Exploring Digital Cultural Heritage through Browsing


Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Digital Cultural Heritage (DCH) has the potential to open up vast amounts of our cultural heritage (CH) to audiences beyond the traditional expert user. For this there is a need for interfaces that support the interested, non-expert, general public user. These users generally have a primarily personal interest, less focus in their interactions with the system, and less knowledge of the specialist vocabulary used in DCH. Due to this they frequently struggle to format the kind of queries that are needed to successfully use the search-focused interfaces that remain the primary access paradigm. These users would prefer a browsing-based interface that allows them to get an overview over what is in the collection and then explore that, without having to know exactly what they want to see and what the correct search terms are to find that. This in turn would enable a much more open-ended, engaging, and richer interaction between the user and the DCH collection, potentially reducing the rate at which DCH sites lose users, which is frequently around 60% in the first ten seconds.

Research on browsing-based interfaces has been undertaken under the labels of “generous interfaces”, “rich-prospect browsing”, and “virtual museums”. The three areas highlight different approaches to the problem. Research on generous interfaces aims primarily at the initial introduction to the collection and at engaging the user. On the other hand rich-prospect browsing tends to focus on providing a similar initial visual view onto the collection, but then also supporting the user as they explore into the collection. Finally, virtual museums focus on transferring the museum experience to the digital world, frequently through 3D visualisations and virtual reality or augmented reality approaches.

Although these ideas have been around for some time, they have seen only limited uptake in practice. There are a range of reasons for this, but the primary ones are that many current approaches require a large amount of manual intervention in their creation and that they struggle to scale to the amounts of data available in modern DCH collection. The other main limitation is that while they may provide a good initial introduction to the collection, they do not support the user well in their transition to a more focused interaction as they explore the collection.

This chapter will initially introduce the reader to the concepts around browsing interfaces in general and browsing interaction patterns. Based on this an extensive review of the current state-of-the-art in browsing-based interfaces will be undertaken, looking at common features, trends, and limitations in both research interfaces and the kind of interfaces in use by CH institutions. The second part of the chapter will introduce the Digital Museum Map (DMM) as a case-study. The aim of the DMM is to address the issues highlighted above. The DMM provides a browsing-based interface, that is inspired by physical museum organisation, providing the user with a familiar paradigm. At the same time it uses a primarily-automatic data-driven algorithm to organise the collection with minimal manual intervention. Based on this it provides the user with a topical overview, the ability to browse and view items in detail, and the option to search while remaining embedded in the browsing-based interface.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation Organization in Digital Humanities: Global Perspectives
Subtitle of host publicationIODH 2020
EditorsKoraljka Golub, Ying-Hsang Liu
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781003131816
ISBN (Print)9780367675516
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameDigital Research in the Arts and Humanities
PublisherRoutledge Taylor and Francis


  • Interfaces
  • Browsing
  • Generous interfaces
  • Rich-prospect-browsing


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