Skip to main content

Museums and the Web

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

History and Technology Collections Online

Institution: 

Museum Victoria

Designer: 

in-house by David Bleja & Simon O'Shea

Category: 

Research | Online Collection

Why

Object page: The site has been designed with the object as the central focus. Users querying in a search engine are directed straight to object page content, without having to re-search on the site. Once on the object page, we have tried to provide many jumping off po

Museum Victoria is Australia’s largest public museum organisation. As custodian of Victoria’s State collection, it holds collections in the History and Technology, Natural Sciences and Indigenous Cultures disciplines. The History and Technology Collections Online project provides access to over 57,000 object records, and growing, and over 1400 contextual narratives.

Object page

The site has been designed with the object as the central focus. Users querying in a search engine are directed straight to object page content, without having to re-search on the site. Once on the object page, we have tried to provide many jumping off points to other content – images of similar items, a timeline navigator of objects associated with dates earlier or later than the one in focus, an indication whether the object is on display at Melbourne Museum, a map presentation of place associations, and subject tags taken from the catalogue record as well as added by users.

Narrative page screenshot

Narrative page screenshot

Curatorial staff have also written over 1400 contextual narratives that provide more depth to the stories behind an object or group of objects. Narratives pages are linked to yet more object pages to give users plenty of opportunity for serendipitous discovery.

Users can also ‘ask a question’ or leave a comment on every object page. Queries are directed through to the Discovery Centres, which handle over 12,000 enquiries per year, many generated from the Collections Online website. Comments are published straight to the object page, often generating interesting discussion threads amongst users of the site. For an example, see http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/391363/motor-ship-model-hmas-wyatt-earp . Staff have also been keep busy fact checking the many corrections to data we have received as part of users commenting on the site. 

Mobile device presentation

Mobile device presentation

The desktop website is the first part of the Collections Online suite of products.  We have also produced a mobile device version of the website, with the design and presentation tailored specifically to the small screen of a mobile phone.  The mobile view of the website can be viewed from a desktop by clicking "Collections Mobile Site" in the footer of the website.

Touchscreen view

We have also spun off a touchscreen version of the website. This was done for a temporary exhibition in one of our galleries where exhibitions staff wanted to provide access to information about objects in the collection that, for time and space reasons, couldn’t go on display. The touchscreen was built to a template model so that the model can be reused again and again. It has been so successful with visitors that another is planned for an upcoming exhibition.

Touchscreen view

api

Finally, we have also released an api so that developers can reuse our content in settings and contexts that mean something to them. Documentation about the api can be found at http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/help/api