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Museums and the Web

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

Designing an Interactive Visualization to Explore a Pre-Hispanic Collection


This demonstration presents the current status of the design, and the implementation of a digital interface to exhibit an archaeological collection online. This digital interface is designed to explore online the main pieces of the collection of the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, located in eastern Mexico, by bonding together ideas about visualization of information, context mapping and trails of navigation.

The collection that belongs to this museum consists of important cultural-heritage artifacts of the main cultures that established themselves in the current state of Veracruz, before the Spaniards’ arrival in Mexico: the Huaxteca culture in the north, the culture of Central Veracruz in the centre of the state and the Olmeca in the south. Its total collection preserves and guards about 29,000 Pre-Hispanic artifacts, from which nearly 1,500 are exhibited in its halls.

The project draws on the design of a digital interface that privileges exploration and browsing of visual connections with an open-ended focus; namely, an interface that allows a visitor to place a ‘object/concept’ at the centre of his/her interpretative layer, and thus create a hub of connections. Expressed differently, the interface is based on associations of visualizations and the tracking of diverse mappings set by the visitors themselves. Following is presented an overview of the interaction design space of this digital interface:

When exploring the online collection, the visitor has the choice to select any category as a main hub. For example, when the visitor selects the hub Dualidad (Duality), the interface presents visualizations of an ‘object/concept’ that are connected to this selection, such as the artifacts of smiling faces, twins, and feminine figures. If the visitor decides to access more information about a specific artifact of an smiling face, then the interface displays some other mappings of ‘object/concept’ related to that artifact; for instance, concepts of death, the Ollin (movement) as well as some other archaeological pieces connected to the main hub of Duality. After that, if the visitor continues to explore the collection and decides to discover more about the Ollin concept, this can be selected as the main hub. In consequence, the interface will present a selection of visual results connected to this new category as well as of all the artifacts of the collection that have connections with this latter category.

While there are several projects that have used similar concepts, within the area of cultural heritage there are few studies that investigate on the exploration of archeological information presentation. Therefore, this project aims to contribute on such exploration, by designing an interface based on connections of visualizations, and to the further creation of interpretative layers for the visitors’ exploration.


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Blanca_A's picture
Blanca is a Mexican Graphic Designer and currently, she is a Doctor in Art Student of New Media in the Media Lab of the School of Art and Design at Aalto University, in Helsinki, Finland. Her doctoral research project addresses the framework of a digital application for a design case study. The...