I Helped Launch the Titanic!

04/15/2010 - Friends and clients know that for the past 6 months I’ve been frantically building a database solution for a new museum attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The second of their museums, Titanic Pigeon Forge is a wonderful tourist destination for families; as a longtime fan of Titanic lore, I found it intriguing and captivating.

The Titanic museum looks like the ship, down to the rivets on the sides; it’s a bit more than half as tall as the original, and half as long; before you ask, no, I don’t know where the other half of the ship is... and no, I don’t know how they got that ship up on land.

The database was built in FileMaker Pro 10, and manages the entire venue (not the exhibits themselves, but every business function). There are layouts for the various sales locations--admissions, gift shop, and a remote phone room where phone orders are taken. The database allows its users to scan products, run credit cards, split orders into cash, two different credit cards, and even a gift card as well.

In addition to the point-of-sale part of the solution, there are other sections for the various parts of the company--customers, events, groups, tour operators, vendors, group and event scheduling using a drag-and-drop calendar, quotes, purchase orders, products, supplies, employees, and a huge variety of reports.

By the end of the month I will have put well over 600 hours into this project; there are 231 layouts, approximately 200 of which are viewable by users; there are over 50 separate tables of data. In addition to designing a system that is infinitely flexible, allows addition and deletion of users without any extra configuration, and which guides users through the system, I planned the system to expose certain areas only to qualified users.

For example, when point-of-sale employees log in, they see a custom dashboard, which displays messages that are just for them; from there they can only get into the POS system and nowhere else. Managers, on the other hand, can navigate farther into the system, but don’t have access to the admin section, where critical settings are stored for the entire system.

In addition, I created a method for the owner to send private messages to any of the employees; when that employee logs in, he or she sees the message, has to acknowledge it, and the owner can see at a glance that messages were delivered.

The entire system ties to the Titanic website (http://www.titanicpigeonforge.com), so when web ticket orders come in, they’re written right into the system. A forthcoming shopping cart will also use the same system, so that sales in the online giftshop will also be reflected in the same system.

There were enormous challenges with this system; I plan to write a more detailed case study of this solution, and hope to have it here in the next few weeks.

If you’re anywhere near Pigeon Forge, I strongly recommend that you plan to visit the Titanic; this is a first-rate attraction, and will provide a fun 90 minutes for both parents and kids.