Tracing exploratory modes in digital collections of museum Web sites using reverse information architecture

Sarah Kreiseler, Viktoria Brüggemann, Marian Dörk


Museums are broadening their program beyond the physical institutions by providing digital collections online. In digital collections, objects are prepared and presented particularly for the Web and the ambition is to provide the entirety of a physical collection. To make these rich and comprehensive data sets accessible, an explore mode is increasingly offered. The present study considers this mode, first by making sense of the term “exploration” and suggesting four functional principles in support of exploration in digital collections (view, movement, contextualization, and participation). On this basis, we compare eight well-known museums with regard to the explore modes for their digital collections. We have devised a three part methodology, reverse information architecture, to address the question: How is the function of exploration manifested in the structure and interface elements of digital collections? With this unique method we use the given content to investigate how far the four principles are implemented in explore modes of digital collections and, broadly said, how explorable they are. The introduced approach to studying digital collections could be opened up to other fields to analyze a variety of web interfaces in general.



Overview Screenshots Overview Wireframes Translucent Overview Wireframes

Screenshots (June 2016)

Auckland Art Gallery Cooper Hewitt Metropolitan Museum of Art Philadelphia Museum of Art Museo del Prado Rijksmuseum Städel Museum Tate
Screenshot Aucklandartgallery A Screenshot Aucklandartgallery B1 Screenshot Aucklandartgallery C Screenshot Cooperhewitt A Screenshot Cooperhewitt B1 Screenshot Cooperhewitt C Screenshot Metmuseum B1 Screenshot Metmuseum C Screenshot Museodelprado A Screenshot Museodelprado B1 Screenshot Museodelprado C Screenshot Philadelphiamuseum A Screenshot Philadelphiamuseum B1 Screenshot Philadelphiamuseum C Screenshot Rijksmuseum A Screenshot Rijksmuseum B1 Screenshot Rijksmuseum C Screenshot Staedelmuseum A Screenshot Staedelmuseum B1 Screenshot StaedelMuseum C Screenshot Tate A Screenshot Tate B1 Screenshot Tate C


The source files of the wireframes are provided in the SVG format:


1 Navigation Analysis 2 Wireframe Analysis 3 Position Analysis


All source files as a ZIP file (135 MB).


Kreiseler, S., Brüggemann, V. & Dörk, M. (2017). Tracing exploratory modes in digital collections of museum Web sites using reverse information architecture. First Monday, 22(4). doi:10.5210/fm.v22i4.6984