Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)




Patricia Franks


digital archives, museum websites, online archives, small museums and archives

Subject Areas

Library science; American history; Museum studies


This thesis explores user preference in the presentation and content of online archives in small, local institutions. To obtain data for this study, a collection from the Plumas County Museum in northern California was digitized, and three versions were presented on a custom-built test website: 1) a straightforward reproduction of documents in the collection; 2) a pairing of reproductions and typed transcripts; and 3) a selective, interpretive reproduction with supporting secondary material. Users with a variety of research backgrounds viewed the website and provided feedback through an anonymous, online survey. Google Analytics was also used to measure site traffic.

During the five-week testing period, 25 complete surveys, five partial surveys, and traffic information from 183 unique users were gathered. Survey findings indicate that 46 percent of users found version 3—the highly processed, highly contextualized presentation—most useful. When controlling for research experience, scholarly and professional users preferred the straightforward reproduction (version 1), while students and teachers preferred an enhanced presentation (versions 2 and 3). Avocational researchers did not show a clear preference. Site traffic showed a heavy concentration of users (68%) from California, as well as users from 15 other states. These findings suggest that while local archives may be most relevant within their geographical range, digitization of collections can extend an archives’ usership more broadly