Research: Digital Catalogues Study

A cross-institutional user study of online museum collection catalogues

Detail of a graphic from the report section, Who is using the catalogues?.

November 6, 2019 | MCN | San Diego

This was a study of scholarly digital catalogues published by the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The four institutions worked with the research firm Rockman et al over a period of 6–9 months doing web analytics, web intercept and email surveys, and user testing and interviewing. The findings were published online and first presented by the project leads in a panel titled “Recentering the User: A Study of Digital Publications from Four Museums” at MCN in San Diego.

Panel Description

In museums today, we employ user-centered design practices while developing projects to define our audiences and align with their needs. All too often, though, we lack the time and resources to do the equally valuable post-launch work of user-centered evaluation—work that could take us from the theoretical to the practical by shedding light on who actually uses these projects, and how. This knowledge is especially critical in cases where content design methodologies span multiple projects, or even multiple institutions, as in the growing field of online collection catalogue publishing. This session presents the findings of an ambitious evaluation of online scholarly catalogues produced by four museums: The Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art. The study, conducted by Rockman et al, draws upon evaluation of web analytics, user surveys, and in-depth user testing and focus groups. By addressing questions such as how the digital publications compare to scholarly works in print, what platforms and features create the best experience, and how the digital interface facilitates engagement with museum collections, it aims to close the gap between the audiences we plan for, and those we are truly serving.

Other Speakers/Participants

  • Katie Reilly, William T. Ranney Director of Publishing, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Lauren Makholm, Assistant Director of Production, The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Emily Zoss, Managing Editor for the Permanent Collection, National Gallery of Art
  • Claire Quimby, Research Associate, Rockman et al

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