people are lifted.
- Screening of employees is still required.
Step Two (Beginning May 28)
- State requirements for physical distancing expire.
- Face coverings are still required indoors and outdoors events larger than 500 people.
- Screening of employees is still required.
Step Three (Beginning July 1 or when the statewide vaccination rate reaches 70%)
- The indoor face covering mandate expires.
- No additional information or clarification at this time if a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan will be required.
- Cities, counties, school districts, and businesses may impose additional requirements. This may be expected to happen as the pandemic is not over with.
I recently had an interesting question sent to my inbox about the safety of uranium-containing glass in a museum collection.
“So, I read The Radium Girls and had watched that webinar on hazards in museum collections. Yep, I put two and two together and bought a black light flashlight. Snapped these pictures and wondered, is it safe to keep them on display or any precautions?”
Uranium glass fluoresces bright green under ultraviolet light. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Marshall, Lake of the Woods Historical Society.
Here was my response:
Great question, and love the black light photos! (As an extra safety precaution on top of everything else, I recommend wearing UV-protecting eyewear when using a blacklight – polycarbonate safety glasses are one good option). These objects are really cool and I bet people would love to learn more about them.
The only real way to know how much precaution to take with any radioactive artifact is to measure the radiation coming off it using a Geiger counter. You might be able to partner with local health & safety officials to test the radioactivity of the glass. I don’t know if you’ve used a Geiger counter before, but it’s totally non-invasive, non-destructive testing.
Radiation is considered in “doses”, as in – how much radiation per year can I safely be exposed to? You can take one 'big' dose of radiation once per year and be safe, or you can get small exposures to radiation more frequently, and be at the same risk level. The risk is much less for a visitor who comes in occasionally and doesn’t spend all that much time near the radioactive glass compared to a collections worker who is working directly with these objects every day.
One way to mitigate risk is to limit the amount of time you spend with a radioactive object. Other ways to mitigate risk are to increase distance and barriers between you and the objects – good practice would be to always handle this glassware while wearing nitrile gloves; and to display it behind glass in a display case rather than on open display.
The good news is that the amount of uranium in glassware (or Fiestaware) is quite low – often as low as 0.5% of the weight of the object. They don’t emit much radiation. So it’s safe to have these kinds of objects in museum collections, although I recommend taking precautions like those I mentioned above.
For those who want to do more research, these are all great resources:
Image by Tamsin Himes
National Register help: Property Evaluation Grant
Listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) is a prestigious designation that can have many benefits, including opening doors to funding opportunities for historic building preservation. The nomination is an involved process. We at the Minnesota Historical Society can help with pointers and funding to complete the documentation, but the process itself is carried out by the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Parks Service (NPS). Before anything else, be sure to contact SHPO to fully understand the listing process.
Contact SHPO So, your organization has in its ownership a beautiful property that you believe has local/state/national significance and you want to find out how to apply to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Your first point of contact should be the State Historic Preservation Office. SHPO will give you all the information you need about the nomination process and how to get started.
Eligibility: property evaluation SHPO will likely tell you, among other things, that a property evaluation should be completed to determine if the property is eligible for listing. This is where the Legacy Grant program comes in. There is a Structured Grant available specifically for property evaluation, which results in an official SHPO opinion on the eligibility of the property: “This structured application provides funding to conduct an evaluation of a property for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Properties listed in the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.” (Grants Manual, p. 91)
Grant Application Applicants can apply for this Structured Grant via the same platform as all other Legacy Grants. In order to be eligible for this grant your organization must fall under one of four categories: 1) nonprofit 501c3 organizations 2) units of state or local government 3) federally recognized tribal organizations, and 4) educational institutions. If your organization falls under one of these, then your next step is to visit this page for information about requesting an account on our grants portal. After being approved for an account, you will have access to the required paperwork and forms to begin the application process.
When can I apply? The Property Evaluation Structured Grant is a small grant ($10,000 and under), so there are four opportunities a year to apply. Visit this page for deadline information.
Who do I contact with questions? If you have questions about the National Register listing process, contact the SHPO here. Any questions? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (or our colleagues at email@example.com).
Why should I create a username for my Facebook Page?
Your username (aka page URL) is the link or address for your Facebook page. It is what shows up beneath your page name and in the address bar of your internet browser. It is to help people find and remember your Page. Ideally it should be a name that clearly says who your organization is.
Reasons for choosing a @username.
- A well-formed @username allows people to search and find you and your organization easily without a lot of hunting around.
- Having a @username makes it really easy for people to tag you in their posts and link to your Facebook page.
- Lastly having a good @username will help your organization rank better in searches.
Don’t ignore this step. Having an appropriate @username for your page can make the difference between people finding your organization or not.
You want people to easily be able to search for your organization and using an obvious, straightforward name is one of the best ways to do that.
What to avoid naming your page:
- @acme1858History - A name like that looks more like a weak password since no one will know it or remember it.
- @HistoryIsFun - While history may be fun no one will associate the name with your organization unless your organization's name actually is "History Is Fun"
- @AcmeCoHisSo - You get nothing out of abbreviating this way. No Search engine can find it and no one will ever remember it. You would be better off writing out the full name of your organization.
- @AcmeCountyHistoricalSocietyMN - This actually is a good name to avoid confusion if your organization's name is very common like "Washington" or "Jefferson", "Franklin" or "Jackson" the four most popular county names. But if your organization's name is "Kandiyohi County Historical Society" it is a very safe bet you don't need to add the suffix "MN" to your name.
How do I create a username for my Facebook Page?
1. Click Create Page @Username below your Page's name.
2. Enter a username, then click outside of the composer.
FYI: Creating upper and lower case letters in your name (also called camel case) will help visually with your name.
However, for Facebook accounts, upper or lower case in the URL does not matter. Someone typing in "AcmeCountyHistory" or "acmecountyhistory" both are recognized.
3. If the username is available, click Create Username and you're done!
Image by Tamsin Himes
National Register Nomination: Why Get Listed?
Applying for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) can be a long process that often requires a significant amount of work and resources. Is it worth it? The short answer is that it depends on the building and its situation -- ownership, purpose, use, etc. But there are important benefits that can come with being listed. The purpose of this blog post is to highlight some of the benefits of being in the National Register and to give pointers for how to get started on the process of applying for nomination.
Funding. If you are at all involved with a historic building or historic preservation efforts, you know that funding is both scarce and essential, especially in the beginning stages of “saving” a historic building. Being listed in the National Register opens up opportunities for funding that otherwise would not be available, including the opportunity to apply for Legacy Grant funds. (Note: National Register listing is one of the requirements for eligibility for Legacy funds. Please see our website or Grants Manual for additional information and requirements.)
History. The National Register nomination process requires extensive research into a property’s history, design, physical features, condition, and its use by the community over time. This is invaluable information that will be an asset to your community and organization for purposes beyond designation. History from these documents is often used for walking tours, interpretation, tourism brochures, etc.
Prestige. Let’s be honest -- it makes a difference to the community or in the public eye if a property has been formally acknowledged to be historically significant. In some cases that can make all the difference between success and failure in preservation efforts. As a listed building, it may be easier to convince skeptics that the property is an important resource and asset to the community.
Preservation planning. Along with research that benefits your community/organization, the information about your property, gained through the nomination application process, can be an invaluable resource when working to improve the longevity of the building by informing future preservation work.
These are just a few of the benefits of listing in the National Register. So, is it worth it? In many, many cases it is. And we can help you get started! Check out this blog post for information about how we can help.
Any questions? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (or our colleagues at email@example.com). If you have questions specifically about the National Register listing process, contact the SHPO here.
Museums becoming more climate-friendly is increasingly important in the field, because the effects of climate change pose a huge threat to collections. It may seem counterintuitive to pair collections care with environmentalism, but when it comes to museum lighting they really go hand in hand. Almost every action you take to reduce energy consumption from lighting will also help you to preserve the light-sensitive items in your collection. On top of that, any action you take that results in lower electricity bills means more money you can spend on other aspects of collections care, like archival boxes and padded hangers!
I recently attended an interesting webinar about environmental sustainability and museum lighting presented by David Saunders and hosted by the Icon Environmental Sustainability Network. He said that although the biggest energy consumer in most museums is the HVAC system, museum lighting represents a sizable chunk of electricity use. In his talk, David Saunders broke down sustainable museum lighting into five actions.
- Switch to LEDs
- Increased use of daylight
- Reduce light levels
- Shorter display times
- Better time management
From left to right: incandescent, fluorescent, and LED light bulbs. Photo by Megan Narvey.
Switch to LEDs
Switching to LEDs has an immediate impact on electricity consumption because they are by far the most energy efficient type of light bulb; in large part because they are so efficient at converting electricity into light rather than heat (cough cough incandescents). Because LEDs have a longer life than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, there is also a reduction in the use of raw materials.
LED lights emit little to no UV light, which is a huge benefit for the preservation of light-sensitive collections. So LEDs are a great lighting choice for many reasons: energy efficiency, lower long-term financial burden, less maintenance, and they’re better for collections.
Increased use of daylight
This option might surprise many museum professionals! The argument here is that daylight is a free energy source, so it is completely environmentally friendly. The problem is that it’s difficult to control. The brightness, color, and direction of daylight varies depending on the time of day, the time of year, and clouds!
Direct sunlight will quickly damage light sensitive objects, even with UV filtration. Therefore, you need control systems like shades, blinds, curtains or baffles; and you might need to change their position throughout the day. A really cool solution to this problem is the use of electrochromic glass (also known as “smart glass”), which darkens or clears automatically depending on the amount of sunlight hitting it.
Reduce light levels
It’s important to limit the amount of light in museum display areas because light can damage many types of collection items. Lower light levels also benefit the environment! But there is only so much you can do to lower light levels before your collection becomes inaccessible because you can’t see it. It’s possible to create a space with very low light levels that is still functional - for example by featuring individual objects with spotlights.
The use of dimmer switches is a simple way to increase your control over light levels. The sweet spot between preservation and visibility is 50 lux for highly light sensitive materials, and 200 lux for moderately light sensitive materials. Lux is a unit for measuring the amount of light in a square meter, and can be quantified using a light meter like this.
Shorter display times
One way to achieve shorter display times that will benefit both the collection and the environment, without resulting in reduced access, is to use manual, timed or automated lights that respond to visitors. You can install proximity sensors that turn on the lights in an area when they sense movement, ensuring that the lights are off when nobody is in the room. Shorter display times can also be accomplished with an object case where the visitor presses a button to activate lights to view the contents for a set period of time.
Better time management
The final option can best be summed up by the old joke about dads running around the house turning off all the lights in unoccupied rooms. Ensuring that you turn the lights off in storage when you’re not working there, and turning the lights off when the museum is closed, can have a big impact.
If you’re interested in learning more about environmental sustainability in museums, check out these organizations:
Museums and Climate Change Network
AAM - Environmental Sustainability
Sustainability in Conservation
Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice
Learn more about light as an agent of deterioration at the Canadian Conservation Institute.
To see more of David Saunders' work on museum lighting:
Podcast: David Saunders on Museum Conservation and Lighting
Book: Museum Lighting - A Guide for Conservators and Curators
Note: this blog post is an adaption of the solution provided by SpotImaging.
Microfilm reader/scanner manufacturers discontinued using Firewire back as late as 2013 going forward with USB ports instead. This has begun to leave users of these old Microfilm reader/scanner machines with obsolete machines that are less than 10 years old.
Unfortunately, microfilm reader manufactures have been less than responsive with a solution to update their machines with some sales teams instead recommending complete replacement with a new and expensive machine.
While Microsoft has officially discontinued support for Firewire (IEEE1394) with the introduction of Windows 10 OS, there is a workaround.
It involves installing the legacy FireWire drivers into the Windows 10 OS.
The procedure and links to the legacy drivers are provided below for your convenience.
The Fix for Windows 8 and 8.1 and for Windows 10
In Windows 8 and 8.1, plus Windows 10, Microsoft left out the Legacy driver. Just go to this page on the Microsoft Support page and download the Legacy driver. Then follow the installing directions on that same support page.
If you are running Windows 10, you will need to use the Windows 8/8.1 Legacy driver. So follow the same steps as for Windows 8/8.1.
Then Reboot your computer.
You will now be able to import video via the FireWire port on your computer.
If you are still having a problem after you have switched the FireWire driver to Legacy, then the problem may be with the FireWire port.
The fix is simple:
- Install a FireWire card into one of the open slots in the computer
- Using the instructions above, set the drive to Legacy.
- Reboot the computer.
- Then connect the FireWire cable from the video camera, into the new FireWire port that you just added.
Note: If you’re having a problem getting the FireWire port working on a Dell XPS 8100 or on a Gateway computer with the drivers from above. Get the driver.
If you have a Dell or a Gateway computer and the above fix doesn't work for you, then you might want to try the above link.
This fixes the problem most of the time. FireWire cards are not expensive; they run from $10 and up, depending on any extra features the card may have.
NOTE: Sometimes when Microsoft has issued certain updates, it can cause Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 to switch back to use the original 1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller driver. If you notice the FireWire device is transferring slowly or
not working, then just repeat the above steps and reinstall the Legacy driver.
Solution page to Win 8.1 & 10 OS support of Firewire cards:
3rd Party Work Procedure for Legacy FW Driver Install-WIN 10 OS
Collections Management Systems vs. Digital Asset Management Systems vs. Digital Preservation Systems
The following is a guest post by MNHS Digital Archivist Sarah Barsness.
When it comes to creating and managing information about your collections, there are so many acronyms, software choices, and overlapping functionality that it can be difficult to know where to begin. There are three main types of systems you need to know about: collections management systems, digital asset management systems, and digital preservation systems. Some tools can do double- or even triple- duty, but each type of system can help you do a specific job.
Collections Management Systems are sneaky -- if you try to google “CMS,” you’ll also find customer and content management systems, which do very different tasks than what you need! CMSs for libraries, archives, and museums, are built specifically to create, manage, and share information about your collections, but they usually don’t store digital copies of your collections themselves. Most CMSs specialize in specific types of collections, such as museum object collections, library collections, or archives. No matter the CMS, the goal is the same: create, organize, store, and share information about collections.
Digital Asset Management Systems, or DAMS, are almost the opposite of CMSs -- they store digital copies of your stuff, but are generally less robust when it comes to description and metadata. Like CMSs, different products are often geared towards different use cases or different types of content. One important thing to know about DAMS is that most function at the item level -- this works great if your collections are objects, but can be a problem if you have multipart collections (particularly common in archives). Either way, a DAMS will help store your digital items, provide some level of information about them, and aid others in finding the digital item they want to see.
Finally, there are Digital Preservation Systems, often described as a digital archive or digital repository. The goal of these systems is to manage your digital items on a technological level to make sure they’re accessible in the long term. Functionality of these systems varies greatly and many tools are designed to do a single task, necessitating the use of several tools to create a system yourself. Tools can check the integrity of each file in the system, help with backups, and even help migrate files to more stable preservation formats.
If you’re thinking about getting any one of these systems for your institution, it can be difficult to know where to start, but a few key considerations can help you narrow down your options:
- What is my budget?
- What is my level of IT knowledge/support?
- How much time do I have to set up and customize a system?
- What kinds of collections do I need to describe and/or share?
- What kinds of information do I want to capture about my collections?
- What functionality is most important to me? What is least important?
Need more help or have questions about what might work best for you? The MNHS Digital Archivist Sarah Barsness is available to help! You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
All of us involved in heritage preservation are familiar with the mammoth amounts of effort and funding/resources required to keep a building or heritage asset in good condition, safe, and relevant. Finding these funding resources also can be a massive undertaking and it can often be confusing to know where to start in your search for grants and financial support. The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants (MHCHG) program – commonly known as the Legacy Grant program – is an incredible resource available for eligible organizations and projects here in Minnesota, and it’s a great place to start. But there are other resources out there that can also be valuable assets in your efforts to preserve history and heritage, and may sometimes be a better fit for your project or organization.
This blog post lists some of those additional grants and resources. Most of these are directed specifically toward building preservation, but some are also available for a broader range of preservation projects such as interpretation, digitization, research, and collection conservation.
You may notice that all of the grant programs below are specific to certain organizations or groups, and you might be wondering “What about private owners of historic buildings or historic private residences?”
This is tricky and there aren’t many (if any) grant programs that will fund preservation work on private residences -- even if the building is on the National Register. Normally grant programs have stipulations in place that require a degree of public benefit from the project that is funded by grant money. If you are looking for resources for a privately owned building, you may be more successful in researching tax credits/incentives and low-interest loans available for preservation work. This article has some good advice for privately-owned preservation projects.
National Trust for Historic Preservation “Grants from National Trust Preservation Funds (NTPF) are intended to encourage preservation at the local level by supporting on-going preservation work and by providing seed money for preservation projects. These grants help stimulate public discussion, enable local groups to gain the technical expertise needed for preservation projects, introduce the public to preservation concepts and techniques, and encourage financial participation by the private sector.” National Trust grant applications are available for eligible parties which include public entities, 501c3 organizations, and other non-profit organizations.
Certified Local Government Grants “Certified Local Governments may use these federal matching grants for local preservation projects. Funding comes from the Historic Preservation Fund, appropriated annually by the U.S. Congress; federal regulations require that the SHPO distribute to CLGs at least 10 percent of its allocation each year.” This grant through the State Historic Preservation Office does not fund construction/bricks and mortar projects but could be an ideal funding source for pre-construction work such as building reuse plans or historic preservation plans. As the name suggests, these grants are intended specifically for local government organizations. Find grant information here.
Save America’s Treasures Grants “SAT funds the preservation, rehabilitation, and conservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections. Eligible properties must be either currently: 1) individually listed as a National Historic Landmark or be a contributing property within a National Historic Landmark district, or 2) individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places for national significance (properties listed at the state or local significance are not eligible) or be a contributing property within a nationally significant National Register Historic District. Properties include buildings, sites, structures, and objects.” Find grant information here.
State Capital Projects Grants-in-Aid Eligible projects are publicly owned buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. “The work must meet the following conditions: 1) the expenditure funded must be for a public purpose; 2) the project expenditures funded must be for land, buildings, or other improvements of a capital nature; 3) the work must fall within one of the prescribed categories; 4) the project must correspond with the purpose for which funding was issued, as set forth in the bill citation on page one (Laws of Minnesota, 2014, Chapter 295, Section 12); and 5) the work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.” Find more grant information here.
History of Equal Rights Grants “Funded through the Historic Preservation Fund, the History of Equal Rights grant program preserves sites related to the struggle of all people to achieve equal rights in America. The History of Equal Rights grants are not limited to any specific group and are intended to include the broadest possible interpretation of sites associated with efforts to achieve equal rights.” This is a yearly grant with an application deadline in December. Eligible parties include states, government entities, non-profits, and federally recognized tribes. Buidlings must also be on the National Register of Historic Places. Find grant information here.
African American Civil Rights Grants “The African American Civil Rights Grant Program (Civil Rights Grants) documents, interprets, and preserves sites and stories related to the African American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens.” This grant program has one grant round a year, normally in late fall, and is open to a broad range of preservation projects, not just historic building preservation. Find more grant information here.
Daughters of the American Revolution This may be a long shot, but if you happen to be a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, this grant is a great opportunity. “The DAR Historic Preservation Grants provide financial assistance for projects that preserve historic resources, sites, and other history-related projects. Examples include restoration of historic buildings; digitization or preservation of documents/records; preservation of historical items/artifacts; erection of new or rededication/relocation of existing historical markers; cemetery headstone and monument conservation, etc.” Find grant information here.
Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants Program “The Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants Program is a new Historic Preservation Fund grant program created in fiscal year 2018 that supports subgrant programs that enable the rehabilitation of historic properties and rehabilitate, protect, and foster economic development of rural communities.” While this grant program is not accepting applications at the moment, it may be a good one to keep an eye on in the future. Find grant information here.
Jeffris Family Foundation “The Jeffris Family Foundation assists the development of historic sites for non-profit organizations in small towns and cities in the eight states of the Midwest: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.” More information about eligibility and grant application deadlines can be found here.
This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully, it’s helpful as a starting point for researching opportunities for your organization and historic asset. Any questions? Shoot us an email at email@example.com (or our colleagues at firstname.lastname@example.org).