Technology and Topiaries

This week marked our final site visit of the project with a trip to Hampton National Historic Site, a former plantation outside Baltimore, Maryland. A huge thank you to Brooke, John, and Paul for being such helpful hosts! Comparing our partner sites highlights park diversity, and Hampton provides a unique example as the landscape ranges from open meadow to highly designed formal gardens.Maintenance planning and tracking can be challenging here because the landscape varies so broadly. Additionally, the landscape narrative tells the life stories of the expansive Ridgely family as well as those of hundreds of slaves, and preserving all this information in concert informs both how the landscape is preserved and how visitors experience it.

During our visit, we had a chance to delve more deeply into the National Park Service’s internal facilities management software system (FMSS) and discuss how it could be customized to address living collections management needs. Parks are required to use FMSS to track assets, from houses to vegetation, and determine maintenance needs which in turn determine funding allocations. We had a great talk with Brooke and John about how they are currently using FMSS, and considering how to optimize their portal using existing landscape data resources such as GIS data and information from the Cultural Landscape Report. Because FMSS is internal and only accessible on desktop, we also had a constructive discussion about how tablet GIS technology could improve record keeping in the field while improving data entry in FMSS.

Our second day at Hampton we had the opportunity to visit a former NPS gardener who is now part of the team at Ladew Topiary Gardens. Another huge thank you to Amanda for her wonderful technology tour! Amanda was a wonderful resource because she has experience with FMSS and is now using IrisBG with Ladew. We had a great opportunity to talk about how an external database could potentially interact with FMSS, and the benefit of a system that can expand on functionalities that FMSS isn’t intended for, such as storing cultural histories and creating interpretive material for visitors and researchers. We ended our trip with a tour of Ladew, which was a magical garden even in the crushing heat. I’m certainly rethinking the aesthetic appeal of my garden at home now!

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