Funder Benbough Foundation
MuseumOps Team Member Richard Cherry
Intial Budget $3,000,000 over three years
Funding raised $3,000,000 over three years
Earned income $350,000 in the third year

    Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego, California, United States. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park's site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use. Balboa Park is managed and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of San Diego.

    – Wikipedia

BPOC, an organization created by Rich Cherry under the auspices the Legler Benbough Foundation, is designed to encourage technology collaboration among the Balboa Park Institutions and improve on-line access to institutional resources while attaining some cross-organizational benefit to its investments throughout the park.

Project Goals:

  • Realize savings through collaborative  effort,

  • Improve public access to Balboa Park content,

  • Increase cultural tourism,

  • Enhance organizational capability,

  • Enable collaboration that would not otherwise have been possible

Functional Areas:

  • Content Management Systems (education, curatorial/collections/visitor services/intranet),

  • On-line transactions (membership/donations/ticketing/sales/registration),

  • Shared Technology services and training

  • Shared Fundraising & Marketing

Project Results

The Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) Project was initiated with $3,000,000 of foundation funding over three years. The overarching goal is for every institution to be able to build capacity while engaging a larger audience with a deeper and richer experience. To accomplish this BPOC facilitated and executed a fundamental change in the way museums, cultural arts and science institutions in Balboa Park approached the use of on-line technology by making it an integral part of the way the institutions fulfilled their missions, interacted with patrons, and collaborated.

It improved the technology capabilities of member institutions while reducing costs by bringing organizations with similar needs together on mutually beneficial projects; it allowed smaller institutions the benefit of having technology systems of the same quality as larger organizations, which in turn benefited from streamlined expenditures; and provided public and scholarly access to the deep and valuable resources of the park.

Under Rich’s leadership BPOC’s team grew from one staff person to 11 staff, 9 contractors, and 5-7 interns working on projects every day. BPOC’s reach grew to 27 park and non-park cultural organizations.

Training member staff became a core activity with BPOC partnering with the Balboa Park Learning Institute to provide access to cultural technology training opportunities for staff of member organizations. Training efforts over Rich’s term included more than 700 person-days of training, including seminars and conference attendance support to educate staff on effective uses of technology and emerging technology trends.

BPOC raised more than $2,000,000 in direct and indirect funding from foundations, corporations, philanthropists, and government funders as well as local, state, and federal agencies. Additionally, BPOC has received more than $500,000 in earned income from members for IT support, web solutions, and other fee-for-service initiatives. In total, BPOC has submitted directly or partnered on submission for more than $9 million in additional funding for BPOC and member organizations. Actively promoting the project at the local and national level to ensure visibility with funders, Rich and his staff represented the project at more than twenty national conference sessions.

In three years, BPOC launched 24 redesigned member websites on a common open source platform as well as re-launching balboapark.org with an exciting new design which resulted in an increase of more than 25% in traffic and conversion of many visitors to museum on-site visitors.

BPOC created a mobile park guide for both iOS and Android device users giving visitors access location-based information and turn-by-turn directions for multiple museums.

BPOC launched shared web applications for membership and donation sales; scheduling and course registration; and collections and library access.

BPOC engaged the public through the Balboa Park Beat, La Gema de San Diego(a Spanish-language blog), English-and Spanish-language Facebook pages featuring Park news, events, and links to blog posts, The Giskin Anomaly Cellphone Adventure, Online Contests: and the Museum Marathon Campaign where two BPOC staff members spent 26.2 days living in Balboa Park’s cultural and documented the process through 30+ media interviews, 40 blog posts across three sites and via 2,000+ photographs and online social media posts.

BPOC implemented a shared Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) project as well as a shared Rapid Digitization Lab, where it digitized more than 180,000 photos, slides, videos, audio clips, and pages of archival material. Additionally, more than 200,000 images and videos were published Online, attracting more than five million page views.

BPOC built a high-speed Gigabit network using fiber optic cable throughout the Park. This network is providing shared Internet access to 17 members as well as to the public via 70 public wireless access points deployed by BPOC within the member institutions. In addition, BPOC has deployed 30 WiFi hotspots outside buildings making WiFi pervasive throughout the core areas of the park.

BPOC launched a technology support service in to provide desktop, server, and application support to the members in a fee-for-service model. This initiative, which is completely funded by the member organizations through service contracts. This service is based on a business model where BPOC provides cost-savings to the members and realizes those savings through an increase and improvement in IT support.

BPOC’s Wounded Warrior Technology Internship Program, funded by the Gary and Mary West Foundation, enabled BPOC to provide technology-focused training for 16 young service members and veterans. The internship program was designed to assist in the effective re-integration of wounded veterans into society while simultaneously providing much-needed technical services to BPOC members.