An Exploratory Study of Sensemaking of Historical Information

Thomas Wrigglesworth, Leon Watts

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Abstract

There are many ways of documenting and making sense of the past. Contemporary museums are attempting to facili- tate these processes by creating online as well as in-museum experiences for visitors. Whether they encounter the past via physical or digital artefacts, visitors often reflect the val- ues and interests of the communities to which they belong. Museums have a growing interest in gathering additional ’crowdsourced’ historical information through the experi- ences they design; experiences that are likely to contrast these communities. Online and in-museum visitor experi- ences are different but could reflect an engagement with the past in complementary ways, depending on how visi- tors make sense of them. We report an exploratory study of sensemaking by museum visitors as they encountered a set of digital historical images in a military museum. Based on Dervin’s approach to sensemaking, the images were accom- panied by three neutral verbal prompts to encourage think- ing about their individual meaning. Visitors were able to spontaneously suggest a wide range of terms to describe their interest in each image but the variety was notably greater when the first in the set was of an individual airman in a state of repose, rather than of a group of personnel in a so- cial setting. Our study raises a number of questions about the relationship between the navigation of museum visitors through digital artefacts and the design of support for their journeys.
We argue that anchoring an experience on a direct relation- ship with a personal image could have particular significance for sensemaking processes that could engage visitors with a more nuanced understanding of the past. It may be that di- rect relationships of this kind are able to bridge differences of understanding between the communities to which visitors belong.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorkshop on ‘Cultural Heritage Communities: Technologies and Challenges’
Subtitle of host publication7th International Conference on Communities & Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event7th International Conference on Communities & Technologies - Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 28 Jun 201530 Jun 2015

Conference

Conference7th International Conference on Communities & Technologies
CountryIreland
CityLimerick
Period28/06/1530/06/15

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Wrigglesworth, T., & Watts, L. (2015). An Exploratory Study of Sensemaking of Historical Information. In Workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage Communities: Technologies and Challenges’: 7th International Conference on Communities & Technologies