Parks and Gardens UK database and website
altcom provided the UK Parks and Gardens Database project with a fully integrated open source CMS website solution and web interface to an Oracle database holding detailed information on all the UK Parks and Gardens.
Web application, Oracle database and integrated content management system
- York University
- Go Live date
- October 2007
The UK Parks and Gardens Database Project is a National Lottery Heritage Fund supported development that aims to catalogue in detail all the UK's Parks and Gardens. altcom was commissioned in 2006 to develop a website and database application. This included
- a web application back end for volunteers and data managers to enter and manage the vast dataset
- a website content management system to provide the public and researchers with access to the data and
- integration of the two using bespoke software components communicating via XML and a custom XSD
- installation and configuration of PHP, MYSQL, Oracle and PHP accelerators on remote 3rd party servers.
The approach was to use open source code and tools wherever possible. There was one exception; the Oracle database. The choice between MySQL and Oracle came down to the handling of BCE dates. Oracle was selected simply because MySQL had no native capability. All the other elements were developed using open source resources apart from the extensive use of Google Maps.
Google Maps are used for the location search as all the records are geo-coded. The cost of a commercial web based geographic information system was considered prohibitive and the accessibility and performance of the available systems was generally dreadful, so use was made of Google's excellent free service. The sheer volume of data provided some interesting technical challenges and pushed the envelope on use of the Google Maps API to ensure that results would be displayed within a reasonable time.
The public website interface was based on the Joomla! content management system with a number of core and module extensions. These included a new component to handle an XML interface with the Oracle database. The back-end data entry and review system was developed using the Symfony PHP framework . The Joomla! component issues requests to the Symfony layer which handles all Access Control to the database. The data is returned to the website in XML using a custom XSD, from there it is processed and passed to the Joomla! rendering engine. The system runs on Linux servers belonging to the University of York Archaelogical Data Services group under Apache webserver (also open source).
The altcom team are a pleasure to work with. They are well versed in the field, creative, conscientious, and very efficient.
Rachael Sturgeon, Project Manager, Parks and Gardens Data Services
The project went live in October 2007 with "soft" launches in York and London and is now accessible to the public. The full public launch took place at the Kensington Roof Gardens on 29th May 2008.
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