Information access in the art history domain. Evaluating a federated search engine for Rembrandt research
SourceDigital Humanities Quarterly, 10, 4, (2016), pp. online
Article / Letter to editor
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CLST - Centre for Language and Speech Technology
Communicatie- en informatiewetenschappen
Digital Humanities Quarterly
SubjectData Science; Language & Speech Technology; Language in Society; Nederlab
The art history domain is an interesting case for search engines tailored to the digital humanities, because the domain involves different types of sources (primary and secondary; text and images). One example of an art history search engine is RemBench, which provides access to information in four different databases related to the life and works of Rembrandt van Rijn. In the current paper, RemBench serves as a case to (1) discover the requirements for a search engine that is geared towards the art history domain and (2) make recommendations for the design of user observation studies for evaluating the usability of a search engine in the art history domain, and in digital humanities at large. A user observation study with nine participants confirms that the combination of different source types is crucial in the art history domain. With respect to the user interface, both free-text search and facet filtering are actively used by the observed participants but we observe strong individual preferences. Our key recommendation for specialized search engines is the use of faceted search (free text search combined with filtering) in combination with federated search (combining multiple resources behind one interface). In addition, the user study shows that the usability of domain-specific search engines can successfully be evaluated using a thinking-aloud protocol with a small number of participants.
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