Museum Information Architecture: Where Are Weddings?

Weddings and other private events are a major source of revenue for museums; I’ve heard it said they “keep the lights on.” But where on a museum’s website will you find information on this service?

We grappled with this question in 2008 at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of an information architecture review. From the museum’s perspective it’s an important business — does that mean it warrants a “tab” in the top level navigation? Some museums have it there. But on the other hand, it’s irrelevant to the vast majority of the site’s users, who are looking for current exhibits and the hours of operation. Also, how is it referred to? “Special Events” seems common in the event industry, but it conflicts with other museum initiatives such as fund raising galas. “Private” indicates exclusivity.

Here’s what I found in a survey of 50 museum websites:


“Facility Rental” came out as the clear winner, with 36%. While 22% made it a top-level priority, the majority put it within another section. Which section? “About” with 34%, or “Info” with 21%.

At the AGO we used these findings to inform the decision to call our section “Venue Rental” (which sounds nicer while still avoiding conflict) and link it under “About.”

The sites surveyed were: Skirball, Vancouver, Sfmoma, San Jose, LA MOCA, Phoenix, Colorado, New Orleans, Norton, High, Chrysler, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Wexner, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, Albright-Knox, Guggenheim, Brooklyn, MoMA, Tate, Louvre, Canada, ROM, Philadelphia, Detroit, Met, Chicago, Bata, Kansas City, New Museum, Walker, Calgary, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Two Rivers, Victoria, Fredericton, Hamilton, McMichael, Nova Scotia, Mendel, MacKenzie, Anchorage, Birmingham, Boise, LA County, de Young, New Brit.

Posted February 2010

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