With the majority of our site visits and conversations with arboreta and public garden professionals behind us, the last two weeks have been writing, reading, and more writing. One of the hardest parts of this project is figuring out how to share three months of research and input in a way that is comprehensive yet clear. Luckily for us, there’s a lot of remarkable literature about living collections that already exists as a road map. Publications like the Botanic Gardens Conservation International’s (BGCI) “From Idea to Realization: Manual on Planning, Developing and Managing Botanic Gardens,” and The Alliance for Public Gardens GIS’s “Guide to GIS for Public Gardens: Botanical Gardens, Zoos, and Parks,” are not only great content resources, but provide a wonderful style influence for creating helpful, accessible documents.
From my past experiences with collections databases as well as our current research, I’ve come to understand that clear explanations and training guides are often the crux of a good database. Just like understanding the mechanics that make a machine work can make it easier to operate, understanding the concepts and relationships behind computer programs can make them easier to use and maintain. Powerful programs can be of little help if no one understands how to use them. A big part of the learning curve evaluation for the various systems has been holistic – considering not just how easy the system is to navigate, but what kind of in person, video, and written training exists and how easy those materials are to understand. For us, however, the first step is making sure the white paper follows this same concept for accessibility and clarity.