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Scholarly Information Seeking Behaviour in the British Museum Online Collection

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Claire Ross

on 8 April 2011

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Transcript of Scholarly Information Seeking Behaviour in the British Museum Online Collection

Scholarly Information Seeking Behaviour in the British Museum Online Collection

Claire Ross and Melissa Terras 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? Finding information is not easy 50% undertaking
academic research Museums now have vast amounts of digital resources to support scholarhsip ? develop an awareness of the perceptions that user groups have of their information environment
functionality and usability of the British Museum Collection Database
aids or hinders information searching Online Survey Survey monkey
30 questions
4 task based questions 1 month period
2657 Responses searching for a known object with goal driven intent by type of object (47.9%)
by free text search (46.8%) colleagues (29.5%)
academic environment (27.3%)
link on the British Museum website (24.6%)
search engine (15.9%). Occassional use “I have found it too helpful to name a particular thing. The database has told me new things about areas I myself have been researching for years.” "lack of pictures make it difficult to tell whether I have found the object I wanted" "very few photographs, not enough contextual information" visually inspecting multiple images in order to find the desired object the exploration of a collection database in order to find the “right” object. ‘My visit to the museum and my consultation of the database are two completely disconnected events for me.’

‘I am undertaking academic research and need information about collections. I doubt if visiting the museum would give me this.’

‘The two are separate; I go to the museum to autopsy and enjoy. The website is for documentation.’ Reuse Did you find what you were looking for? Yes.... and no 90:9:1 Social Media Task based scenarios B 639 B 639 X Psychostasia X Psychostasia lekythos psychostasia lekythos psychostasia X Only 6 users entered the correct term are academics search strategies incorrect?
updated search mechanism taking into consideration the information seeking behaviours of researchers. precise seeking strategies
seeking a known object
discipline specific search terms
goal driven intent
prior knowledge of the museum information environment
importance of a visual element
distinction between physical and online easy to understand
helpful to their research,
But often yielding inadequate search results within the COL database. Contact

Claire Ross

Melissa Terras
m.terras@ucl.ac.uk Many thanks to Matthew Cock, Head of Web British Museum and David Prudames, Senior Content Commissioner British Museum. Additional thanks to Vera Motyckova. Seeking
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