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Virtual Visitors: what do we know about use of the British Museums' Collection Database Online?


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A talk given by Dr Melissa Terras as part of the University of Edinburgh's Digital Scholarship activities, February 2012. . Chaired by Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh, and attended by members of the Digital Futures for Cultural Heritage Education in Scotland network

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Virtual Visitors: what do we know about use of the British Museums' Collection Database Online?

  1. 1. Virtual Visitors:What Do We Know About Use of the BritishMuseum’s Collection Database Online?Dr Melissa TerrasReader in Electronic Communication, UCL Dept of Information StudiesCo-Director, UCL Centre for Digital, @melissaterras
  2. 2. British Museum Collection Database Online• Collection Database Online –• Launched 2007• By end of 2009: 2 million objects online, 655,395 images• By end of 2011: 800,000 images• Who uses these? For what purposes?
  3. 3. User studies at UCLDH• Log Analysis of Internet Resources in the Arts and Humanities• User Centred Interactive Search with Digital Libraries• Virtual Environments for Research in Archaeology• QRator• Linksphere (Claire Ross)• Workplacement Student (Vera Motyckova)• PHd Students – BL, BM, Science Museum, Grant Museum
  4. 4.
  5. 5. Methods• Quantitative – Log analysis – Link Analysis – Analytics • Google Analytics – Survey• Qualitative – Open ended survey tasks – Interviews – Focus Groups• See “Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources” –
  6. 6. Some up to date context• Jan-Dec 2011 10.5m visits / 60m pageviews to the British Museum website overall.• 1.2m (11%) included a visit to the Research section, containing the Collection Online – traffic to the section was responsible for 29% of all pageviews (i.e. users have a higher pageview per visit than the rest of the site).• Compare this to 5.8m physical visits to the museum (a rise of 4.9%)
  7. 7. Stats from Logs:18 June 2009 to 17 June 2010 – 8,761,000 visits in total – Average 6 pages per visit – 30% returning visitors – 230 countries – 923,468 visits with a search on the webpage – 1,937,616 total searches online• Most commonly used search terms: – rosetta stone, egypt, mummy, elgin marbles, sutton hoo, rosetta, parthenon, greek, coins, rembrandt, egyptian, roman, ancient egypt, greece, ancient greece, michelangelo, china, mummies, coin, statue, bible, portland vase, vika, goya, paintings• Search of the COL – 37,000 searches of the collections database – 30,868 different searches – Spend one minute on site after carrying out search – 30% returning visitors
  8. 8. Survey• Mounted online 3 June 2010 to 2 July 2010 – Surveymonkey• targeting every 2nd - 5th user• total of 2,657 respondents – completed by 1,416 respondents (53.3%)• 30 main questions – Multiple choice – Likert-scale – Open-ended questions• Four defined tasks
  9. 9. Age?Age Range Response Percent Response CountUnder 20 1.60% 2021 - 30 27.70% 34231 - 40 22.30% 27541 - 50 19.70% 24351 - 60 17.20% 21261 - 70 9.20% 11471+ 2.30% 28 answered question 1234 skipped question 99
  10. 10. Geographical Location• 29% UK – 91% England, 6% Scotland, 3% Wales. – Most from London• 17.6% USA• Germany, Italy, France... Long tail....
  11. 11. Q. How did you hear about the COL?Answer Options Response Response Percent CountFriend 2.50% 27Professional environment (colleagues) 29.50% 316Academic environment (website, academic staff, 27.30% 293fellow student etcSchool 1.00% 11From a link on the Museum’s website 24.60% 264Through a search engine 15.90% 170Other (please specify) 8.40% 90 answered 1072 question skipped 261 question
  12. 12. Other (please specify) Journalism 4% 1% Planning a visit Browsing 2% 1% Personal interest 18% Academic research Picture research 50% 6%School study (pupil) 3% Non-academic Research for school professional teaching research 3% 12%Which of the following best describes your reason for using the Collection database online?
  13. 13. Role in academic research 350 300 250Number of Responces 200 150 100 50 0
  14. 14. How do you expect to be able to search?600500400300200100 0
  15. 15. What are you looking for?700600500400300200100 0
  16. 16. Type of Objects searched for on this visitPrint(s) 101 Roman; Bronze (incl. 24 Vase(s) 13 bronze age)Drawing(s) 50 Greek 21 Statue(s) 12Coin(s) 43 Engraving(s) 17 Medieval 11Egyptian collection; 36 Japanese; Chinese 16 Italian; African 7Painting(s)Ancient 29 Ceramics 15 Islam, Islamic 6Figure(s); images 25 Picture(s); portrait(s); 14 Rosetta stone 5 sculpture(s); etchings
  17. 17. How often do you use the Collection database online? Everyday 3% Weekly This is my first 21% time 27% Monthly 16% Occasionally 33%
  18. 18. Answer Strongly Agree Slightly Strongly Dont know Rating ResponseOptions agree disagree disagree Average CountIt is easy to find 247 408 167 31 64 2.19 917the Collectiondatabase onlinewithin theBritish MuseumwebsiteThe general 199 549 107 13 49 2.09 917design andlayout of theCollectiondatabase onlineis appropriateThe Collection 190 449 190 35 53 2.25 917database onlineis easy tonavigateI am likely to 645 235 11 3 23 1.39 917visit theCollectiondatabase onlineagainIt is an effective 418 375 66 13 45 1.79 917way to searchfor objects ofinterestThere should 196 417 153 33 118 2.41 917be links tophysicallocation ofobjects
  19. 19. What improvements would you like to see? Response Response Percent CountImproved search facilities 31.90% 342More images 67.60% 725More detailed records 37.10% 398More objects 31.30% 336Audio/video 4.70% 50Other (please specify) 11.80% 127 Other: rear and 360 degree views of objects, zoomable images, simpler way to receive images (fewer steps), being able to search by acquisition date, and making the COL search more prominent on the main homepage
  20. 20. Improvements• Images – More and better images, High resolution images (especially for texts), Zoom/enlarge images, 360 view, Basket facility for ordering images, Less steps for retrieving images once logged on, Option to return to search results page after ordering an image• Objects – Keep adding more objects, Provide greater description of objects, provide story of item discovery, Provide references and links to literature, journals, research papers etc, Link items to physical location in the museum, make it clearer where objects are physically in the museum galleries
  21. 21. What social media applications would you like to use with the COL? 177 97 64 59 57 39 11 Blog Tagging Comments Commenting RSS feedsFacebook, Twitter, Delici Discussion forum ous, Dig etc Links to Over 65% said they did not wish to use social media with the COL
  22. 22. Will you reuse image based content elsewhere?
  23. 23. Task Based Searching 1 “You are searching for a Greek Vase, which you know is in the British Museum as you have seen it in a print catalogue. It is an Attic black-figured lekythos from around 490BC which depicts the myth of "psychostasia" (the Weighing of Souls). The print catalogue gives the reference "B 639". What would you type into the search box to find the object that you are looking for?”
  24. 24. Search term number of Search Number of Search users outcome resultsB 639 48 unsuccessful 14 (all incorrect)psychostasia 23 unsuccessful No results matched the search criteria.lekythos 9 unsuccessful No results matchedpsychostasia the search criteria. Only 6 out of 174 users would search for “B639” or “b639” which would yield a successful search
  25. 25. Task Based Searching II“You are searching for a Hanging Scroll with Mountain Landscape, which you have seen in the British Museums print catalogue. It is an ink painting on paper from Muromachi period, 16th century and attributed to Zen priest- painter Kei Shokei. The print catalogue gives the reference "Japanese Painting ADD 387". What would you type into the search box to find the object that you are looking for?”
  26. 26. Search term number of Search Number of Search users outcome resultsKei Shokei 38 Successful 2ADD 387 20 unsuccessful 3 (all incorrect)Japanese painting 13 unsuccessful No results matchedADD 387 the search criteria.
  27. 27. Compare and contrast logs and survey
  28. 28. Conclusions• enhanced our understanding and awareness of the scholarly perceptions of the BMs information environment• digital resources are used extensively by academics as part of their research process and are considered vital to their research• Collections with a strong visual element are particularly useful• clear distinction between a physical and online visit: a physical visit is a leisure activity and the online visit is for research and informational value
  29. 29. Conclusions II• integration of social media applications into the Collection Online received a negative response – a willingness to adopt new methods of content dissemination only where “appropriate”• Academics display specific information seeking behaviour and sophisticated search strategies. – seeking a known object, utilise discipline specific search terms, show goal driven intent, detailed prior knowledge of the museum (and academic) information environment.
  30. 30. Conclusions III• gives us a better understanding of search patterns and information seeking behaviour of a specific user group• valuable guide for further development and refinement of museum online collections – Specifically, impacts design of BM collection – Shows clear areas for improvement – Also demonstrates that is it a well used – and liked - resource
  31. 31.
  32. 32. Thanks to:Matthew Cock and David Prudames, British MuseumClaire Ross, UCLDHVera Motyckova, ex student, UCLDH February 19, 1962 edition of "Our New Age“ comic book,from the personal collection of @paleofuture: Used with permission.