Sharing your stories : a collection of experiences on art museum websites
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With technology's prevalence and the Internet's evolution from a didactic presentation of information to an interactive venue for participation, assumed relationships of authority and trust for a variety of institutions, especially museums, is being challenged. As a self-labeled trustworthy source of resources and information (MacArthur 2007), the expansion of opportunities for visitors to contribute and participate online may make some cultural institutions of nervous. In a quickly changing online environment, what voices should be heard and who should be trusted? This qualitative narrative study focuses on how visitors to art museum websites describe their experiences to these sites. I collected stories from online users in order to gain a more rich and full understanding of the journey of online exploration. The addition of multiple voices and personal accounts compliments previous evaluations of museum websites, some of which primarily focused on numerical and statistical data while others blended the two types of results (Bowen, 1999; Chadwick & Boverie, 1999; Garzotto et al., 1998; Harms & Schweibenz, 2001; Haynes & Zambonini, 2007; Johnson, 2009; Kravchyna & Hastings, 2002; Marty & Twidale, 2004; Ockuly, 2003; Peacock & Brownbill, 2007; Streten, 2000; Sumption, 2006). I wanted to gain a more personal account, one told by the various users of websites in order to learn more about the process rather than the outcome (Webster & Mertova, 2007). Even with multiple voices, similar experiences emerged with varied stories connecting and supporting one another. These shared stories detailed users' clear expectations and goals when visiting a museum's website along with the emotions felt during the experience. From the various stories told, themes emerged identifying the study's key findings, which led to recommendations for developing user-centered museum websites.