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Building the Commons for Balboa Park

I just submitted a 1-year Interim report to the Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS) on the National Leadership Grant we received for the Presenting Balboa Park project. We recieved funding to create an online commons to house the diverse and endlessly interesting archives and collections of the Balboa Park cultural institutions. Many of these collections are newly digitized and have not been accessible to the general public. I am chomping at the bit to see how people use these collections, make connections across the collections, as well as connections to their own lives. We have 27 partners and hope to show as many of their collections as possible.  It will be a site for everyone but we are working closely with San Diego educators and students, and want them to use the commons as a digital resource for learning.

This experience map illustrates the user experience and core philosophy of the site. 

But we have to build it first, and that is exactly what we are doing. While I was writing the report, a few things sunk in, one – we have gotten a lot done in just one year, and two - we have built up some pretty fantastic partnerships to get the job done.  BPOC is actively working with our museum partners on a continuing effort to digitize collections and install a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) that will be a repository for the online commons. We are constantly working with our partners on many of the efforts to build the infrastructure to support the commons, and we hold meetings every other month to report out to them, answer questions and deal with the complex issues that always come up when we build new online tools.

I have been lucky to work on many interesting museum technology projects over the years, as a project manager and producer of websites and digital media tools. But this project really takes the cake, it is a synthesis of all the efforts and current thought process for putting collections online, working efficiently and effectively with the resource limitations and landscape within the cultural heritage sector.

One area of this work that I am passionate about is the intersection of really good audience focused design with robust and thoughtful software development. Really, this is what it is all about, having these components come together at all stages of the production process. 

To this end, we kicked off the project with a series of focus groups that have informed all stages of the production process, including the wireframes and designs created by Seso, an LA interactive media firm.  On the software side, we partnered with Piction, an Australian based software company that has a lot of experience building DAMS and web services for the non-profit arena.  We are using their DAMS API to build the tool, and this work is being done collaboratively with BPOC’s own developers Chris Borkowski and Bill Bostick.

Design mock-up for the Balboa Park Commons

I can write about this forever, but you can read more about the project on the BPOC website.

And let me know if you have any questions about the project, and for those of you who work in museum technology – I will be presenting on the project at the upcoming MCN conference in Atlanta on Saturday, November 19th at 2pm. It would be great to see you there.