The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

What David Guiney from the National Park Service plans on speaking about


Amidst a sea of stars, a personal highlight for me with IDEA is having the National Park Service contribute. David Guiney sent along the outline of what he plans to discuss. I thought I’d share it to tantalize you!

Session 1:
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
Complex Information and Diverse Media Solutions

The National Park System

  • Natural areas — e.g.,Yosemite NP, Everglades NP
  • Historical and cultural areas — Gettysburg NMP, Cabrillo NM
  • Trail parks and systems — Lewis and Clark Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Recreation areas — Lake Mead NRA, Gateway NRA
  • Special sites — The White House, Statue of Liberty
  • The NPS Message Project

The Palette of NPS Media and Programs

  • Personal services
  • Events
  • Signs
  • Wayside exhibits
  • Museum exhibits
  • Historic furnishings exhibits
  • Publications
  • Brochures and handbooks
  • Park-produced publications
  • Bookstore sales
  • Web sites
  • New media
  • Audiovisual programs
  • Theater programs — new Selma to Montgomery film excerpt

Session 2
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
The Challenges for Media Professionals

» NPS Innovations in Park Media— Harpers Ferry Center
The Center was established in 1970 to bring media specialists together in one place to share talents and resources. What have we learned from this experiment?

» Centralization (HFC, regions) vs. local control (parks)
In the mid-1990s the NPS shifted power from central offices to parks, making it more challenging to effect develop and enforce national standards in media. Who should set the media standards?

»Government model vs. business model
NPS media professionals are asked to work more like contractors in the private sector, but remain under the constraints of a bureaucracy. How can media planners, designers, and producers thrive in this sometimes contradictory environment?

» Insular model vs. partnership model
NPS sites have always been islands of government real estate within a secure boundary. Now we are more and more dependent on partners and volunteers to greet visitors and develop media. Are park rangers and NPS designers on the way out?

» Information (facts) vs. interpretation (minds & hearts)
Facts have lost favor in the NPS, with more energy going toward relevance and making emotional connections. What is the proper balance between information and inspiration?

» The virtual vs. the real
There have been reports that visitation to parks is declining, perhaps because many people, especially the young, are preoccupied with computers and digital media. Should the NPS be offering lots more digital and virtual experiences, or should we be focusing on providing opportunities to see and appreciate the real things that make up our natural and historical heritage?


  1. Betsy Martens said,

    September 17, 2006 @ 9:37 pm

    As Director of Communications for a land trust in northeastern Illinois, I can’t wait to hear David’s talk. What particularly grabbed me was the bullet point about information vs. interpretation. I hate to see this described as a duality, but I agree that it exists. I strive to maintain a high standard of scientific writing which is both factual and fascinating, but I sometimes have to do battle with colleagues who too often rely on the lens of personal experience as a substitute for solid science writing. Personal accounts of nature epiphanies certainly have their place, but great science writing cannot be beat. It will also be interesting to hear how the NPS has fared with the increase in partners referred to in the outline above. Robert F. Kennedy’s book, Crimes Against Nature, spells out the many ways in which the EPA has suffered under the Bush regime, and I have no doubt that the National Park Service has been affected as well.

  2. IDEA Conference Blog » National parks and design said,

    October 23, 2006 @ 5:34 pm

    […] David Guiney, from the National Park service was up next, in two distinct parts. […]

  3. IDEA 2006, highlights from day 1 said,

    October 24, 2006 @ 12:40 am

    […] David Guiney, Communicating the Stories of our National Parks This was broken into two sessions, where he talked about the backgrounds and designing for the National Park Service in general in the first one, and about specific challenges associated in the second one. He is a passionate person who was impossible to not like. Don’t feel like posting everything I wrote down, so I’ll boil it down as much as I can. […]

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