Home Stretch

I’m at work this morning, and my aim is to create two guides (in English) for using the database before I leave at 1:30ish this afternoon.

I am also supposed to work with Oscar (my supervisor) to teach him how to use the FileMaker Pro database, as well as how to import/export records to Microsoft Excel for the purposes I detailed in an earlier post. On top of learning how to use the database as a research tool to find the appropriate articles he needs, he also needs to learn how to make changes and updates to the database, as well as how to administer administrative passwords when necessary.

The reason I am motivated to make a research guide, and a database user guide, is kind of to save the museum’s proverbial ‘butt’ if something ever were to happen (i.e. if Oscar were to forget how to use the database, or most dire – if he were to leave the museum and a new staff member needed to have access/a quick tool to learn how to operate the provisions I’ve created over the last two months). I will make both guides bilingual, but because I am faster in English – I will work first to make them as simple/straightforward as possible in English, and will spend Tuesday translating them into Spanish. I also plan on having to adjust/tweak them depending on what seems to be easy for Oscar to understand & what seems to be more difficult. I can foresee what aspects have the potential for more confusion, and am already adding extra detail to those areas, but it’s also guaranteed that a few things which seem easy to me, are a lot less clear than I think they are – so I want to be prepared for that :)

I unfortunately learned this past week and over this weekend, that the museum has a lot of really forward-thinking software that is not currently in use, and is not in the works to be implemented into the museum anytime soon. I was extremely perterbed by this when I found out, because I feel like I could have done something concrete to help them move some of this technology along. MNA has 10 touch screen phones that they want to use as interactive GPS maps of the museum to help users with disabilities, and foreign travelors/tourists/patrons. In addition to the map, they had hoped to create an audio guide which would correspond to select paintings in the museum and would offer detailed descriptions of their meaning, as well as some background information on the artist. Both demographics would hugely benefit from technology with language-convertible capabilities, a visual-aid, and/or audio guides.

Because 100’s of museums in the U.S. have and use this type of technology everyday, I believe I could have gotten in contact with someone who could have helped me figure out how to get it up and running here in La Paz, but now I don’t have enough time. If I do have a few days, however, after security additions/guide writing/and teaching of the database in the coming week, I’ll try to do something to help them with this anyway, and finish my assistance remotely from the U.S. Wish I would have known about this earlier, but the work I am doing here is still really important, and I’ll be glad to have helped in any way.

The chief administratior, Adriana, also plans to send me MS word files of all the painting descriptions, and the yearly museum guide to translate into English. All painting descriptions/mediums/directions in the museum are currently in Spanish. This is a little problematic, because their statistics show that at least 25% of MNA’s visitors in a given year are foreign. Non-Bolivians also have to pay twice the admission rate as nationals do. With this being the case, it is extremely important to keep these patrons in mind and provide them with information about the art they are paying so much more to see and appreciate. I won’t have even have time to start working on these translations while here, but I assured her that a solid handful of fluent Spanish-English speakers from the School of Information will likely jump to help me if I ask, as students are always lending a hand over there. Plus, there are amazing foreign language resources at the University of Michigan that I can access when I’m home. I’ll try to tackle this from the states, but the time table will have to be a little more flexible – I have another full time job to get back to, and full time graduate school that starts up again in a few short weeks. Still, I think they’re extremely appreciative that I’m so willing to help even after my time here. I’m just glad to have helped :)

Here I go – needs to be a productive morning because I’m running out of time in Bolivia! Hugs to everybody back home – I’ll see you all really soon!

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