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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License


Bringing the Web back into the Building
David Small, Small Design Firm, Inc, USA
Cynthia Yoon, Asia Society, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations 2

The renovation of the Asia Society's world headquarters in New York City created an exciting opportunity to integrate the institution's already existing and highly developed web resources with the new museum environment. To meet the increasing demand for greater awareness and understanding of Asia and its dynamic relationship with America, the Asia Society began a $30 million initiative to substantially enhance the Asia Society's museum galleries, as well as its public facilities and programs, and strengthened the Society's role as the only institution in North America addressing the intersection of the arts, economics, politics, and society throughout the Asia-Pacific region. As part of the renovation, the Society initiated a complete upgrade and enhancement of all its technological resources.

Small Design Firm, a Boston-based interactive design firm, was brought on board to develop three lobby installations that would be integrated into the new architecture of the building. There are three major objectives for these installations. First and foremost, they should serve to educate the public about the Asia Society and its diverse multidisciplinary programs. Second, they should follow the Asia Society's mission by fostering understanding about the many dimensions of Asia. Third, they should add a welcoming aspect to the visitor's experience and reinforce the 'public' nature of our new and dynamic space.

When Small Design began to conceive of the lobby installations, the need for content naturally led to Asia Society's extensive family of websites. Since the mid-90's, Asia Society has pioneered the use of the web to create online resources and programming that extends well beyond a traditional institutional website and to fill a perception that we are a resource on Asia. Asia Society's early online efforts began with a K-12 resource for teachers www.AsiaAsia.org and Asia Society's official website www.AsiaSociety.org. AskAsia still today has a dedicated audience of teachers that use it as a resource for curriculum materials and lesson plans. AsiaSociety.org provides an events calendar, speeches, publications, online exhibitions and institutional background. In 1998, Asia Society received a grant to build a comprehensive online resource center on Asia. The following year, AsiaSource (www.AsiaSource.org) was launched as a 'resources of resources' for quality information on Asia. This highly database driven site offers information on Asian news, country data, arts, culture, politics, business, society, history and much more. As AsiaSource's popularity grew among its variety of users, ranging from students, professors, journalists, activists, to general Asia enthusiasts, two more essential resources were developed. A new business website called AsiaBusinessToday.org (www.AsiaBusinessToday.org) explores U.S.-Asia economic and business, and AsiaFood.org (www.AsiaFood.org) presents the world of Asian cuisine with various food features and a database of Asian recipes and glossary terms.

With this assortment of information already online, the websites were an appropriate match for the content for the new lobby installations. This paper will explore how this project created a physical presence for web-based information. It will discuss how the installations developed, what technology was used, how they are managed by the Asia Society and general user response.