ABSTRACT

This chapter surveys theories of museum exhibit design, qualitative document analysis, and literary analysis in the context of digital exhibits for cultural institutions. The goal of the survey is not to present a comprehensive overview of the museum studies field. Instead, these theories and methods were identified as being the most relevant and useful for digital exhibits, especially when the exhibit staff is small and/or composed of non-curators. The theories were analyzed to identify strategies that could help the exhibit creator to understand, organize, and present their digital materials, especially the type of documents normally associated with libraries, archives, and associated cultural institutions. The analysis of each theory and approach was used to generate a series of recommendations that could inform and guide the exhibit creator. The chapter covers the exhibit theories of Beverly Serrell and Louise Ravelli, an original theory of the author, qualitative research methods for document analysis, the Reader Response theory of literary criticism, and theories of narrative within exhibits. The chapter aims to show the relevancy and usefulness of theory within this field and to develop a set of principles and techniques that can be harnessed for immediate use for digital exhibit creators.