Digital footprints and search pathways: working with National Collections in Scotland during Covid19 lockdown to design future online provision

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Computer and Information Sciences


The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of daily life, including the human need to connect to collections held at museums and galleries. The timing of the pandemic has been particularly damaging for Scotland's 409 museums and galleries. A clear understanding of how people access national collections online can make cultural institutions better prepared for digital service provisions in general, and especially for a crisis situation should there be another lockdown for COVID-19 or a similar catastrophe. This project will undertake a longitudinal study of the digital footprints of users in two national collections - National Museums of Scotland and National Galleries of Scotland - over a 12-month period to investigate: how people engaged with heritage collections during the lockdown and post-lockdown period; whether the lockdown changed digital access patterns; which collections/objects drew more users; and where users are accessing these, for example, through the institutions' websites, or through external platforms like Google Arts and Culture, Youtube, etc. This will lead to a short term impact by informing future policy decisions on the most effective digital platforms for national collections, and how the knowledge of online access patterns can be used to design search pathways that can lead to an ontology-based approach to linking collections combining the user search terms and semantics-based representations of the collections/items accessed. This can make a long term contribution to heritage collection data standards, particularly what data is recorded at object level, something similar to what CETAF ( is achieving for natural history specimens.


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