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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.

National Park Service Museum Collections website


A collaborative effort, between the Museum Management Program of the National Park Service and the University of Tennessee (UTK), has lead to a completely redesigned website for the National Park Service (NPS) museum collections.

The previous site had a dated design and statistics showed that most visitors failed to get past the home page. In addition, only a small number of parks contributed data to the site. The huge variety of data in the parks' collections, the low incidence of images, and the fact that objects had been cataloged to different standards in different systems over many decades, all presented challenges to the new design.

Starting in 2010, a small team at UTK has worked with parks to increase the number of records, images, and other media in the database. A review of user feedback and statistics, NPS needs and practices, other museum collections websites, and target audience needs led to the new design.

The new site enables easier visitor access the collections. Although visitors can perform simple or advanced searches by keyword, park name, object name, people, places, and date, the intent was to make the site more exploratory, without over-reliance on the search box.

A database, including summary collection information, was added for all parks, whether or not they had submitted object records. This database provides a basic discovery tool for all the total park collections, and also a top level contextual hierarchy of information.  A second level of context was provided by a new "collections highlights" tool. This allows parks to create and describe significant parts of their collections. These highlights provide both easy access to the site and thematic context for the selected objects. Also collection, park and object "highlights of the week" give easy access to the site from the home page.

The site backend was built around ICMS, the NPS collections management system. It went live at the end of 2011.


Demonstration - show your project


mfreem12's picture
Worked through my own company, Stories Past, on educational and database projects for museums and archaeology for the last ten years. Prior to that I worked for Rediscovery Software on their collections management software. Currently working on projects through UTK