A historical campus such as Washington College displays plaques from generous donors at nearly every corner. You don’t realize how many plaques the academic buildings have until you go on a scavenger hunt for them – that is precisely the project GIS Interns Michael Wieder and Emily Scherer undertook. Throughout this semester Michael and Emily have been documenting each and every donor plaque on the Washington College campus through fieldwork, data entry, and Georeferencing.
Michael and Emily took a picture of each plaque and even documented the closest classroom to the plaque and its location measurements from ceiling and floor. Plaques on oil paintings and trees throughout campus were also documented and Georeferenced. The rule of thumb was if it has a name on it, map it.
“I didn’t expect some buildings to have many plaques at all, yet there ended up being a large number. It's so cool seeing how involved alumni and even non-graduates are in the Washington College community,” said Emily Scherer. “I've really been enjoying this project, I'm learning so much about the history of the school while documenting the plaques, and I love how directly this project will be able to help the school, particularly the Alumni Association.”
After the fieldwork was documented, the team created a database and entered data using Microsoft Access. Within this database, plaques can now be searched for by building location or by donor name. A hyperlink to the mapped buildings where the plaque is located and its actual image is available. An identification number and floor information for each plaque is also included in the database information. Through this database, the plaque information will be institutional knowledge. This is helpful for when plaques are stolen or damaged, or when a donor visits campus and wants to know the exact location of their plaque.
“I like so many things about this project,” said Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship Judy Barroll. “I like that our own WC students are professionally invested in this project. We could have had an outside vendor complete this project at a higher cost, in perhaps a shorter time frame, but I love that this project will mean something, not only to us who will work with the end product every day, but to the students who are working the project. The completion of this project will greatly enhance our Donor Relations and Stewardship efforts. Donors want to believe and know that we genuinely care about their gift as much as they do. Identifying and cataloging all of our recognition plaques on campus gives us the ability to locate, at the request of a visiting donor or out of an internal need, any of our recognition items. You can't imagine how much it means to a donor who has returned to campus after 10, 20 or even 30 years to be able to find a bench, plaque or tree that recognizes a relative, loved one or themselves. The GIS plaque project is an essential development in good Donor Relations and Stewardship.”