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Museum design patterns

Page history last edited by Mia 10 years, 1 month ago

Inspired by the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and expanding on situations particular to museum content (particularly exhibitions and catalogues), audiences and context (from stereotypes of museums as boring and dry to issues around authority and trust in cultural heritage)...


These design patterns might be useful for coming up with common data structures that could inform a shared schema for linking across collections, help provide a framework for sharing audience evaluation and comparing visitation figures, etc.


A bit of an experiment - let's see if it sticks.


If you're using design patterns already, do any that particularly need adapting come to mind?  Or can you share some behaviours you've noticed that are typical of museum audiences?


Suggestions for simple starting points also welcome!  I've put some very initial rough thoughts below - with any luck there are existing current typologies out there that could replace this.


Design patterns

Encouraging debate, comments

Participation rates on museum blogs and other commenting sites are often low, perhaps lower than the equivalent content might attract on a non-museum site.  How have the most successful sites encouraged participation and comment?


Search patterns

[share what you know!]


Typology of museum sites (as a context for more specific design patterns)

NB: many sites will contain a mixture of types, though often collections or exhibition sites are presented as 'microsites'.



Do these still exist?


Experiential exhibitions sites

From shiny interactive/multimedia brochureware to games tied to the gallery experience/content.


Exhibition catalogue sites

Presentations of exhibition content, usually replicating curatorial or physical organisation methods used in the physical gallery or a translation of the print catalogue into a website.


Online-only exhibition site

Is this just about the level of interpretation - narratives, thematic contexts etc wrapped around object records?


Collections catalogue sites

Online catalogue, generally with organisation structures that replicate the management structures or subjects of the museum.



Comments (8)

Nate Solas said

at 3:19 pm on Jan 22, 2010

I've been doing an informal survey of how institutions present their online collection, and how they handle decisions like "advanced search", stemming of keywords, and whether they use an implicit AND or OR between multiple keywords. Hopefully I can summarize some of that into a few design patterns? If nothing else maybe I'll post the table here and let others go at it!

Mia said

at 11:29 pm on Jan 26, 2010

Good idea! Let me know if you want us to test the descriptions out for you, or to pass around a survey or something.

Mia said

at 7:13 pm on Feb 1, 2010

Nate, have you seen this? http://searchpatterns.org/

Nate Solas said

at 7:26 pm on Feb 1, 2010

Just today. A day late to help my paper, alas! I've read a bunch of Morville's blog - he's pretty good at presenting the big ideas in an understandable way and that new book and site seem awesome. I'll have to see if I can get the Walker to pay for a copy for me... :)

Richard said

at 6:31 pm on Aug 18, 2010

Do you have a sense of the granularity you are looking for? The pattern libraries I've been using seem to focus on smaller snippets of interface (e.g. how to do a button, or an ordered list, etc. or Morville's search patterns). Would it be useful to re-frame the question of cultural heritage patterns at the same level? e.g. the Image/Tombstone pattern, which maybe used across different types of sites (or site functions). The point of this is to provide other developers re-usable/re-mixable code/style patterns, no?

I have some thoughts on this from a more research/analysis focus, but I don't think that's what you're getting at here. I can post more if that's of interest.

Mia said

at 1:13 am on Aug 19, 2010

That's a good question - I don't actually mean the patterns are that broad, just that the application and desirability of a pattern will depend on the type of site, or the section of the site. For example, you could possibly build a pattern around providing the basic when/where/how much information - if successful, the visitor would be able to find that and be on their way to the actual museum within a few seconds. But if you'd spent a lot of time creating video content about an exhibition, you'd hope the visitor would stick around long enough and see enough to be convinced to take the next step, whether that's booking tickets or whatever.

Mia said

at 1:15 am on Aug 19, 2010

And yes, please do post more! I think, to my mind, even image/tombstone depends on context - how big should the image be, how many images, interpretative or qualified dates in the tombstone data, etc.

Mia said

at 5:36 pm on Aug 26, 2010

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