We are very pleased to announce that on April 29, 2013, the UC Botanical Garden began using CollectionSpace as its production collection management system.
Established in 1890, the UC Botanical Garden is home to over 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world, and displays them to the public in naturalistic landscapes over its 34 acres. Please visit their web site for more information:
The UC Berkeley deployment team took full advantage of the flexibility of CollectionSpace and added many customizations and core capabilities needed by the UC Botanical Garden. Botanical collections are interesting in that they are collections of living things. The team had to build fields and workflows that supported tracking the different places that plants were planted in the garden and information about their status (such as when the plant died). The team added two procedures to support plant propagation (e.g., the techniques and treatments applied to grow something from for example a seed or cutting) and the printing of pot tags (the little stakes you see in potted plants at a garden store). The local deployment team also extended existing CollectionSpace functionality, including new development related to batch processing and event handling in order to support complex business logic at the Garden.
For several years, the UC Botanical Garden has used a business intelligence tool (Business Objects) for reporting and data analysis. In order to replace this reporting system, the team built numerous reports in iReport, the open source reporting tool incorporated by the CollectionSpace project. A set of Postgres functions helps provide data for these reports. In addition, we are beginning to build web applications that support hierarchical searches across dimensions of the Botanical Garden collections data (e.g., “show me all plants in the genus Rhododendron located in beds 219 through 230”). More details about the report and web application development are available at http://wiki.collectionspace.org/display/deploy/UCBG+reports.
One of the most challenging aspects of launching a transactional system like this is the migration of data from the legacy system into the new one. Again the UCB deployment team took full advantage of the advanced capabilities built into CollectionSpace, including the RESTful API’s and the CollectionSpace import service. Locally, the team had developed significant experience and tools for the two deployment projects that preceded this one. In conversation with staff in the Botanical Garden, significant data cleaning was performed that will have a lasting impact on the Garden’s operations. The team developed SQL queries to extract data from the legacy system and incorporated those queries into ETL (extract, transform, and load) jobs written in the open source Talend Open Studio platform in order to create the data payloads that were then imported into CollectionSpace. Numerous scripts were written and shared amongst several data developers to streamline this ETL work. Documentation related to data migration is available at http://wiki.collectionspace.org/display/deploy/UCBG-CollectionSpace+data+mapping%2C+v2.4.
The project management methods and tools used in this deployment were based on best practices and experience from our two earlier deployments and from the CollectionSpace project itself. Key to this effort was close collaboration with staff in the Botanical Garden. At all stages of the project, they were involved in requirements gathering, documentation, data analysis, design, and testing. Openness was a key principle, with all information documented in a project wiki (http://wiki.collectionspace.org/display/deploy/UC+Botanical+Garden) and Jira. Software for all UC Berkeley deployment projects resides in github where CollectionSpace code is available as well (https://github.com/cspace-deployment).
With their migration to CollectionSpace, the UC Botanical Garden can now steward their collection in a robust collection management system that is stable, secure, and efficient. Importantly, it is ready for the future and can grow thanks to the modularity of CollectionSpace. In addition, they now have a much more usable, intuitive, and accessible system, one that is based on web standards and professional user-centered design principles and practices. Their former system was a client-server system (based on the X Window System) with screen and field behaviors that required a very steep learning curve.
From the perspective of the service provider, UC Berkeley’s Information Services and Technology division now has migrated three collection management systems to the new platform, one selected for its ability to drive down costs and reduce risk while supporting the excellence of these research collections. We have successfully demonstrated that CollectionSpace can be customized for very different kinds of collections and have extended built-in capabilities such as the RESTful API, batch processing and event handling. A public portal to the collection is being developed, an important step toward improving access to the collection. The stability of the collection management system and the openness of the system in general significantly enhance the research competitiveness of the Botanical Garden. More broadly, the team is now looking at opportunities to leverage information in the other CollectionSpace instances in order to drive discovery across different kinds of collections. With CollectionSpace in use for both the University and Jepson Herbaria and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, there are significant grant funding opportunities that are under discussion.
The UC Botanical Garden is truly a treasure. Our project team has been proud to help position them for the present and beyond.