Joan C. Nordbotten
Dept of Information Science, University of Bergen,
N-5020 Bergen, Norway
The Internet provides an opportunity to reach the general public with information traditionally disseminated through libraries, and museums. One consequence is that these institutions have begun to make large quantities of information available as hypertext/hypermedia databases of inter-linked images and/or documents.
The hypennedia format is particularly useful for presentation of museum data where information about a topic or artifact is normally presented using multiple media, such as images, text, tables, charts, film, sound tracks, and/or video. The French Ministry of Culture has perhaps the most ambitious museum project. It will contain more than 22.5 million documents ( Mannoni 1996, 1997). J. Bowen maintains an updated index to museums with web pages ( Bowen 1997). Off-line exhibits can be found in museums and other public buildings.
Hypermedia technology supports associative information retrieval and can facilitate information gathering ( Bush 1945, Nelson 1967, Shneiderman 1992). However, researchers anticipate a number of problems with hypennedia system usage. As the number of inter-linked documents and path selections increases, user disorientation and cognitive overload may hinder users in gathering information ( Conklin 1987, Preece 1994). Link structures may actually hinder location of specific information ( MacKenzie 1996). And, it is uncertain if museum databases reach their intended public or whether their user's information requirements are satisfied ( Day 1995, Futers 1997).
For the general public, gathering information entails location and retrieval of interesting document sets ( Futers 1997). One measure of interest in a document