One of the most exciting aspects of online collections is what each site will be capable of in the next few years. More and more museums are furthering their digitization efforts by creating expansive semantic networks which allow users to access a rich array of inter-related information. Expansion is coming in other ways as well, for example the Getty Foundation created the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), a project aimed at investigating ways to create permanent collection catalogues in digital multimedia form. The progression of digital collections, whether it be through the enlargement of the semantic web or projects like the OSCI, means that digital collections will be much more user friendly to different user perspectives. The artist, scholar, student, or lifelong learner will be able to use modern digital collections in a more streamlined manner for whatever reason they see fit.
So what have digital collections sites done to increase their accessibility for people with other perspectives? The Rijksmuseum, for example, allows users to search their collection via a color palate. A useful tool for artists for the art historian or interior designer or movie designer perhaps. The Royal Collection Trust allows users to select various royal estates and browse the artwork within each palace. This virtual interactive style may not only be popular with younger generations, but also with users who are physically incapable of exploring the museum.
Accounting for different user perspectives is important for a variety of reasons, but it’s truly necessary because additional points of view can provide more information about the work of art. Archeologists may notice an incorrect or misleading origin tag in an online collection and can submit their own information garnered from their research for a museum to use. Many artists themselves spend time in their own exhibitions working with curators and speaking with visitors because they want their own underlying message to be understood. Giving artists the ability to communicate these ideas online in digital collections would be a valuable asset for the artists, art lovers, online visitors, and museum staff members.
As mentioned earlier, a user’s personal perspective also shapes the way they use a digital collection site, especially amongst search terms or key words. For example, an artist may be researching brush stroke techniques or shading styles, yet the key words might be related to an academic search, such as an art historical movement, without mention of painting techniques. A botanist may be looking for specific flowers in works of art beyond the simple term “flower”. Understanding these different user perspectives and how they affect the way a digital collection site is searched and used is crucial to the future of digital collections. Truly, the future of digital collections is endless.
Alex London, Graduate Student, Museum Science & Management, Education Track
University of Tulsa, April 2017
Image from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/implications-paradigm-shifts-marketing-maximilian-groh Article by Maximilian Groh