Title:Cruising through History Wired
Authors:Patricia Gillard
Publication:MW2002: Museums and the Web 2002

This paper presents the results of an evaluation of 'History Wired' at the National Museum of American History, March and April, 200l prior to its launch in August, 2001. The evaluation included in-site usability studies with groups of visitors to the museum, interviews with designers and comments by a Museum Studies class. The visitor research was based on the concepts and methods of audience ethnography, so it documented the spontaneous interests of users rather than setting predetermined tasks. This way, we could discover how the website shaped a variety of responses, and how users created their own experience from the many possibilities of navigation and content. The paper describes the different ways that visitors used the website and their own comments on its unusual design. The study predicted the site's success with broad audience groups and suggested some wording changes to make the ?tiled? interface more descriptive of the actual contents. The research was conducted as part of an Australian Fulbright Professional Award.