Museums, libraries and archives hold physical objects that people interact with every day. Their mission includes managing these objects in trust for use by future generations. Digital Humanities adds an important dimension of responsibility. Just as there is a physical object, there is an “Information Object” that people use, and authoritative institutions curate that information for now and the future. This talk is about designing the Information Object, and the role of shareable, structured information.

One unique aspect of the Information Object is that it is not a single thing. It is a jigsaw puzzle which, when completed, represents physical objects. The institution becomes a gateway to an ecosystem of scholarly insights, history, perspectives, and related objects that complete the picture. Curating the information may be perceived as a burden (which we need to make easier!), but it is also a significant opportunity to reinforce the value and authority of institutions that enhance the information ecosystem.

What is the designer’s role? Project teams need a vision to see clearly how it is possible to weave rich, structured data into current sites and applications. Designers bridge the worlds of technologists and curators/archivists/educators. But to do so effectively, designers need to understand what is possible and make it an active part of their design thinking.

We believe passionately that the Information Object is important. Our projects increasingly have a strong emphasis on linked data and semantic web structured metadata. In the now, we are able to improve the search and browse experience, and also serve different types of web users more effectively - from casual viewers to scholars/students to preservationists. For the future, we help establish foundations for information relationships that help the ecosystem grow and preserves the overall Information Object.