Executive Summary

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the premier museum in New Zealand. With the increasing use of technology in the classroom, Te Papa has an opportunity to increase its reach into education by placing the items into its online collection database and providing contextual information to increase the availability and use of these resources. Collections Online (CoL) is Te Papa’s first step towards a centralized online database, containing over 200,000 items with images and descriptions.

This project assisted The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in transforming Collections Online into a useful source of pedagogical information, inciting meaningful engagement between educators and the digital resources provided by the museum. We suggested improvements to the interface’s accessibility by investigating New Zealand teachers and their current use of technology inside and outside the classroom. This goal was accomplished through research into the current state of online museum resources and educator interactions, creation of a new benchmarking tool to assess teacher’s use and satisfaction with the site, online group discussions with educators, and exploration of potential partnerships between Te Papa and other institutions.

Conclusions and Recommendations


Our project aided the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in improving their Collections Online to better suit educators. We accomplished our project goals by meeting the following objectives:

  • Determine the Priorities and Existing Resources of Te Papa
  • Evaluate Educators’ Needs of Online Resources
  • Determine the Satisfaction and Use of Collections Online
  • Explore and Compare Existing Models

To accomplish these objectives, we created and administered an online satisfaction survey with a teacher-specific portion and emphasis on desirable website features, made contact with an ‘Expert Reference Group’ of 16 Science and Technology teachers throughout New Zealand, and created an online forum to maintain an open dialogue with them. We also developed a user satisfaction survey for Collections Online, administered upon entering the site and with a portion of the survey devoted specifically to teachers. Finally, we conducted research and analysis into current museum websites and new research into the design of museum websites, including contacting and interviewing Sebastian Chan of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and Darren Milligan of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Accesss (SCLDA).

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Through the evaluation of our collected information, we discovered that there were different dimensions of museum website design. From these dimensions we developed a framework, which expanded our research to evaluate specific features and to see similarities in other works. Our findings demonstrated the choices museums have when developing this type of website. Providing Te Papa with these findings aided them in improving Collections Online while determining the future path they may want to take.

Finding 1: Websites designed for creating content should envelop different features than those intended as a database for supplementing content.

Finding 2: Depending on the level of engagement of a user base, implementation of certain features will be most effective in providing and cultivating continuing meaningful engagement.

Finding 3: Different methods of website exploration allow all levels of website visitors to explore the site and have a meaningful experience.

Finding 4: User accounts can be beneficial to proactive users and for the purpose of content creation but may hinder the experience of other users.

Finding 5: Short video clips and other forms of media reinforce key concepts taught in the classroom while keeping students engaged, and are practical for supplementary lesson plan use.

Finding 6: Means of collaboration such as social media use, forums or discussion boards, and blogs all incite meaningful engagement.

Finding 7: Advertisements for Te Papa’s Collections Online should be placed somewhere for educators to find easily while showing the benefits of the site to that specific audience.

By analyzing Collections Online and its associated features, then employing our classification of these features in Section 4.2, we determined that Collections Online is a supplemental lesson plan website with a casual user base. You can see the complete Museum Website Checklist in Appendix D. This key finding shapes our recommendation in the next chapter.

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Conclusions and Recommendations

From our research and findings, we have determined that Te Papa’s Collections Online currently serves as a Supplemental Resource, so we suggest continued improvement of its content, media, and users’ ability to save information in order to solidify its status as a supplemental lesson plan website; that is, establish a firm baseline before transitioning to a resource designed for content creation. To improve supplemental content we recommend:

  • Continue the digitization of items,
  • Include and add related visual media and related links,
  • Improve the ability to download multiple objects.

Collections Online currently serves a casual user base, and we recommend that Te Papa continues to serve this base, improving upon the ability to browse through the site, interesting visitors, then encouraging them to return. Some steps in this direction include:

  • Additional categorization features through ‘Tagging’
  • Creation of Theme-Based exploration
  • Features that promote Non-traditional Browsing

By offering user accounts and by employing social media use, forums, and blogs, Collections Online can transition from a supplementary resource to a resource purposed for content creation.

We determined there are certain questions that Te Papa should continue to investigate to improve Collections Online as a resource for educators.

We suggest that Te Papa continues to gather information from the benchmarking survey we developed in order to monitor the satisfaction of users with the improved Collections Online website.

We suggest that Te Papa evaluates how to increase awareness of Collections Online among its audience group of teachers, showing them the advantages of using the website for their educational purposes.

We suggest that future researchers continue to foster inter-museum collaborations and expand upon the network we have initiated.

We suggest that future researchers engage teachers as much as possible, inviting them, for example, to work in a focused study, observing them use Collections Online to understand how they interact with the site, which resources they choose to use, and evaluating how each plans on building a lesson plan with the information gathered. Besides assisting the development of Collections Online, these teachers will become more deeply engaged with Te Papa.

By pursuing these questions, Te Papa will gain a better understanding of educators’ wants and needs from an online educational resource and continue to improve their website.

The goal of this project was to improve Collections Online as a pedagogical resource, learning about users’ satisfaction with the website, teachers’ use of the available resources, and ways of creating meaningful engagement between educators and their resources. Our identification of Collections Online as a supplementary teaching resource used by casual users provides a framework for focusing Te Papa’s continuing efforts to improve that site; specifically, we recommend the continuation of digitization and the improvement of browsing and theme based exploration as the most urgent priorities. Furthermore, our work identifies two transition points that would shift those priorities, changing the site from one that supplements lesson plan development to one that creates content for lesson plans and the shift of its user cohort from casual to actively engaged or even proactive.

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