April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

From Signs to Satellites

Eddy Dawson, Red Butte Botanic Garden, USA

Red Butte Garden has developed a hand-held interpretation system for the public that for the first time provides visitors a window into our collections data, a vehicle for delivering stories about our living museum objects, and a GIS powered navigation system for which to explore our garden’s treasures.

The base of the system is a Geographic Information System (GIS) built and maintained by our plant records department. The GIS links data in our collections database (including common names, botanical names, interpretive text, and images) to spatial points in the garden. The spatial points are represented by plant symbols on the hand-held device's map based on what type of plant it is designated as in the database. For example a grass would receive a grass symbol and a pine would receive an evergreen tree symbol. The visitor can click on the symbols with their stylus to receive information about the plant they are interested in. Ninety percent of the garden has been data based and surveyed over the last five years. This data is now available to the visitor through the hand-held device.

Scattered throughout the garden are virtual information spots. When a visitor walks within the circumference of a virtual information spot with our GPS enabled hand-held device, they are alerted with an audio file that they "are approaching an interpretation station." This is the visitor's cue to click on the information symbol on their handheld to view a multi-media presentation about select plants in their area. When the visitor clicks on the information symbol a flash media file is launched first showing an image of the area they are standing in front of. In general, three plants will be highlighted. The visitor selects which plant they want to learn about using their stylus. The second screen prompts the visitor to choose a track: Gardening in Utah, Plants and People, or The World of Plants. These tracks present interpretations based on what the user is interested in. If for example they select Plants and People they may hear a story about how the plant was used by Native Americans.

The GIS which serves as the heart of the system is provides navigation through our garden much like the navigation systems built for cars. As the visitor walks through the garden the you-are-here dot moves with them and the GIS updates the visible portion of the garden map accordingly. If a plant grabs their attention, the visitor can choose symbols any time as they walk through the garden to learn more about that plant. If the visitor wants to know more about the plant they can add it to their "wish-list" which is stored in a text file that will be used to create a customized web-page for a post-visit experience.

This innovative system promises to open visitors to the wonders of plants in new and exciting ways.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Close-Up]

Keywords: GIS, GPS, Botanic Garden, Interpretation, PDA, collections data