International Journal on Digital Libraries

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 353–366 | Cite as

Promoting user engagement with digital cultural heritage collections

  • Maristella AgostiEmail author
  • Nicola Orio
  • Chiara Ponchia


In the context of cooperating in a project whose central aim has been the production of a corpus agnostic research environment supporting access to and exploitation of digital cultural heritage collections, we have worked towards promoting user engagement with the collections. The aim of this paper is to present the methods and the solutions that have been envisaged and implemented to engage a diversified range of users with digital collections. Innovative solutions to stimulate and enhance user engagement have been achieved through a sustained and broad-based involvement of different cohorts of users. In particular, we propose the use of narratives to support and guide users within the collection and present them the main available tools. In moving beyond the specialized, search-based and stereotyped norm, the environment that we have contributed to developing offers a new approach for accessing and interacting with cultural heritage collections. It shows the value of an adaptive interface that dynamically responds to support the user, whatever his or her level of experience with digital environments or familiarity with the content may be.


User engagement Digital cultural heritage collections CULTURA project User studies Evaluation Narratives 



The authors are most grateful to Alexander Cormack for the thorough linguistic revision. The work reported has been partially supported by the CULTURA project, as part of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission, Area “Digital Libraries and Digital Preservation” (ICT-2009.4.1), Grant Agreement No. 269973. The authors would like to thank the CULTURA partners for the useful discussions on many aspects related to user engagement with cultural heritage collections.


  1. 1.
    Koolen, M., Kamps, J., de Keijzer, V.: Information retrieval in cultural heritage. Interdiscip. Sci. Rev. 34, 268–284 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Morville, P.: Ambient Findability. O’Reilly, Sebastopol (2005)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Azzopardi, L., Vinay, V.: Retrievability: an evaluation measure for higher order information access tasks. In: Shanahan, J.G., Amer-Yahia, S., Manolescu, I., Zhang, Y., Evans, D.A., Kolcz, A., Choi, K., Chowdhury, A. (eds.) Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM 2008, Napa Valley, California, USA, pp. 561–570. ACM, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Borgman, C.L.: Scholarship in the Digital Age. Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. MIT Press, Cambridge (2009)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Manovich, L., Douglass, J., Magdalin, S., Kuester, F., Yamaoko, S.: Cultural analytics research environment. In: Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2009 Art Gallery, New York, NY, USA, p. 20:1. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Munnelly, G., Hampson, C., Lawless, S., Conlan, O.: The CULTURA portal. In: Bolikowski, Ł., Casarosa, V., Goodale, P., Houssos, N., Manghi, P., Schirrwagen, J. (eds.) Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries—TPDL 2013 Selected Workshops, pp. 155–158. Springer, Cham (2014)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Agosti, M., Conlan, O., Ferro, N., Hampson, C., Munnelly, G.: Interacting with digital cultural heritage collections via annotations: the CULTURA approach. In: Marinai, S., Marriott, K. (eds.) ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, pp. 13–22. ACM, New York (2013)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Steiner, C.M., Agosti, M., Sweetnam, M.S., Hillemann, E.C., Orio, N., Ponchia, C., Hampson, C., Munnelly, G., Nussbaumer, A., Albert, D., Conlan, O.: Evaluating a digital humanities research environment: the CULTURA approach. Int. J. Digit. Libr. 15, 53–70 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Agosti, M., Benfante, L., Orio, N.: IPSA: a digital archive of herbals to support scientific research. In: Sembok, T.M.T., Zaman, H.B., Chen, H., Urs, S.R., Myaeng, S. (eds.) Digital Libraries: Technology and Management of Indigenous Knowledge for Global Access, 6th International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries, ICADL 2003, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Volume 2911 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pp. 253–264. Springer, Berlin (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Agosti, M., Ferro, N., Orio, N.: Graph-based automatic suggestion of relationships among images of illuminated manuscripts. In: Haddad, H. (ed.) Proceedings of the 2006 ACM Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC), Dijon, France, pp. 1063–1067. ACM, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Agosti, M., Benfante, L., Manfioletti, M., Orio, N., Ponchia, C.: Issues to be addressed for transforming a digital library application for experts into one for final users. Int. J. Herit. Digit. Era 1, 89–94 (2012). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cartelli, A., Palma, M.: Towards the project of an open catalogue of manuscripts. In: Proceedings of the Informing Science + Education Conference, Santa Rosa, California, USA, pp. 217–214. Informing Science Institute (2002)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cartelli, A., Daltri, A., Errani, P., Palma, M., Zanfini, P.: Il catalogo aperto dei manoscritti Malatestiani: esperienze e prospettiva. In: Le Reti in Rete. Per l’Inventario e l’Edizione dell’Archivio Vallisneri. Volume 5 of Biblioteca dell’Edizione Nazionale delle Opere di Antonio Vallisneri, pp. 123–132. L.S. Olschki, Firenze (2011).
  14. 14.
    Lepinay, O.: Sites français sur les manuscrits enluminés. Enluminures et Liber floridus. Rivista di Storia della Miniatura 13, 215–217 (2009)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dutschke, C.: Digital Scriptorium. Now and tomorrow. Rivista di Storia della Miniatura 14, 203–205 (2010)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bernasconi, M.: E-codices: la biblioteca virtuale dei manoscritti conservati in Svizzera. Rivista di Storia della Miniatura 15, 196–197 (2011)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Europeana: New frontiers. Europeana annual report 2014. Europeana Pro Publications (2015)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Casarosa, V., Meghini, C., Gardasevic, S.: Improving online access to archival data. In: Agosti, M., Esposito, F., Ferilli, S., Ferro, N. (eds.) Digital Libraries and Archives. 8th Italian Research Conference, IRCDL 2012. Volume 354 of Communication in Computer and Information Science, pp. 153–162. Springer, Berlin (2012)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Birrell, D., Dobreva, M., Ünal, Y., Feliciati, P.: Constituencies of use: representative usage scenarios in international digital library user studies, a case study on Europeana. In: Hedlund, T., Tonta, Y. (eds.) Transforming the Nature of Communication, 14th International Conference on Electronic Publishing, ELPUB 2010, pp. 245–257 (2010)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Agosti, M., Ferro, N., Silvello, G.: Digital libraries: from digital resources to challenges in scientific data sharing and re-use. In: Flesca, S., Greco, S., Masciari, E., Saccà, D. (eds.) A Comprehensive Guide Through the Italian Database Research Over the Last 25 Years, pp. 27–41. Springer, Cham (2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hyvönen, E., Lindquist, T., Törnroos, J., Mäkelä, E.: History on the semantic web as linked data—an event gazetteer and timeline for the World War I. In: Proceedings of CIDOC 2012—Enriching Cultural Heritage, p. 12 (2012)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Brown, S.: The first World War poetry digital archive. Ref. Rev. 24, 32–33 (2010)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Agirre, E., Aletras, N., Clough, P., Fernando, S., Goodale, P., Hall, M., Soroa, A., Stevenson, M.: PATHS: a system for accessing cultural heritage collections. In: Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations, pp. 151–156 (2013)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Goodale, P., Clough, P., Hall, M., Stevenson, M., Fernie, K., Griffiths, J., Agirre, E.: Pathways to discovery: supporting exploration and information use in cultural heritage collections. In: Proceedings of Museums and the Web Asia 2013 (2013)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Landon, G.V., Landon, W.J., Snodgrass, C.L.: A geospatial narrative framework: breathing new data into historical manuscripts. In: Proceedings of the Second Workshop on eHeritage and Digital Art Preservation, pp. 43–48 (2010)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Callaway, C., Stock, O., Dekoven, E., Noy, K., Citron, Y., Dobrin, Y.: Mobile drama in an instrumented museum: inducing group conversation via coordinated narratives. In: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, pp. 73–82 (2011)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chu, J.H., Harley, D., Kwan, J., McBride, M., Mazalek, A.: Sensing history: contextualizing artifacts with sensory interactions and narrative design. In: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, pp. 1294–1302 (2016)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Rubegni, E., Di Blas, N., Paolini, P., Sabiescu, A.: A format to design narrative multimedia applications for cultural heritage communication. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, pp. 1238–1239 (2010)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Risseeuw, M., Cavada, D., Not, E., Zancanaro, M., Marshall, M.T., Petrelli, D., Kubitza, T.: Authoring augmented digital experiences in museums. In: Proceedings of the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces, pp. 340–341 (2016)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Meghini, C., Bartalesi, V., Metilli, D.: Using formal narratives in digital libraries. In: Grana, C., Baraldi, L. (eds.) Digital Libraries and Archives—13th Italian Research Conference on Digital Libraries, IRCDL 2017, Modena, Italy, Revised Selected Papers. Volume 733 of Communications in Computer and Information Science, pp. 83–94. Springer, Berlin (2017)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ani, K.K.: Khan academy: the hype and the reality. Educ. Dig. 78, 23–25 (2013)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Agosti, M., Crivellari, F., Di Nunzio, G., Gabrielli, S.: Understanding user requirements and preferences for a digital library web portal. Int. J. Digit. Libr. 11, 225–238 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Sweetnam, M.: ‘Sheep in the midst of wolves’? The Protestant Ministry in the 1641 depositions. J. Ir. Scott. Stud. 6, 71–92 (2013)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ponchia, C.: Engaging the user: elaboration and execution of trials with a database of illuminated images. In: Agosti, M., Esposito, F., Ferilli, S., Ferro, N. (eds.) Digital Libraries and Archives. Volume 354 of Communications in Computer and Information Science, pp. 207–215. Springer, Berlin (2013)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Tsakonas, G., Papatheodorou, C.: Analysing and evaluating usefulness and usability in electronic information services. J. Inf. Sci. 32, 400–419 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Lalmas, M., O’Brien, H., Yom-Tov, E.: Measuring User Engagement. Morgan & Claypool Publishers, San Rafael (2014)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    O’Brien, H.L., Toms, E.G.: What is user engagement? A conceptual framework for defining user engagement with technology. JASIST 59, 938–955 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Conlan, O., Staikopoulos, A., Hampson, C., Lawless, S., O’Keeffe, I.: The narrative approach to personalisation. New Rev. Hypermedia Multimed. 19, 132–157 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Werback, K., Hunter, D.: For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press, Philadelphia (2012)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Rowe, J.P., Shores, L.R., Mott, B.W., Lester, J.C.: Integrating learning, problem solving, and engagement in narrative-centered learning environments. Int. J. Artif. Intell. Educ. 21, 115–133 (2011)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Boy, J., Detienne, F., Fekete, J.D.: Storytelling in information visualizations: does it engage users to explore data? In: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1449–1458 (2015)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Conklin, J.: Hypertext: an introduction and survey. Computer 20, 17–41 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Agosti, M., Orio, N., Ponchia, C.: Guided tours across a collection of historical digital images. In: Proceedings of the Third AIUCD Annual Conference on Humanities and Their Methods in the Digital Ecosystem. AIUCD ’14, New York, NY, USA, pp. 7:1–7:6. ACM (2015)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Huges, L.M., Ell, P.S., Knight, G.A.G., Dobreva, M.: Assessing and measuring impact of a digital collection in the humanities: an analysis of the SPHERE (Stormont Parliamentary Hansards: Embedded in Research and Education) project. Digit. Scholarsh. Humanit. 30, 183–198 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information EngineeringUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Cultural HeritageUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly

Personalised recommendations