Personal Digital Collections: Involving Users in the Co-Creation of Digital Cultural Heritage

Personal Digital Collections: Involving Users in the Co-Creation of Digital Cultural Heritage

Paul F. Marty (Florida State University, USA), Scott Sayre (Sandbox Studios / Museum411, USA) and Silvia Filippini Fantoni (University Paris I - Sorbonne, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-044-0.ch014
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Abstract

Personal digital collections systems, which encourage visitors to museum websites to create their own personal collections out of a museum’s online collections, are the latest trend in personalization technologies for museums and other cultural heritage organizations. This chapter explores the development, implementation, and evaluation of different types of personal digital collection interfaces on museum websites, from simple bookmarking applications to sophisticated tools that support high levels of interactivity and the sharing of collections. It examines the potential impact of these interfaces on the relationship between museums and their online visitors, explores the possible benefits of involving users as co-creators of digital cultural heritage, and offers an analysis of future research directions and best practices for system design, presenting lessons learned from more than a decade of design and development of personal digital collections systems on museum websites.
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Background

Revolutionary trends in personalization have occurred in the online museum environment over the past two decades (Beardon & Worden, 1995; Bowen & Filippini Fantoni, 2004). As museums and other cultural heritage organizations explore new methods of making their collections available online, the focus has shifted from providing information about objects to providing visitors with new opportunities for interactivity. Many museums now encourage their visitors to draw connections between cultural artifacts, and share those connections with other museum visitors (Bearman & Trant, 2005; Dietz et al., 2004; cf. Borgman, 2003). Online visitors are encouraged to add value to digital collections of cultural heritage, contributing their knowledge to the museum’s collections by adding new connections and interpretations across user communities (cf. Lynch, 2002).

The popularity of such activities has raised a variety of questions about the consequences of allowing users to create and manipulate personal digital collections of cultural heritage. Some researchers have focused on the educational potential of allowing museum visitors to act as curators and design their own online collections and exhibits (Adams et al., 2001). Others have attempted to assess the effectiveness of these tools by examining the ability of personal digital collections to encourage museum visitors to feel more involved with or connected to digital cultural heritage (Filippini Fantoni & Bowen, 2007). This section addresses these and related research questions, providing an overview of the key findings from the literature on this topic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Customization Technologies: Digital systems, tools, or interfaces that allow for the customization of online interfaces to meet the different needs of museum visitors, in the galleries and online.

Adaptive Interfaces: Online systems, tools, or interfaces that adapt to individual interests according to user-definable profiles selected by virtual visitors.

Personalization Technologies: Digital systems, tools, or interfaces that record and store personalized information for different museum visitors, in the galleries and online.

Personal Digital Collections: Online systems, tools, or interfaces allowing museum visitors to save selected objects from an online collection on a personalized page available from a museum’s website.

Personal Environments: Online systems, tools, or interfaces allowing museum visitors to save links to their favorite sections of a museum website, access personalized calendars and agendas, and store links to artifacts, images, information, or articles for future research.

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