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1. Overview of the mapping tool

Consider an interactive, multi-layered 2D map of the museum space. We suggest that there are three types of layers to this map.

1.1 Layers

1.1.1 The physical layers

The bottom-most, foundational layers would be comprised of a layout of the physical space (i.e., floor maps), with building-related content such as walls, washrooms, entryways, elevators, escalators, ramps, eating areas, water fountains, coat checks, information desks,  audio tour pick up/drop off points, etc. Accessibility would be included at this layer (e.g., accessible washrooms, accessible paths, handicap parking, etc.). One might also include parking lots, and other nearby points of interest (museum garden, public transportation stops, etc.), which is particularly important for accessibility. These various aspects of the physical space would be toggleable (e.g., one might want to see just the layout of the space and walls, or just the accessibility-related aspects).

1.1.2 The content & data layers

The middle layers would consist of the "meat" of the museum content and data, such as objects, clusters of objects, metadata about the objects/clusters of objects (e.g., accession number, authorship, time period, geographic origin, donor information, etc.), and various interpretives (e.g., audio, video, label text, wall panel text etc.) for both individual/clustered objects as well as zones and subzones. One can imagine that individual dots on the floor map (the layer below, as per the preceding discussion) would represent larger objects or a cluster of smaller objects (as in a display case). The dots might be colour-coded, or otherwise visually differentiated from each other to represent different facets of the objects they represent. Clicking on the dots could bring up an expanded view with more details on the object.

As in the physical layers, various aspects of the content would be toggleable (e.g., one might want to see just the audio interpretives on the map). Furthermore, the content layers would be searchable, with search results showing up both in list format and as highlighted dots on the map.

Content from this layer would be drawn from the collections management system, interpretive database, photo database, digital asset management database, and so forth.

1.1.3 The annotative layers

This last set of layers, which sits on top of the first two, would serve as the platform for conversation, dialogue, and discussion. That is, this set of layers describes and comments on the previous layers. One can imagine annotating and commenting with digital post-it notes to describe issues or considerations in the placement of objects, or on the replacement schedule for an object. Furthermore, these post-it notes might be categorized, enabling users to filter through the different comments. One might also draw paths through the space to suggest tours, or circle groups of objects.

1.2 Other notes

A legend could be used to show what the various shapes and dots represent on the map (e.g., washrooms, elevators, objects, audio interpretives, etc.). The legend could also serve triple duty as a toggler, allowing users to click on a legend item (e.g., washroom) to toggle its visibility on or off on the map, and as a highlighter, allowing users to click or hover on a legend item to highlight all the points on the map corresponding to that item.

1.3 A few visuals

The visuals here are intended to provide a early, pre-glimpse into how the maps might work.

foundational physical layer

physical layers with attributes

content & data layers

annotative layers

2. Scenarios

The following are a few scenarios in which this multi-purpose map tool might be used. The purpose of these scenarios is not to dictate how the tool should be used, but rather illuminate some of the possible ways it would be of use.

We acknowledge that museums might not have a collections database that is "visitor ready" with up-to-date, 100% accurate location information. The scenarios below assume either a combination of the map tool in conjunctionwith staff knowledge to produce a viable solution, or the existence of a limited but well-described and accurate set of key artifacts in the space (e.g., a number in the hundreds or less).

2.1 Exhibition design

Ontological scaffold

Museum type: art museum
Stakeholder type: exhibition designers (architect), curators, interpretive specialists, collections manager, others?
Stakeholder group: small-mid size group
Stakeholder language: English
Platform: desktop, web, whiteboards?, large displays?, pin-up corkboard?, paper?
Interaction stage:
Interaction time: medium-long (2 hoursish, twice a week)
Interaction goal: exhibition design, interpreting (space, etc.)
Interaction flow:
Interactions: sharing knowledge, commenting/annotating, drawing/sketching, placing


Museum is in the midst of planning for an upcoming exhibition. The general idea, artifacts that will be on display, subthemes of the exhibit, and the physical area that the exhibition will be in have all been mostly determined.


In the early stage of exhibition design, the designers are gathering to discuss the overall flow and placement of artifacts.


The exhibition designers would use the map authoring tool to load up floorplan of the exhibition space. They would then load up a list of objects for the exhibition from the collections management system, and group them according to the themes provided by the curators. In discussing the overall flow of the exhibition, the designers would place groups of objects (as in a display case) or individual objects (bigger ones) onto the floorplan--moving, removing, and placing the objects on the map would all be part of the discussion. During the same discussion or afterward, the designers might place the various interpretives (text, audio, video, activity stations, etc.) on the space as well.

The designers might also draw potential and likely paths visitors might take on the map to communicate intended or possible flows in the space. Furthermore, comments and annotations on the map would communicate and log issues, concerns, and other comments about the placement of objects, flow, etc.

The saved/exported/printed map could then be used in future planning conversations, and serve as a platform for communicating intentions.

Other notes

* This scenario assumes that we have most of the objects in the system, without gallery locations (this scenario is the activity of describing their proposed locations).

2.2 In-museum kiosk: Printable digital brochure

Ontological scaffold

Museum type: art museum
Stakeholder type: Individual Visitor, Family Visitors, Visitor Research Department, Docent
Stakeholder group: small - medium
Stakeholder language: English
Platform: Kiosk
Interaction stage: Visit (beginning of)
Interaction time: short - medium (10-20mins)
Interaction goal: Planning
Interaction flow: non-linear / linear
Interactions: Way Finding, Browsing, Looking at Content


*Interaction Goal: collection of interactions


Visitor(s) coming into the museum without any planning or preconceived ideas of what to see or do.

*This scenario has to be fleshed out more


Visitor has some interests, but doesn't really know what the museum has on display and doesn't know what to see.


A personalized tour brochure generator kiosk--hybrid between the DIA's mini-brochures ("Take a Hike", "Game Day", etc.) and the "family fitting room" solution. At the museum, visitor(s) could go to a kiosk and choose from a predefined list of themed tours (e.g., "Take a Hike", "Game Day"). Selecting one tour would give the equivalent of the existing print mini-brochures, while selecting multiple tours would combine them into a single printout (i.e., instead of having four brochures and maps for four tours, the visitor would have one brochure with one map, with the four tours on them). The visitor might also type in a keyword/tag (e.g., "elephant"), and the system might generate an automated tour of a handful of appropriate objects and place them on the map. The system might also suggest a path through the museum to visit these objects and paint it on the map. The visitor can then print the customized tour/brochure/map right from the kiosk.

Other notes

* This scenario assumes a small, but well-described set of objects with their locations.
* It's an eco-friendly solution, since the museum would never have an excess stock of obsolete brochures around.

2.3 Education: Classroom visit planning

Ontological scaffold

Museum type: art museum
Stakeholder type: Educator/Teacher, Student, Education Department Staff
Stakeholder group: small (2-3 people in the planning of trip)
Stakeholder language: English
Platform: Phone, Web, f2f, paper *Scenario doesn't mention a specific platform

Interaction stage: Pre-visit
Interaction time: short - long (planning in stages, day by day)
Interaction goal: Planning
Interaction flow: non-linear (for educator/student?), linear (for museum staff/education department?)
Interactions: Way Finding, Browsing, Looking at Content, Asking Questions

2.3.1 Educators Perspective

Educator plans a visit to the art museum with a group of students


Educator wants to see artifacts that pertain to a certain educational topic during a half-day visit. She lacks detailed knowledge in the museum structure and artifacts. She would like to have this this visit in a month, and would like it to be within budget.


A teacher contacts the DIA to inquire about the educational tours on a particular topic (e.g. civil rights movement). She hopes to find a relevant tour to go with the 4th grade curriculum, since it is easier to get the budget for the field trip approved. She speaks to a museum staff from the Education department for her class's half-day visit.

The education staff creates a list of objects relevant to the topic using her expertise in the subject matter. Using an object location tag, the objects on the list are mapped onto the museum floorplan. This floorplan and the list of objects are used to create a custom tour that takes them through various galleries within the DIA.

Other notes

* This scenario assumes we have most of the objects in the system including locations, but that it's a bit messy and possibly inaccurate/obsolete.
* To further develop:  This scenario is partially inspired by DIA pamplets that are based on a theme (e.g. nature, erie thrills, sports). Each pamphlet highlights key objects (and interesting information about those objects) related to the theme of the pamphlet. At the back of the pamphlet, there is a map of the DIA that visitors can use to locate those objects. These pamphlets don't necessarily prescribe a specific path throughout the musuem. But they allow the visitor with a particular interest to locate artifacts related to those interests and make connections between the diverse "Big Idea"-centered galleries of the museum.  Similiarly, this educational scenario attempts to create a custom tour that aligns with the curricular/educational goals of a teacher planning a classroom visit.
* Ideas to incorporate into scenario where feasible: DIA visitor research suggests that teachers have the following needs when planning tours.

  • Easy access to information 
  • Simplicity in arranging the experience
  • Help with the cost of the field trip
  • Ability to have customized tours
  • Content matching curriculum and other educational goals
  • Content and speakers able to engage students
  • Staff able to relate to students
  • Good and consistent customer service
  • Lunch facilities and affordable lunch options   
  • Pre and post visit resources (lesson plans, handouts, hands-on materials, etc.)
  • Connections and tie-ins to curriculum and other educational goals
  • Galleries, exhibits and attractions that engage students 
  • Institutions supplementing the cost of the experience
  • Friendly, knowledgeable staff and well organized experiences
2.3.2 Students' Perspective

Michael, a 4th grade elementary school student is going to the art museum with this class.


Michael is doing a project on the Battle of the Bogside. Knowing his class will be going to the Art museum in a couple of weeks, he would like to see if there are any exhibits on display that can help him with his research.


Michael goes to the DIA website to find out more information. The website's home page lists various exhibits but there is no mention of the Battle of the Bogside. At the top of the page, Michael notices a search field and types in the string: "Battle of the Bogside." Michael waits and after a few seconds the page reveals a list of items related to his search. He notices an item listed at the top containing the words "Northern Ireland...who used civil disobedience into an armed conflict. Battle of the Bogside." Michael is encouraged. Before clicking on the link, he notices another link at the bottom of the item labeled "See Exhibit Map." Curious, Michael clicks the link and the site displays a spatial map of the museum. On the map is a tag indicating the area where the listed item "Northern Ireland... who used civil disobedience into an armed conflict. Battle of the Bogside" is located. At the bottom of the map is a link titled "Show Related Items". Michael clicks on the link and the page displays numerous tags on the map that indicate other exhibits related to his search. Michael notices a side menu bar to the right of the map that lists several action items. Two of the action items were immediately useful to him; one action item labeled "Email this to a friend" and the other "Print this Map". Michael sends an email to a few of his classmates, as well as to his teacher who he thinks might find this tool very useful. He then prints out the map with the tags showing his search and plans which exhibits he'll see first by drawing lines on the map.

2.3.3 Educations Department Staff's Perspective

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2.4 Accessibility: Pre-visit planning / Post-visit tagging

Ontological scaffold

Museum type: art museum
Stakeholder type: Individual Visitor, Tour Groups, School-based Visitors
Stakeholder group:
Stakeholder language:
Interaction stage:
Interaction time:
Interaction goal:
Interaction flow:


If you have a disability, pre-visit planning becomes more important. See People with disabilities visit museums: an exploratory study of obstacles and difficulties. See also Clayton's recent notes on museum experience for people w cognitive disabilities


Visitor needs to know where wheelchair accessible affordances of DIA (e.g. parking, entrances, and elevators) are located, and how to find where the Through African Eyes exhibit is.


Joe wants to visit the Through African Eyes exhibit. The day of his visit, he logs onto the DIA Website and clicks on "Museum Information". From here he accesses the "Accessibility" page, which has a link to a page with interactive floormaps. On the interactive floormaps page, he clicks on the wheelchair icon in the legend. The accessible ammenities of the DIA are highlighted on the map, which includes where to find parking and where the wheelchair/stroller accessible entrance on Farnsworth St is. He also sees an annotation that another wheelchair visitor to the DIA has left, describing an optimal path to get from the parking lot to the Farnsworth entrance.
Next he finds the location of the Through African Eyes exhibit. On the legend, he clicks on the special exhibitions icons. This brings up a floorplan of the 2nd floor and highlights the Special Exhibitions South area. The map also highlights the accessible elevators and washrooms. He prints both of these maps.


Poria, Reichel, and Brandt (2009) did research about museum visitors who had vision loss and/or used wheelchair and crutches users. Participants in their study perceived that information from other people with disabilities about museums was regarded as more reliable than than information provided by people without disabilities.


After a museum visit, a visitor wants to share his experiences in relation to the accessibility of the DIA.


Sarah is Wayne State undergraduate painting student and a regular visitor to the DIA. Yesterday, apart from some difficulty finding parking (all the disabled parking spots were taken), she had a satisfying visit to the DIA's newly opened Islamic Art installation. In the installation, she appreciated how she could move her wheelchair underneath display cases, and lean on the case itself to gaze at the artifacts on dislay under the cases. She took home a bookmark that suggested ways she could learn more about Islamic art and culture, and that had a link to the DIA's website for the installation.
The day after her visit she finds her bookmark and reviews the resources the DIA suggests that she check out. Then, she logs onto the DIA Website and uses its interactive map to explore the exhibition online. She tags the interactive map and describes her positive experience with the display case design, noting how it let her have a comfortable view of the artifacts. She also tags the Farnsworth parking lot with a note saying that if the disabled parking spots are full, it's also very easy to park across the street.

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