I work for a park system (5 parks total) that has the not-so-bad problem of having an excess of interpretive content. We have oral interviews, an extensive naturalist report of 'special places' within the parks, and history at our disposal. Currently, the information is spread across documents, digital/print formats, and offices, therefore not the most useful or easy to reference. I am updating the original interpretive plan, written before the parks were completed, and am seeking advice on organizing this interpretive content so it is useful for the future. Currently, I am organizing the information by park, divided into the subcategories of cultural, biological, and physical landscapes.
Any advice, anecdotes, experiences, or examples are much appreciated!
That's a good bit of work right there!
Is your goal to organize for internal reference, for public consumption, or both?
It sounds like some form of a Digital Asset Management system would be best for the former (and possibly the latter). While some specialize in certain types of media (photography, etc.) there are quite a few that handle just about anything.
We started researching DAMs for photography a while back, but it was deprioritized. I'll try to find my notes from that work and see if anything's worth revisiting.
Also, there are open source DAMs out there, but I don't have direct experience with any of them.
This is Chris Brusatte, an Interpretive Planner for Taylor Studios (an exhibit design firm), and we work with a lot of parks who have this same problem! Rest assured, it is a much better "problem" than another one that we often see - that of not having any archived information, interpretive content, etc. It is always a lot of work to organize content, but it is always better to have this rich content than to not have it! It sounds like your parks are blessed with such remarkable content, simply needing to be organized in order to be utilized.
It is never easy to organize and it often is so time-consuming, so I don't envy you at all! But you are already in the right mindset - the first thing that you have to do is set up a plan of how you will organize the content. This is so important, and so many places "jump into" organizing before they have their plan of how to organize. All that that does is waste time and duplicate work. So you are already on the right track knowing that you first have to plan how to organize the content and resources.
I like your idea of organizing your resources by park, which I think is probably the highest "level" to organize things by. Especially if your parks are pretty independent and have individual identities, it is definitely important to separate/organize content by each individual park. Next, perhaps, I would suggest thinking about a "central theme" that your park system exists for. Do you exist to preserve nature? To offer outdoor recreation? A combination of both? Something else entirely? Think about why your parks exist, and come up with a sentence or two about this "central theme." This will then help you when you are organizing your docs. For example, if your "central theme" and main reason for existing is the preservation of nature, then you might start organizing material by subtopics such as "material relating to certain habitats," "material relating to certain endangered species," "material relating to management practices that enable preservation," etc. These subtopics can be the main "buckets" that you organize content by. Rather than organizing by resource type (e.g. paper docs, AV materials, photographs, academic studies, etc.), I would suggest organizing by theme / subtopics.
I don't know if this even helped, but it is what we usually tell our clients - if they know their "central theme" and main purposes for existing, they can begin to realize what docs are most important to preserve, what materials they need to keep closest at hand, how to best organize, etc.
Chris Brusatte (and Betty Brennan)
Some great advice has already been shared here. The only consideration I would add is to also think about who your main users will be for this information and how they might want to access it. Will researchers/users begin with each park as a starting point or are there categories across parks that might make as much or more sense? I wonder this in particular if the parks to which you refer are the string of parks that comprise The Parklands of Floyds Fork. Small world moment: I wrote the interpretive master plan for your organization when I was working at Hilferty Museum Planning & Exhibition Design some years ago! So thinking about how those parks came together, some cross-park themes or categories might also be useful.
These are wonderful suggestions, thank you all! I was not aware of Digital Asset Management software, and that sounds like exactly what we need at The Parklands. Thank you Ty, for bringing this to my attention! Right now I am organizing for internal use, so that creating signage, programming, interpretive hikes, etc. will be a more streamlined process for our education team. Chris and Betty, identifying themes is much-needed advice, and something that surprised me with how challenging it can be - your post is a great reference to keep myself on track.
This is in fact The Parklands of Floyds Fork, Sara! The Hilferty plan provided such a solid foundation for us, and as a newer employee it's so much fun to see what elements have transformed and what elements hold true today. There are definitely themes that cross between parks, which is something to take into consideration when organizing information.
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