Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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Cruising through History Wired

TitleCruising through History Wired
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsGillard, P.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web 2002: Proceedings
Conference Start DateApril 17 -20
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedBoston, Massachusetts, USA
EditorBearman, D., & Trant J.
Keywordsaudiences, ethnography, evaluation, interface design, interviews, usability testing, user research

This paper presents the results of an evaluation of 'History Wired' at the National Museum of American History, March and April, 200l prior to its launch in August, 2001. The evaluation included in-site usability studies with groups of visitors to the museum, interviews with designers and comments by a Museum Studies class. The visitor research was based on the concepts and methods of audience ethnography, so it documented the spontaneous interests of users rather than setting predetermined tasks. This way, we could discover how the website shaped a variety of responses, and how users created their own experience from the many possibilities of navigation and content. The paper describes the different ways that visitors used the website and their own comments on its unusual design. The study predicted the site's success with broad audience groups and suggested some wording changes to make the ?tiled? interface more descriptive of the actual contents. The research was conducted as part of an Australian Fulbright Professional Award.