Museums and the Web 2005
Demonstrations: Description
Photo Credits

See museum applications demonstrated by the people who created them.

Weblogs, On-line Forums and RSS - How a Small Garden Engages a Global Community

Daniel Mosquin, University of British Columbia, Canada

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research is a collections-based scientific garden in Vancouver. Through the adoption of on-line community-forming and communication software, it has an extensive global presence relative to its institutional budget. In less than two years since instituting these on-line applications, the garden has been able to increase its monthly unique web site visitors ten-fold. The web site now receives more visitors per month than the institution does in a year.

UBC Botanical Garden runs one of the few, and perhaps the largest, botanical garden on-line community bulletin boards in the world. These discussion forums are a mechanism to permit garden researchers, staff and volunteers to engage a global audience in a setting that emphasizes the value of botanical gardens, collections and universities as a public good.

In September 2003, UBC Botanical Garden launched the only institutional botanical garden weblog in the world. This on-line journal provides the garden with a way to highlight news stories about plants, gardens and the environment from around the world and direct site visitors to topics of import (e.g., plant conservation).

RSS (RDF Site Summary) is an XML-based technology that allows the garden to syndicate content from its weblogs and forums to anyone with an RSS reader. It permits the end-user to "at a glance" see if there is new content on the UBC site without having to visit the site, and then visit if she or he so chooses based on a content excerpt.

As RSS feeds are in a standards-based XML format, they are also used extensively by the garden to distribute content between web pages and generate dynamic content on static pages. Categorization via metadata drives this system.

The garden is currently experimenting with collaborative community-based data curation and expanded use of XML to stream data directly from databases.

Daniel Mosquin is a recipient of a Canadian Professional Scholarship.