Visual Exploration of Australian Prints and Printmaking - Digital Humanities Australasia 2012

Ben Ennis Butler, Mitchell Whitelaw

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


This paper presents a set of experiments in the online exploration of the Australian Prints and Printmaking collection at the National Gallery of Australia. This cultural collection comprises rich data on some 40,000 works and 20,000 artists, as well as exhibitions, galleries and associated bibliographies.

We present novel web‐based tools for discovery, exploration and interpretation in this culturally significant collection. Drawing on previous work with archival and museum collections, these tools demonstrate alternatives to the dominant search‐based paradigm of collection access. They encourage discovery by emphasising relationships within the collection, and taking a ‘generous’ approach to information display, providing displays that are denser and richer than conventional web pages. Our practice‐led approach values play and pleasure in support of engagement and discovery.

In setting out to create rich visual interfaces to a large digital collection, this project uncovers a number of challenges and considerations. It operates in a field between dynamic web design and online visualisation, where techniques and practices are still forming. A ‘data dense’ display challenges conventions of API development, while delivering in the browser presents both opportunities and risks. We report on design and development strategies and pitfalls, and map out the prospects for future work in this area.

We also propose a conceptual context for our work, drawing on visualisation, web design, and Digital Humanities. We characterise these tools as ‘generous interfaces’: alternative approaches that complement search‐based access, encouraging open‐ended exploration and a rich experience of collection discovery. The techniques developed here have potential applications across a wide range of digital collections.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2012
EventDigital Humanities Australasia 2012: Building, Mapping, Connecting - Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Duration: 28 Mar 201228 Mar 2012


ConferenceDigital Humanities Australasia 2012: Building, Mapping, Connecting


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual Exploration of Australian Prints and Printmaking - Digital Humanities Australasia 2012'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this