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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Education and Visitor Services at the U.S. National Arboretum
2013 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To provide a center for education, orientation, information, and interpretation on the research activities, living displays, natural areas, and features of the National Arboretum.

1b.Approach (from AD-416):
To provide formal and informal educational programming through exhibits, signs, publications, web pages, lectures, workshops, and tours; to orient visitors; to convey National Arboretum accomplishments through media outlets; to coordinate public functions; to coordinate volunteer and internship programs; and to coordinate preservation of historical records and artifacts.

3.Progress Report:
The Education and Visitor Services unit works to transfer the research findings of the Arboretum’s scientists and horticulturists to a broad audience of local, regional, national, and international groups, including professionals and the general public, through various media, including a wide range of educational programs (including symposia, workshops, classes, and demonstrations), tours, exhibits, web pages, a horticultural library, and interpretive products (brochures, signs, recorded tours). This year the unit’s 120 educational programs drew over 2200 participants, with thousands more attending the popular annual Potomac Bonsai Festival and Orchid Show.

The unit also assumes primary responsibility for the services extended to the half-million visitors to the institution’s 446-acre site in northeast Washington, D.C., which includes staffing an information desk and coordinating events. The unit supports the work of the research and gardens units by managing a volunteer program (200 regular in addition to one-day volunteers contributed approximately 16,500 hours this year) and an internship program (12 part-time and full-time positions) and by providing image collection documentation, storage, and retrieval. New image management software allows on-line searches that will also be available through the Arboretum’s web site.

1. Interactive Mapping Program. A major goal of the Arboretum’s work is to make its collections available for research and education. To provide internet access to these important collections, the Unit collaborated with the Gardens Unit to work with a contractor to create a mapping system that links to an existing database of plant accessions and to a new database of images and documents. This web-based system will allow researchers to identify individual plants in the collections—including herbarium specimens—and to access detailed information about them, such as where and when they were collected. Documents and images related to the accessions will be linked to them. Virtual visitors may select and map plants of their choice to create a self-guided tour for an on-site visit.

2. Image and Archive Management. To meet the demand for internal and external requests for images and archival materials that document the Arboretum’s work and collections, the unit purchased image management software. Staff will add historical images in all types of media, from negatives to videos, by digitizing them. New digital images will document on-going activities and new accessions. Digitized archival materials may now be linked to accessions and a timeline of arboretum accomplishments. The web-based system will allow internet users to search the database in order to request images to research the arboretum’s history and collections.

Last Modified: 10/9/2015
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