Libraries and museums are typically thought of as outdated, staid, stodgy, dusty institutions; places your forced to go as a school child and often don’t bother returning to as an adult. So one of the things that surprised me as I programmed the IDEA conference is how many of the best examples of institutions that are truly embracing cross-channel and cross-media information architecture come from museums and libraries. In fact, I couldn’t find a corporate world entity that engages as well with the kinds of information complexity that these institutions do.
Though non-profit community institutions famously have less money than their corporate brethren, they (perhaps paradoxically) seem less risk-averse. Corporations have to do everything to protect the bottom line, and, as such, don’t mess with stuff that works. Libraries and museums have higher aspirations, which allow the more visionary ones the opportunity to take new approaches to engage with their audiences. The Museums and the Web conference is approaching its 11th year; Seattle and Minneapolis have new central libraries that do more to relate information with their communities; the Getty Center in L.A. hired Cooper to design kiosks and audio players that support the visitor experience; I’m sure you can think of others.