Lost in Balboa Park is an ambitious and transformative initiative that looks to 2020 as the year when its concepts, philosophy, and frameworks are fully realized, implemented, and operationalized. An initiative of this scale will require substantial support: staffing, equipment and, of course, the funding that will make it all possible.
Roadmap to 2020
BPOC has developed a roadmap to 2020 that outlines its six remaining phases:
- Planning: June 1st, 2015 – December 31st, 2015
- Preparation: January 1st, 2016 – June 30th, 2016
- Pilot: July 1st, 2016 – June 30th, 2017
- Phase I: July 1st, 2017 – June 30th, 2018
- Phase II: July 1st, 2018 – June 30th, 2019
- Phase III: July 1st, 2019 – June 30th, 2020
Each phase includes the continued audit of Balboa Park assets, data, content, and management systems; review, selection, and implementation of open source and commercial technology and data standards and formats; digital design and development; physical design and development; technology and data management; and outreach and collaboration with partner institutions and funders. Once these phases are complete, the goal is to have a far-reaching and sustainable framework in place that ensures Lost in Balboa Park’s lasting success.
Sustaining and expanding the digital initiatives across Balboa Park will require coordination and support from BPOC and all the Park institutions. The project management approach balances the following responsibilities:
Ecosystem/technology management: Collective data and infrastructure managed by BPOC, with advice and collaboration from the Balboa Park institutions, other cultural heritage institutions, outside consultants and vendors.
Content and data creation/maintenance: Subject expertise, curatorial decision-making, and data management/linking of each institution’s data can be managed by each individual institution, supported and advised by the BPOC team.
Legacy system management: Existing systems can be managed by the individual institutions. BPOC will advise on how they connect to services in the translation and integration layer of the architecture.
Application development: Once the ecosystem is in place and data from one or more institutions become available, it is possible for many different types of applications to be created. BPOC will lead this effort and provide advice and support to others. Individual institutions that have technical capabilities and interests can build applications that use the data services. Contractors can also be involved in building applications. Finally, the public—in particular, the San Diego technology community—can use the available public data services, building bridges with Balboa Park and increasing its reach and influence.
To achieve these goals, BPOC needs to hire experienced, highly qualified staff and consultants that have expertise in the areas of systems architecture, database development, web development, information management, digital humanities, digitization, photography, metadata, UX design, project and resource management, education, videography, registration and cataloging, and editorial. Depending on the need, staffing expertise may be applied to centralized functions or distributed out to the institutions to leverage the economy of scale.
The team structures that will help support institutional contributions and learning include:
Data Ingest Team(s): Each institution knows the value and character of its own data. However, their responsibilities within their institutions might mean they don’t have sufficient time to expose that data. This central BPOC “rapid support team” will help scope the dataset of interest; digitize the content; identify the facts, vocabularies and connections within the data; transform the data into a format suitable for integration; and modify/build a software tool to transfer the data for integration into the larger whole. Each team would consist of a developer and an archivist paired with a subject matter expert from the target institution. They would tackle an institution-specific project, ideally within six months. This team would not be a permanent addition to an institution, but a rapid task force that rotates throughout the institutions.
App Team(s): This team (or teams) is responsible for providing visitor experiences or internal capabilities, as well as new API endpoints. Each rapid application team would consist of a front-end developer, a back-end developer, and a designer. They would work with a single client from an institution that requires that capability. Working within a six-month period, their goal would be to develop a persistent, shareable experience and to capture lessons learned for other institutions/projects.
Core Team: Both the App team and the Ingest team teams are by design transient, project-based teams that support different institutions at different times. The Core Team, in contrast, is the team that drives the initiative and supports all other teams. Their job is to provide guidance, to enforce standards, to document best practices, and to create and refine the Ecosystem. In the initial phases of this initiative, it is essential not only to develop technology, but to support and document it. Half of this team will be developer-based and the other half is designed around documentation and support.
The developer group includes a project lead: the individual dedicated to both providing the vision, developing the architecture, and resolving disputes. The team needs a Devops Developer, who leads building/maintaining the software tools and frameworks. It also needs a Tool Developer, who leads creation of the specialized software tools that an initiative like this inevitably identifies.
The support group includes a technical writer(s) to capture and translate the decisions, technologies, and lessons of the project into instructions and guidelines that others can use. It needs a lead archivist/librarian/taxonomist, who is responsible for making sure that the classifications that the system uses are consistent and who can provide oversight and guidance to the various ingest teams, and also coordinate with outside groups (such as the Getty, CIDOC-CRM committee, and others) to maintain alignment of vocabularies and ontologies. It will also need a support expert, who is responsible for assisting the App and Data teams and the institutions in obtaining answers for their questions, and getting access to training or information.
Environment Operations Team: This team maintains both the cloud and local environments, monitors performance, manages security, and makes sure that the needs of the other teams and Balboa Park overall are met.
Planning & Coordination Working Group: This cross-organizational group will:
- Keep an eye on projects that are underway.
- Identify gaps in skills or support that can be addressed by BPOC or technology people within a particular institution.
- Review and coordinate changes and additions to services, data standards, and application environments that need to be made.
- Monitor external technology changes that will affect the components, standards, and guidelines used in the BPOC digital environment; this includes regular participation with outside organizations to stay on top of what’s new.
Funding Plan and Ideas
Financial support for digital activities in the cultural heritage sector is most often piecemeal, based on federal funding opportunities or opportunistic private funding for discrete projects. But to remain on the forefront of digital innovation, digitization and online access needs to operationalized. Lost in Balboa Park represents a paradigm shift for Balboa Park’s museums: it is less a multi-year technology project and more a different way of thinking about how the Park can provide audience-centric access to an encyclopedic collection. A long-term commitment like this requires the guarantee of long-term funding. BPOC is pursuing four objectives for funding:
Initial “start-up” funding for one-time/single purchases like equipment and software, and individuals or companies with unique skill sets to provide expertise in the initial development and planning phases of the initiative;
Opportunistic funding for discrete projects along the way, which might be subject or institutionally-specific;
An endowment to ensure the initiative’s long-term feasibility and create the environment for strategic decisions to be made; and
Eventual revenue opportunities from the developed site.
BPOC is currently identifying potential sources for local private funding, government funding, and corporate funding. If you or your organization is interested in partnering with us, please contact us.