Museum Object as Document: Using Buckland’s Information Concepts to Understand Museum Experiences

Publication Title

Journal of Documentation

Publication Date


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Michael Buckland, museum objects, document, semiotics, reader response, museums, document handling


Archival Science | Collection Development and Management | Library and Information Science



– The purpose of this article is to understand the meaning of museum objects from an information perspective. Links are made from Buckland's conceptual information framework as a semiotic to museum object as “document” and finally to user experience of these museum “documents”. The aim is to provide a new lens through which museum studies researchers can understand museum objects and for LIS researchers to accept museum objects as another form of document to be studied.


– A conceptual and comparative analysis of Buckland's information typology as a semiotic. Outcome of analysis forms a model of understanding the museum object as a “document” that is accessed by users on a continuum of experience.


– Michael Buckland's information typology is insightful and useful for a broad understanding of what all heritage institutions have in common: the physical object. Buckland helps us see the museum as an information system, the museum object as a document, and the multidimensional use of the concept information and its semiotic ramifications.


– Buckland's typology is important to an understanding of the museum system and museum object in both LIS and museum studies. The concept of “document” opens up a broader perspective, which creates, rather than limits understandings of the human relationship with information. This expanded concept of “document” as sign/semiotic helps us understand user experience in ways not previously explored in the convergence of museums and information studies, from the practical to the theoretical. In this inclusive sense, Buckland's concept of document is a unifying theoretical concept for museums, libraries, and archives.